Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Say Goodbye to the Internet As We Know It

Ajit Pai was chosen by President Donald trump to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January 2017. Pai almost immediately made his intentions clear, “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said. It turns out that in Pai’s opinion, the net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama Administration are some of the weeds that need wacking.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fully upheld the prior FCC’s net neutrality rules on June 14, 2016.

These weedy rules prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing web traffic or creating so-called paid internet fast lanes. Without network neutrality, ISPs can legally create a tiered internet where some sites will load faster than others.

Right now, for example, ISPs are banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Remove this rule, and Comcast would be able to provide its NBCUniversal affiliate faster movie streaming than, say Netflix. It’s hard to know who owns what in today’s fast-changing media empire wars. For example, one of the websites I visited for information on this story contained a footnote, saying, “Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.”

Pai’s rollback also scraps the legal foundation that the FCC’s old Democratic majority adopted in 2015 to tighten federal oversight of internet service providers, and it would get rid of the so-called general conduct standard, which gives the FCC authority to police behavior by ISPs it deems unreasonable. According to Ars Technica, Comcast is already the most hated company in America, so apparently the way they're screwing consumers is considered reasonable.

The only people who seem to want Ajit Pai's revisionist policy are the people at companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Incidentally, these companies routinely give immense amounts of money to members of Congress. Here in Eastern Washington, Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA5) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA4) are grateful recipients.

Americans can contact their elected representatives and ask them to urge the FCC take action to protect network neutrality with strong legislation. Unless, that is, you live in the 4th or 5th Congressional Districts, where Representatives Newhouse and McMorris-Rogers have made their intentions known. They’re going with the big money players.

You’ll be better served by going directly to the FCC and commenting on the proceeding, which is known (I kid you not) as “Restoring Internet Freedom,” Proceeding 17-108, https://tinyurl.com/m99426b.