After months of blunt force foreshadowing, the Federal Communications Commission announced today that it’s ready to pick a fight with the public over the future of the open internet. It’s great news if you’re a lawyer for Verizon or Comcast, and terrible news for the rest of us.
In its first wave of propaganda, the FCC says that its proposal to roll back internet regulation will “Restore Internet Freedom for all Americans” — a mendacious slogan on the level of the “Patriot Act,” or the “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan.” Like the first fight for net neutrality, this one is going to be about words and what they mean. For instance: “internet freedom.”
What does the FCC mean now when it talks about “internet freedom?” Here’s what Chairman Pai’s office said today in a press release:
Chairman Pai is now setting the FCC on a course to fix the problems that the prior FCC created. His plan to restore Internet Freedom by repealing Obama-era Internet regulations will benefit all Americans.
It will restore Internet Freedom by ending government micromanagement and returning to the bipartisan regulatory framework that worked well for decades.
This is the same tired line that Republicans have been trotting out for years, and it’s based on a dumb, misleading conflation of “the internet” with “the behavior of internet service providers.” The current net neutrality rules already give consumers “internet freedom” by restraining internet providers from dividing the internet into a nightmare of toll zones and walls. Net neutrality rules aren’t “government micromanagement,” they’re the exact opposite: they are a condition of possibility for the competitive anarchy that has defined the internet and allowed companies to rise and fall without permission from their ISP.
“Title II regulation” simply gives the FCC the authority to make sure those ISPs are behaving — a power the Republican-controlled FCC wants to relinquish to the very companies they’re supposed to monitor.
Chairman Pai said as much earlier this month when he floated the nonsensical idea that broadband providers self-regulate by putting net neutrality provisions in their terms of service agreements. Here are just some of the things those broadband companies have done in the past 10 years:
- Deliberately throttled internet traffic
- Lied about throttling internet traffic
- Squeezed customers with arbitrary data caps
- Misled consumers about the meaning of “unlimited” internet
- Gave privileged treatment to vertically integrated companies they own
- Strong-armed cities to prevent them from giving their residents high-speed internet
- Fought against being held accountable as public utilities, while profiting from public utility regulations
- Fought and killed privacy rules that protected customer web browsing data
- Held customers hostage to make Netflix pay up
- Lied about net neutrality rules hurting network investments
- Avoided real competition at all costs
The FCC wants to put these companies in charge of the internet. Let’s work together to make sure that doesn’t happen. Tell the FCC we’re not going back.
You can contact FCC chairman Ajit Pai and let him know what you think by emailing him: Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov. You can also call the FCC at 1-888-225-5322. At the prompt, press 1, then 4, then 2, then 0 to be connected to an agent and file a complaint.