The protections for the fair, free and open internet (net neutrality) are expected to be dismantled Thursday by an FCC decision. Protest has burned across the internet, members of Congress stand opposed, Attorneys General stand opposed and even a vast majority of Republicans stand opposed.
But despite this overwhelming opposition, net neutrality will likely end Thursday.
The FCC is expected to end the protections that ensure a fair and open internet, called net neutrality. In case you’ve spent a few years offline, net neutrality has become a popular term for the classification of the internet as a common carrier under FCC guidelines. This prevents things like your service provider slowing down websites or blocking them entirely unless you pay a premium.
Contrary to FCC chairman (and former Verizon lawyer) Ajit Pai’s assertion that the internet wasn’t broken before net neutrality, its classification as a common carrier was a reaction to situations like AT&T preventing internet phone services or Comcast slowing down Netflix.
An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the FCC’s decision to abolish these Net Neutrality protections, including four out of five Republicans surveyed.
In response, Republicans on the hill are opposing Trump’s FCC and Pai’s upcoming decision.
Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) called on members of congress from both sides of the aisle to work together to preserve Net Neutrality.
“Congressional action is the only way to solve the endless back and forth on net neutrality rules that we’ve seen over the past several years,” said Thune. “If Republicans and Democrats have the political support to work together on such a compromise, we can enact a regulatory framework that will stand the test of time.”
Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) sent a letter to Pai objecting to the pending repeal of open internet protections, citing among other things Pai’s own objections to Obama-era net neutrality decisions based on the fact that sweeping changes shouldn’t be decided by five unelected people.
Thx to everyone who has contacted me in regards to #NetNeutrality. Below is the letter I sent to Chairman @AjitPaiFCC today to ensure the continuation of a free and open #internet. pic.twitter.com/oKqh7lxaLI
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) December 12, 2017
“I believe Congress can find the right balance between light-touch regulatory authority while celebrating the same open internet protections that exist today,” wrote Coffman.
Coffman’s position is especially bold, as pointed out by International Business Times, as Comcast just moved over a thousand jobs to his district.
On the left, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York) introduced legislation called the Save Net Neutrality Act, citing concerns that removing those protections would endanger an open an affordable internet.
Pai openly mocked those kinds of concerns.
Pai had, instead, stated he would ignore all public comments not making specific legal arguments.
Pai has been thusfar unmoved by the American people, by members of Congress and by state Attorneys General across the nation.
Beyond the telecom companies that act as internet service providers, it seems the only person Pai is taking cues from may be President Trump, who was adamantly against the open internet in his campaign.
He called on leaders in the tech industry to take part in actively censoring the internet and dismissed anyone making freedom of speech arguments against those actions as “foolish people”.
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” said Trump in 2015. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way.”
In Ajit Pai, Trump seems to have found that way.
Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.