Everyone needs to just hold their horses for a second. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not vote last Thursday to end net neutrality, nor did we lose the free market or freedom of speech in the internet as so many headlines suggest.
What happened was the FCC, headed by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, called a vote to initiate the process of reviewing and investigating the current regulations — but it’s understandable why internet users freaked out.
Pai, who was designated chairman by President Trump earlier this year, vocally opposes the enforcement of current Obama-era net neutrality regulations.
He intends to reclassify mobile and home internet service providers from common carriers to information services, completely remove Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and restore what he calls “internet freedom.”
Under Pai’s leadership, the FCC hopes to remove any ounce of government regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), thus giving them total control over broadband access.
From his perspective, yes, dismantling the regulations set by the Obama administration would give way to freedom — for corporations that is.
However, let’s take a step back for a minute to understand the Open Internet Order, implemented by the FCC two years ago, which held strict net neutrality rules.
The Open Internet Order includes prohibitions on site and app blocking, paid fast lanes and ISP speed throttling. In addition, it requires that ISPs such as Comcast or Verizon take absolutely no action that could interfere with or disadvantage consumers or other companies.
Oh, and don’t forget that Ajit Pai served as associate general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc., where he handled matters of competition, regulation and counseling of business units on broadband initiatives.
So the fear is justified.
When the Open Internet Order was passed only two years ago, then FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn reasoned that “[The FCC is] here because we want to give those with deep pockets and those with empty pockets the same opportunities to succeed.”
At the time, Pai opposed this as well. He believed that implementing the order would lead to “higher broadband prices, slower broadband speeds, less broadband deployment, less innovation and fewer options for consumers.”
He continues to repeat this mantra today, like a broken record. It’s clear that Pai is speaking for the ISPs. They are the companies that have direct control over the prices, speeds, innovations and deployment. They are the consumer’s only options, if given an option at all.
So, what Pai and the corporations are saying is that if ISPs are not reclassified, they will essentially hold consumers hostage by charging higher broadband prices, bottlenecking speeds and developing and deploying less new technology.
This is the kind of behavior that the Open Internet Order and Title II protect consumers from.
If we’re going to freak out, then let’s freak out over how much time there is to stop Pai and stand up to the bully corporations.
Thanks to something called the Chevron doctrine, which examines whether rules passed by federal agencies are arbitrary or capricious, the FCC must listen to our concerns.
A new public comment period has opened and will be available until August 16.
I recommend going to www.gofccyourself.com, a site created by John Oliver and his staff over at HBO that circumvents all the nitty-gritty requirements and directs you directly to the comment submission page. The FCC is expected to consider comments again in the next week or so.
This is going to be a long summer fight, so buckle down and keep fighting for true internet freedom.
Don’t listen to those pessimistic headlines. There is still time to stop this.