The Repeal of Net Neutrality

Welp, the Internet is officially over.

As you have probably heard by now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced his plan to repeal net neutrality with what is being called “The Restoring Internet Freedom Order”. HA!

I understand that the concept of net neutrality is a little arcane, but here’s what you need to know; it really is the last bastion of democracy in this country. Basically, net neutrality says that we ALL have access to the same Internet “pipes”, regardless of whether we are an individual, small business or behemoth business.

This repeal would “…give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use.” So, they could block certain web sites (so much for that tranny porn you like) and provide faster access for those companies that are willing to pay for it. The spin that Pai (you should note that he is a former associate general counsel for Verizon) is putting on it is that Internet providers would have to be “transparent” about who is getting, or paying for, faster speeds by placing that information on an easily accessible website, like they currently do with their privacy policies. When was the last time you went to a website and looked up a companies privacy policy?

Yea, it’d be a lot like that.

Now, this repeal should alarm you for a number of reasons. One, if you think that Internet providers have your best interest in mind, well, you just haven’t been paying any attention to recent (and by recent I mean since the dawn of the modern era) corporate history.  Corporations have two key priorities, their own and shareholder value. In today’s world, I  would argue that customers don’t even crack the top five of their priorities. (worth noting that in 2017 alone, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have spent 34 million dollars in lobbying…and that isn’t for the best interest of their customers)

Two, according to a 2016  study by the FCC (I won’t bore you with the minutiae), a very large percentage of America still has no access to high-speed Internet access. Also, “…approximately 41 percent of schools, representing 47 percent of the nation’s students lack the connectivity to meet the Commission’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff”. Pai will have you believe that by repealing net neutrality, it will free Internet providers up to continue(?) expanding their broadband infrastructure and network. Historically speaking, there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.   

Third, the United States still ranks ninth in the world for fixed broadband speed (which isn’t awful but our download speed is still half of Singapore). However, as the mobile market continues to gobble up Internet usage, there we rank 28th globally. Considering that two of the three provider giants (Verizon and AT&T) are telecom companies, I can’t fathom a scenario where the repeal of net neutrality incentivizes them to increase their mobile, or fixed broadband, speed. 

Fourth, if you are an entrepreneur and you want to start-up a company to compete with Facebook. Forget about it. “Fuck you, pay me” the ISP’s will say. Facebook can pay for faster access, you as a start-up probably won’t be able to. So much for encouraging small business expansion. 

Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who drafted the 2015 net neutrality rules, called Tuesday’s move “tragic,” adding that “if you like your cable company, you’ll love what this does for the Internet.”

You don’t think that this repeal will impact your ability to stream the next season of the Netflix hit Stranger Things? Think again. Sure, Netflix can, and already does, pay for better access to the Internet infrastructure BUT don’t be foolish enough to believe that translates to you having better access to Netflix. Internet providers could (and probably do), and most certainly will, “throttle” (slow down) your access to Netflix. All ISP’s currently have a streaming platform that streams THEIR programs and content so common sense (inasmuch as it exists in a corporate setting) dictates they will prioritize their programming over any other. 

Now for those of you half-wits out there who voted for “Grab ’em by the pussy” Donald Trump because you believed that what Washington needed was a “businessman.” Well, here you go. This is the result. This is how a business behaves, it puts their interests ahead of the people’s.

Maybe Trump couldn’t get healthcare reform passed or new tax legislation but he still found a way to fuck us all in his first year. Thanks. 

So what can be done? Sadly, I don’t think all too much because of the five FCC chairs, three are republican, including Chairman Pai. I suspect the vote on December 14 will go, much like everything in Washington, right down party lines.

Like all iterations of the Internet in the past, this too is likely to face lawsuits. However, that doesn’t mean “The Restoring Internet Freedom Order” (I mean, the Internet is ALREADY free and handing the reigns over to corporate interests is hardly the way it would remain free, Ajit Pai is a world-class dick) would be reversed, but it is a kernel of hope. 

The only upshot (and it’s not really a good one) I could possibly see is that this would probably create a black market where you could purchase a device that would allow you to bypass your current connection and have quicker access…much like the old “blue boxes” that Steve Jobs created for telephone access or the cable “black boxes” that were popular in the 90’s for cable television access. But is creating a black market really a good thing?

When it is all said and done, I would still encourage you to file a comment with the FCC by clicking here OR using John Oliver’s link