The repeal of net neutrality rules came and went with the holidays, but the battle may not be over.
On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Those rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, required internet service providers to treat all online content the same, which meant they could not slow down or block websites or favor their own content over others, or from charging more to access certain sites.
You could add the repeal of those rules to the growing list of Trump administration efforts to eradicate just about anything from the previous administration. The specious argument was that repeal would foster competition, but the more compelling case was made by one of the FCC’s own members, Jessica Rosenworcel, who in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece wrote: “There is something not right about a few unelected FCC officials making such vast determinations about the future of the internet.”
“In fact,” she wrote, “the FCC will probably discover that they have angered the public and cause them to question just whom the agency works for.”
Exactly, as in corporations as opposed to consumers.
It would have been nice had there been more vociferous political opposition before the vote, but, as they say, better late than never.
Connecticut’s U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal embraced the fray this week by joining fellow Democrats in promoting a bill that would undo the reversal.
“The FCC has proven itself to be a puppet of special interests,” he said during a press conference Tuesday.
“The reaction of our children will be a great big ‘duh’” he said. “What is there to argue about when it comes to freedom of the internet?”
In this country, there’s always an argument, and net neutrality seems destined to be another victim of partisanship.
The Connecticut Mirror reported that approval of the repeal of the repeal, so to speak, is unlikely in the Senate, given that Republican’s hold the majority, but a glimmer of hope appeared with the news that Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins will support overturning the FCC decision. King, an independent, said the decision puts the internet “for sale to the highest bidder.”
Collins has shown that she acts in the interests of her constituents as opposed to her political party (she was one of the senators who stymied the overthrow of Obamacare, for example). In the case of net neutrality, she said she supported guaranteeing “consumer choice, free markets and continued growth.”
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. EdwarkMarkey has 40 senators co-sponsoring the resolution. He told the Associated Press 30 members are needed to send the resolution to a vote. He still needs the support of the remaining Democratic senators and a few Republicans for it to pass.
Sometimes it hard not to wish that something like net neutrality could be left out of the realm of politics, but this is America, after all. By forcing Republicans to vote on net neutrality Democrats see an opportunity when it comes to the mid-term elections. The choice would be a great big “duh,” to borrow the phrase from Sen. Blumenthal.
In the meantime, several states have begun to take matters into their own hands, something that’s on the rise in the current political climate. As CNN Tech reported, New York, Washington and Massachusetts have proposed net neutrality-supporting legislation. In California, there are two separate bills.
“Even before the recent wave of bill proposals, states appeared to be on a collision course with the federal government on this issue,” said CNNMoney, adding that attorneys general of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Minnesota have announced intentions to sue to challenge the repeal.
Blumenthal called the FCC repeal “undemocratic and un-American,” and said it was doomed to fail.
Let’s hope so. Otherwise, the day you’re blocked from a site or required to pay more to get there will be a dark day for freedom.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.