A coalition of activist organizations including Fight for the Future, Freepress Action Fund, and Demand Progress have organized websites including Amazon, Netflix, Kickstarter, Pornhub, reddit, and dozens of others to place banners that look like error messages on their homepages. These banners aim to give a teaser of what the internet will be like if net neutrality is ended by prompting users to “upgrade your plan” or informing them that the site “has been blocked by your ISP.” Below, the banners urge users to contact their congressman as well as the FCC to voice their support for net neutrality.
This is a response to new efforts by the Federal Communications Commission, spearheaded by chairman Ajit Pai, to dismantle net neutrality regulations and enable Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to give preferential treatment to websites that can afford it.
As with most things Republicans try to do, the logic behind this is that of “deregulation” which, they assure us, is in the customer’s best interest. In reality, the end of net neutrality means more power and more money for ISPs, companies which already function as monopolies in most markets (51% of Americans have only a single broadband provider in their area). By allowing ISPs to charge more money for internet “fast lanes,” huge companies that can afford the cost will pay to have their content seen, while smaller sites who cannot afford it are strangled to death or forced to pass on the cost to their users.
The FCC proposal takes aim at undoing the 2015 Open Internet Order, which it states: “[applies] utility-style regulation to the Internet” and “…has put at risk online investment and innovation.” Its justification is that “investment in broadband networks [has] declined” since the 2015 Open Internet Order, but as USA Today and others have already shown, this conclusion relies on intentionally misreading the data.
FCC chairman Pai, who was first appointed to the commission by Barack Obama and promoted to chairman by Trump, has been an outspoken critic of net neutrality rules for many years now. He voted against the Open Internet Order, which sought to secure net neutrality regulations. Shortly after Trump’s election (and before he was appointed chairman) he stated that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.”
This history makes the FCC’s new measures against net neutrality more egregious. The purpose of releasing a proposal for public questioning is to explore whether or not the proposed regulations have popular support, and are in the public’s best interests. However, it is clear that Pai has already decided to end net neutrality and that to him, public opinion is an afterthought.
His FCC may complain about a “utility-style regulatory approach” but the fact is that in 2017, the internet is a utility and should be treated as such. For vast numbers of people, especially students, millennials, people who work in tech, and people who live in urban areas, the internet is an economic necessity, just like gas, electricity, and running water. Far from bringing “freedom” to the internet, ending net neutrality does nothing but squeeze average people to give more to gigantic corporations.
To join the fight for net neutrality, go here and follow the instructions to contact the FCC and your congressperson.
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