There is a lot in the news this week, given that Donald Trump is desperately trying to get some good news cycles out before his first 100 days in office are up. The, “tax plan” that they’ve unveiled today, which is really the same exact vague, destroy-all-federal-revenue plan that was distributed as part of Trump’s campaign is so vague and non-specific that it isn’t even worth a column just yet. It is worth noting that they managed to add several new fonts and a bullet list or three to the paper they handed out to reporters. The thing that is happening, and may not get as much attention, is that Ajit Pai, current FCC chairman, gave a speech today that essentially solidifies his plan to repeal net neutrality.
Net Neutrality sounds really nerdy. That’s why people call it the Open Internet. When you boil it down, Net Neutrality states that internet service providers cannot slow down service for an app or website, or provide faster service for a premium paid by content providers. ISPs have been trying for years to repeal the rule so that they can organize the internet in tiers with fast loading only going to the top paying customers. Unlike a certain Kardashian’s photos, this will actually break the internet.
With a big business administration like we have in the White House, a little bit of hope comes in the fact that it will be one large business sector (telecom companies) facing off against another large business sector (Google, Facebook, et al).
The administration has already shown no end for their willingness to prioritize profits over the American public’s best interest when they allowed ISPs to sell browsing data of their customers, not to mention all the things they’re allowing to be done to the environment. To be clear, the measure allowing ISPs to sell browsing data was a repeal of a law that was set to go into effect, but hadn’t yet. It is also essentially the same as if the phone company sold recordings of customer conversations for advertising purposes.
Repealing open internet rules will make it so much harder for new apps to break through. Our national obsession with people who start up companies in their garages will have to be put on ice, as these companies will have a large and in some cases insurmountable extra expense that comes with accessing the higher speed tiers.
For that matter, some ISPs may be tempted to slow down competition for their own content. Nothing about killing net neutrality is good for anyone except the ISPs.
Last time a repeal was attempted the FCC received over 4 million comments from the public. It set a record. This time around the public may be a little busy trying to stop Donald Trump from starting WWIII in North Korea or ruining the planet with disastrous environmental policy.