Get ready to pay more for your internet service and to endure longer waits while some of your favorite websites are loading.
President Trump’s hand-picked majority at the Federal Communications Commission delivered the digital equivalent of a lump of coal for the holidays early this afternoon; it repealed “net neutrality” regulations implemented just two years ago at the behest of millions of Americans.
Following the lead of Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who apparently sees no danger in entrusting the free flow of information to Verizon, Comcast and other internet service providers, the commission gave those corporate behemoths license to treat online connections like they treat cable TV service.
Repeal has ominous implications for democracy. One of net neutrality’s most attractive features – and certainly its most important – is the way it fosters robust debate on critical issues and allows people with ideas outside of the mainstream to present share their thinking with a worldwide audience at the speed of light. With neutrality set aside, internet providers will be able to squelch the dissemination of news and information they don’t like, either by blocking delivery or slowing it so severely that internet users tire of waiting for pages to load and click on other, faster-to-load sites.
“Nationwide, voters are rising up against the unjust, immoral, and unseemly role of corporate money in our political system…” former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said on Wednesday. “The voters will long remember this, and the majority will surely regret shuttering the open internet.” Copps now serves as special adviser to Common Cause's Media and Democracy Reform Project.
The FCC embraced net neutrality, or open internet regulations in 2015 after more than 2 million Americans sent email or snail mail messages urging it to act. Pai’s repeal plan has attracted a record 22 million-plus public comments since it was unveiled last spring, though an independent data analysis firm reports that nearly 8 million came from fake, computer-generated email accounts.
The firm, Emprata LLC, said it identified about 1.8 million “original” comments, meaning they were not form letters generated by a corporation or interest group and instead appeared to have been written by individual internet users. Of those, all but 24,000 favored retaining net neutrality.
With net neutrality set aside, the internet providers have a free hand to tack an extra charge onto your monthly bill to keep your Netflix streaming services and Facebook videos running at top speed. If you get your internet service from Comcast, you may find that news and information provided by Comcast-owned MSNBC and NBC News, pops up on your laptop and smart phone quickly and smoothly, while Fox News and CNN sites take what seems like forever to load.
Neutrality repeal has been a major priority for the internet providers however; in addition to Comcast and Verizon, their ranks include AT&T, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse. While they’ve invested heavily in repeal, all insist they have no plans to create online “fast lanes” and impose extra charges for access to them.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Media and Democracy
Tags: Net Neutrality