Yesterday the FCC proposed new rules which cripple the free and open nature of Internet. Among the many loopholes in the so called “Network Neutrality” regulations is the ability for phone and cable companies to apply fees for Internet services and/or content. For example AT&T could charge an extra two cents per megabyte to use Facebook on your iPhone. Or, Comcast could bill you an extra fifty cents a month to get videos from YouTube at a faster speed. The rules which are being touted by Barack Obama as a compromise on Network Neutrality are in fact worse than doing nothing. For the first time they explicitly approve online discrimination. The implications of this are far reaching and truly matter for anyone who uses the Internet.
The basic idea of Network Neutrality is that each piece of data being transmitted over a network receives equal priority no matter where the information comes from (a large corporation or individual website). Without this in place, big companies would gain a stranglehold on the web – stifling new ideas and controlling everyone’s access to both view and publish information. At the heart of this disappointing decision against Network Neutrality is the blatant disregard of the public good in favor of the interests of a few powerful corporations. Network Neutrality is the underlying concept that has allowed for the incredible innovation we’ve seen on the Internet in the past twenty years. It is central to freedom of speech in the 21st century. As more of our lives shift online (Facebook, email, reading news and books) we need our government agencies to stand up to corporate interests and ensure that public wellbeing is accounted for. In the last two days much has been written on this issue but for me these three quotes serve to best highlight what’s at stake.
Instead of a rule to protect Internet users’ freedom to choose, the Commission has opened the door for broadband payola – letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.
The bad news is that, while it’s no longer worse than nothing, the rule approved today is not nearly strong enough to protect consumers or preserve the free and open Internet. And with so much at stake, I cannot support it.
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Yesterday’s action by the FCC is a true failure for our democracy and our country. Please take the time to write your Congressman(woman) and Senators to express your outrage. Let them know that you don’t think these rules are adequate to protect a free and open Internet. You can also show your support and keep updated on this issue by signing up at Save The Internet.