by Linda Kennedy
Along with the phrases “alternate truth” and “fake news,” another phrase, even more ominous, is being bandied about, “net neutrality.” Net neutrality means internet freedom. It means that everyone has equal access to internet content – that is, content and all applications regardless of the source. In other words, the bus that takes you to the mall may not control what you see and where you shop when you get there.
The Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) wants to overturn President Obama’s 2015 net neutrality rules which reclassified internet service providers (ISPs) to be more like utilities. They could not discriminate or block customers. Trump’s chairman, Ajit Pai, says net neutrality is a mistake. He wants to allow ISPs to voluntarily agree to maintain fairness and, under his plan, the Federal Trade Commission would oversee compliance.
Net neutrality means internet freedom. It means that everyone has equal access to internet content – that is, content and all applications regardless of the source.
Supporters believe without net neutrality regulation it is a real possibility that internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T could block or slow your internet access, giving preference to high paying customers. They could determine which websites and applications are accessible to you and visiting certain sites could cost you more.
The ISPs could block content and inhibit free speech. That, supporters say, is censorship. Internet providers oppose regulation. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast claim net neutrality is unfair and subjects them to government interference and restricts investments.
The FreePress Action Fund disagrees. Its leaders maintain, “Net Neutrality is what’s made the internet such a powerful tool for political organizing, education and innovation. We must fight to keep the internet open.”
A small number of ISPs control all consumer access. So every web company – think Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Netflix or Facebook – has no choice but to go through them to get to you. Because of media consolidation, most media are owned by a handful of companies. Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are already incredibly powerful and, if the current administration has its way, they may become even more so.
“Net Neutrality is what’s made the internet such a powerful tool for political organizing, education and innovation. We must fight to keep the internet open.”
Mignon Clyburn, the only Democrat on the FCC, says though she is no longer in the majority, her mission and objectives are the same. “I came here almost eight years ago to ensure that the voices that have not been traditionally heard will have a person representing them. And as long as I’m here, I’ll be a voice for those who deserve one.”
Clyburn says this new development is cause for worry. “Given the incentives and abilities of broadband providers to harm internet openness, all Americans should be extremely concerned.”
Meanwhile FCC Chairman Pai says he will reveal the details of his plan in the next few weeks and it could be voted on shortly after.
Linda Kennedy is a freelance broadcast and print journalist who teaches media literacy and lives in Seattle, Wash. She can be reached at email@example.com.