Most people have no idea what is meant by the arcane term “net neutrality.” But the Trump administration is committed to providing a clear explanation through your cable bill. Losing net neutrality means most consumers will pay more for high-speed access to all of the internet.
Last week the Federal Communications Commission released a plan to roll back Obama-era rules that ensure equal access to the internet. Instead, telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon and Comcast, who control most of the pipelines to the internet, will be free to charge customers extra for higher streaming speeds and broader access to websites. Net neutrality basically means all data is entitled to flow freely and users can access whatever they want. The FCC’s plan would allow telecom companies to charge various prices for various speeds and charge more for wider access to websites.
The proposal, made by the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is being justified in the name of free markets.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”
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Pai, a former associate general counsel at Verizon, was nominated by President Obama for a Republican Party position in the FCC. President Trump designated Pai to fill an open FCC chairmanship and them nominated him to head the five-member commission for a five year-term. He was confirmed by the Senate in October.
Pai’s proposal is opposed by internet giants such as Google and Facebook. That’s good news for consumers, but even the deep pockets of those companies may not be enough to stop what could become an irreversible shift that turns the information super highway into a private toll road with gated on-ramps. Tellingly, Pai is pushing ahead despite the FCC receiving millions of public comments opposing the end of net neutrality.
Democrats, who are in a 3-2 minority on the FCC, can’t do much to stop the plan. But a broad consumer push could yet influence Republicans in Congress and President Trump as the 2018 elections approach. Consumer groups should fight the plan using the power of the wide-open internet while they still can.