The barrage of backlash booming around the repeal of the net-neutrality law by the Federal Communications Commission is facing an all-fronts assault. The communications companies that stand to win from the controversial FCC ruling, pushed through by Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, and supported by Republicans are facing a fight from those who will become disenfranchised by the lack of a free and open Internet.
The ruling does away with President Obama’s Open Internet Order put into place in 2015 by a very different FCC. It enables the communications companies to decide what type of content they want to stream and which Internet Service Providers to use. Those that don’t make the priority list can and probably will be charged a pay-to-play fee by the communications companies, which inevitably will be passed on to consumers. It’s a dog-eat-dog scenario and one that is unfair to the American public.
Why? There are several reasons, starting with the fact that a lack of net neutrality has been described as censorship infringing on the First Amendment. Throughout the decades, the Internet has evolved into a powerful forum that the country, and for that matter the world, rely on for the formation of business relationships and personal friendships as well as the sharing movies, photos and other social media. With Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, among several other sites, the Internet is all fun and games. Beyond that, the Internet is a root for the exchange of ideas and information on lighting-rod issues and trending topics – anything and everything making headlines. It has transformed the way news is consumed, interpreted and viewed.
“My concern in the U.S. space is that over time, the companies will make decisions based more on their business model than on the content of information and the breadth of information that people should have access to,” United Nations counselor David Kaye said in an article on The Root titled “#NetNeutrality: United Nations Expert Concerned About US Repeal of Open-Internet Rules.” “That’s a long-term problem and that’s why I’m very, very concerned about the rollback of net neutrality.”
Other reasons the repeal of net neutrality is unfair to the American public include:
Investors: Pai’s primary reason for repealing net neutrality is a perceived lack of investment by the communications companies he said are hindered by the government. He argued that the expansion and upgrading of networks has been cut back since 2015. But Business Insider said nothing could be further from the truth.
“If that’s really what’s been happening, that would be terrible, especially in a country that’s ever more dependent on the internet and where the digital divide remains pronounced,” according to an article titled “There’s a big math problem with the FCC chairman’s main argument for repealing net neutrality.” “But there’s no evidence to prove Pai’s assertion. In fact, the data Pai points to doesn’t show anything close to a marked decrease in broadband investment.”
The fact is that some of the biggest names in digital communication opposes the repeal of the Net Neutrality fairness doctrine repealed by the FCC. In addition, the existence of established net neutrality provided consistency; whereas the repeal sends us cascading into uncertainty and probably lawsuits brought on by this new wild west lack of regulation.
Faith groups: A letter to Pai from religious leaders representing several U.S. organizations was released in the days prior to the Dec. 14, 2017, vote, which was cast 3-2 along party lines. The organizations include the Islamic Society of North America, the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the National Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. National Catholic Reporter quotes the letter as setting forth concern over a loss of fundamental fairness:
“We are concerned about paid prioritization and other policies that will increase costs and limit opportunities for our organizations and the communities we serve. We urge you to adopt the strongest protections possible to protect an open Internet and to use the strongest legal authority available so that you can eliminate paid prioritization and that these protections will survive court challenge. Robust net neutrality protections are essential for all sectors of society, including ours.”
Musicians: Independent singers / songwriters will be silenced by the repeal of net neutrality. The Internet is their form of the antiquated label or greedy record company. Such musicians can release self-dictated recordings directly to their audience and earn not only acclaim but also fame and a little fortune. Rolling Stone interviewed Cale Tyson, a Nashville-based indie artist, who made the argument for suppressing artistic creativity:
“If music consumers were forced to pay an extra charge just for using streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora…then there would obviously be less people using those platforms. Therefore, we wouldn’t be getting as many plays and thus making less money. If that’s the case, it would make discovering new artists much more difficult too. The Internet is our main platform of spreading our art through the world, and when you hinder Internet usage, you make it harder for us to do that.”
Activists: The lack of a free and open Internet will hit marginalized communities hard, the black community and the LGBTQ community among them. Questions arise about how discrimination and oppression will be disseminated and fought if grassroots organizations have their content tiered (aka throttled back) because they cannot afford to pay to play? What will happen to the Black Lives Matter campaign? As for the LGBTQ community, advocate Sarah Kate Ellis told NBC News the Internet is a “lifeline for LGBTQ people to build community support networks and access LGBTQ resources on history, suicide prevention, and health.”
Bottom line…the arena of free speech provided by the internet will be limited and controlled by those who hold the purse strings.
Once again, the federal government seems to be making decisions, which almost require the filing of lawsuits to reestablish a semblance of order and fairness. A government for the people, by the people?