The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set June 11 as the expiration date for net neutrality.
Senate Democrats led by Edward Markey (D-MA), are scheduled to vote June 12 on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that Markey filed against the FCC for its repeal of the Open Internet Order of 2015.
The CRA is backed by every Democratic caucus in the Senate as well as Republican Senator Susan Collins.
Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world-wide Web, as well as a host of online organizations including Reddit, Tumblr, and Wikimedia also support the CRA.
The FCC has led a war against Net Neutrality under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the position by the current president of the U.S. in January of 2017.
He has advocated relentlessly for the repeal of the Open Internet Order of 2015, which required internet service providers to handle all types of internet traffic in the same way and at the same cost.
“The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure and imposed heavy-handed Title II rules on the Internet economy. It doesn’t make sense to apply outdated rules from 1934 to the Internet, but that’s exactly what the prior Administration did.” – Pai
Advocates for the Order and for Net Neutrality claim that both protect freedom of speech on the Internet amidst growing support for the regulation of the Internet as a public utility.
Here’s legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Gabe Rottman speaking in 2015 after the passage of the Order:
“This is a victory for free speech, plain and simple. Americans use the Internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them. The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens’ ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference. Title II provides the firmest possible foundation for such protections. We are still sifting through the full details of the new rules, but the main point is that the Internet, the primary place where Americans exercise their right to free expression, remains open to all voices and points of view.”
Ironically, Pai is calling the initiative to end Net Neutrality the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”
More than 20 states have filed lawsuits against the FCC, with some states like New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, and California pushing for the adoption of legislation that would protect Net Neutrality within state borders.
This, however, could set the stage for even more litigious battles between state and federal government, as telecommunications companies would likely sue states for attempting to enforce such legislation.
This decision will deeply impact independent media organizations like Iron Triangle Press, as well as independent bloggers, entrepreneurs, and basically anyone who has a presence on the Internet but not enough money to pay the FCC to open up access to their sites.
Basically, the repeal of Net Neutrality will allow giant media conglomerates and telecommunications companies to buy up all the available broadband, creating long loading times for smaller websites who can’t afford to compete.
Here’s an example of what Internet in Portugal looks like. They are bound by the European Union’s Net Neutrality rules, but have allowed for the implementation of various pricing platforms that give us an idea of what we could be facing:
Instead of having free and open access to all your favorite sites and apps, you have to choose which ones to prioritize and pay to use them without long wait and load times.
In essence, the removal of Net Neutrality allows the biggest players on the Internet to monopolize access channels and force people to pay to see different kinds of content.
This means that a media mega-giant like Sinclair, which recently made headlines for forcing their outlets to read scripted material, can get cozy with the FCC and make itself available to all online users while suppressing other media outlets like Iron Triangle Press.
Most importantly, this is a very dangerous step towards internet censorship, which is a favorite tactic of blossoming authoritarian regimes.
This is especially concerning in light of the recent discovery that Michael Cohen was selling access to the president and his inner circles.
We can look forward to a future in which money is the only factor that matters, whether you’re trying to watch Netflix or illegally lobby the president.