In a move that could end the internet as we know it, striking a blow to the heart of free speech around the world, Republicans are seeking to reverse net neutrality rules issued just last year by the FCC that gives everyone equal internet access as a public utility. Get ready to kiss your Netflix account goodbye, because if Republicans are successful, then carriers like Comcast and Verizon will be able to demand premium access arrangements or exclude players from the open internet.
The Federal Communications Commission regulates America’s airwaves, televisions, radios and mass communications services like the phone network. The President gets to appoint three members of his party to the Commission; the opposition gets to appoint two. ArsTechnica
ArsTechnica reports that the current Republican members sent a bombshell letter (see in full below) just this week:
FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly sent a letter to five lobby groups representing wireless carriers and small ISPs; while the letter is mostly about plans to extend an exemption for small providers from certain disclosure requirements, the commissioners also said they will tackle the entire net neutrality order shortly after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
Pai and O’Rielly will have a 2-1 Republican majority on the FCC after the departure of Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler on January 20. Pai previously said that the Title II net neutrality order’s “days are numbered” under Trump, while O’Rielly said he intends to “undo harmful policies” such as the Title II reclassification.
The Republican Commissioner’s letter says that they believe equal internet access burdens providers, and announced their intent to seek changes:
“[W]e will seek to revisit [the disclosure] requirements, and the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more broadly, as soon as possible,” they wrote, referring to the order that imposed net neutrality rules and reclassified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai and O’Rielly noted that they “dissented from the Commission’s February 2015 Net Neutrality decision, including the Order’s imposition of unnecessary and unjustified burdens on providers.”
Republicans have been deeply against net neutrality, incapable of passing up on any opportunity to levy charges on the American consumer. Trump personally declared opposition to it by tweet back in 2014.
Although the tweet clearly indicates that Trump isn’t entirely sure what net neutrality means. In addition, Trump’s top advisors have been dismissive of the importance of keeping a neutral internet:
Trump’s advisor Peter Thiel has likewise been outwardly critical of net neutrality, saying in a Reddit AMA that net neutrality “hasn’t been necessary so far, and I’m not sure anything has changed to make it necessary right now. And I don’t like government regulation.”
America’s government created the internet in the 1960s for the original intent of maintaining lines of communication in case of a nuclear war, and equal access to all providers enabled the digital revolution after the general public was given entry in the mid-90s.
“Network neutrality—the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly,” says the EFF, “without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services—is a principle that must be upheld to protect the future of our open Internet.”
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.