I’ve written several times about Net Neutrality. I wrote about why it’s important, a proposed solution, again when it was repealed, and about California passing its own Net Neutrality law. If you’re unaware of what Net Neutrality is, basically it’s the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t charge servers you access (such as Google, Facebook and Twitter but also non-web-based services like What’s App and Instagram among others) more for faster access. If they can do that, then whomever has the deepest pockets will have the best user experience in terms of their website or app being responsive and the great leveling of the playing field that is the Internet goes away.
The passing of a federal Net Neutrality law under President Obama was a relief but it was short-lived because in June of 2018 The Federal Communications Commission repealed it. The FCC Chairman at that time was Ajit Pai who, prior to working for the FCC, was the Associate General Counsel for Verizon Communications, one of the largest ISPs in the United States. While that made him qualified to work at the FCC, it would be improbable that he could be unbiased towards ISPs like Verizon.
When the FCC under Pai was considering repealing Net Neutrality, they asked for public comments via their website. While many commenters were opposed to repealing it, there were a surprising number of comments from apparently ordinary citizens in support of a repeal. If you’re scratching your head trying to come up with a plausible explanation as to why an average American would support repealing something as directly beneficial to them as Net Neutrality, you’re not alone.
The State of New York Attorney General’s office just announced that after a multi-year investigation they discovered that a group called Broadband for America, whose membership consisted of many of the nation’s biggest ISPs, spent millions of dollars on lead-generation services that were generating millions of fake comments in support of the repeal and posting them on the FCC’s website. Even if then FCC Chairman Pai was trying to be objective, it would be have been easy to be swayed by millions of comments that appeared to be from ordinary citizens all mysteriously supporting the repeal.
Hopefully this will result in a sea change in support for reinstatement of Net Neutrality. This truly is the most consequential fight of our lifetimes because the level playing field provided by the Internet is what allows not only innovation but also our voices, be they from the wealthy or those of limited means, be they from the majority or a minority, to reach the ears of like-minded individuals. This freedom, not just to speak but the chance to be heard, was so important to our Founding Fathers that they made it the very first amendment to the United States Constitution. If they could have somehow foreseen the creation of the Internet, I’m certain our Founding Fathers who have built even stronger protections into that most important of amendments.
You can still make a difference. You can make your voice heard on this issue by calling your representatives in Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to urge them to support Net Neutrality. They are not contacted as often as you might think which means your voice can have an oversized impact upon the issue. Contact them today and be a part of ensuring that the Internet remains a place of freedom and equality for all.