All that the previous administration had done to safeguard the interest of internet users, now stand officially undone as the FCC-proposed repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality regulations came into effect on Monday (June 11).
Despite the build-up of a huge opposition in the preceding months, the writing had been on the wall since December, last year; ever since Republican FCC Commissioners Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Carr, as well as the chairman himself, outvoted Democrat Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel 3-2 in favor of the much-criticized proposal to kill Internet freedom.
“The agency’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which goes into effect on June 11, 2018, will protect the open Internet that consumers cherish while paving the way for better, faster, cheaper Internet access,” FCC said in its Monday press release.
“The order replaces unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations dating back to 1934 with strong consumer protections, increased transparency, and common-sense regulations that will promote investment and broadband deployment,” read the press release.
“The FCC is returning to the successful, bipartisan framework that helped the Internet grow and flourish for two decades prior to 2015. This light-touch approach will protect consumers and deliver better, faster, cheaper Internet access and more competition to consumers,” it concluded.
Despite all the fancy talk justifying the repeal, the fact remains that with no regulations in place to govern net neutrality, internet service providers, particularly the big players, will have a free run to, practically, do as they please.
Dismantling the regulations that ensured discrimination-free internet access to all, has given too much power to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter, who can, now, determine and control what users can see online, and at what price and speed.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that financially strong companies, capable of paying a higher premium to these internet providers, will be given preference over lesser entities, in terms of speedier access to their domains and other related advantages.
What’s worse is that the service providers will be in a position to even block or throttle data of rivals with the purpose of hurting them – in a business sense, of course – or with the unethical intention of killing competition for affiliated websites – read paying websites.
Companies like AT&T are already smacking their lips in anticipation.
While the telecom sector has voiced its support for the FCC move, other players, including tech companies, net neutrality advocacy groups, Congress members, state attorneys and the public, in general, have resisted the repeal fiercely and are continuing to do so through legislation and lawsuits.
States like Washington and Oregon have already passed legislation that reflects the Obama-era net neutrality credo.
In fact, the state of Washington was the first to take the initiative when Democrat Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2282 in March, this year, clipping the ever-spreading wings of internet providers.
Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation
to preserve the open internet with our own #NetNeutrality law. The open internet lives on for Washingtonians. pic.twitter.com/3wsmAycWLN
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 6, 2018
The Bill ensures that net neutrality rules are strictly adhered to so that these providers can’t throttle internet speeds or indulge in paid prioritization by stage-managing content access for unethical personal gains.
“Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet,” Inslee said during the bill signing ceremony.
“We’ve seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history,” Inslee said.
Oregon soon followed suit, passing its own bill in support of net neutrality in a landmark event at Mt. Tabor Middle School in Portland, where Governor Kate Brown signed the legislation House Bill 4155, bringing into effect net neutrality laws to curb the possible high-handedness of internet providers.
“When the federal government repealed net neutrality, they took a step backward,” Gov. Brown said during the Mt. Tabor bill-signing ceremony.
“In Oregon, we want to move forward, to make sure that the internet is a level playing field, instead of exacerbating economic disparity,” she said.
The concept of net neutrality faced its first real challenge in May, last year when the FCC voted in favor of repealing/reversing the Internet neutrality law passed by the previous government.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai – a Trump appointee – was the main architect of the diabolical proposal to repeal the rule against Internet interference by big-name service providers.
In July, more than 80,000 websites including tech giants Google, Amazon, and many others had called for a “Day of Action” – in support of net neutrality which the FCC was hell-bent on doing away with.
The protest involved the coming together of tens of thousands of online activists and businesses, big and small, to inform users about the Trump administration’s plans to hand over control of how we access the internet today, to a handful of service providers.
AT&T Vice President Joan Marsh’s comment in support of the FCC proposal, at the time, hadn’t come as a surprise to anybody concerned.
“This action will return broadband in the U.S. to a regulatory regime that emphasizes private investment and innovation over lumbering government intervention,” Marsh had said.
However, her statement had been in contradiction to the temporary change in stance on the Internet neutrality issue that AT&T had shown earlier in July, stating in a blog post that it would be joining the “Day of Action” with TV and print advertisements.
“We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner,” Bob Quinn, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, had said in the post.
“So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open Internet,” the blog post read.
The organizers of the “Day of Action,” however, did not buy into it. “This is so ridiculous I’m laughing out loud,” Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future had said in an e-mail when he was asked for his reaction.
“AT&T and other companies like Comcast and Verizon have waged an all-out war on net neutrality protections because they want to be able to charge Internet users and startups extra fees, and squeeze all of us for more money for less Internet,” Greer had written.
Here are some reactions on social media.
The repeal of #NetNeutrality rules goes into effect today, but this fight is not over. House Democrats are trying to gather support to force a vote to save Net Neutrality just like we did in the Senate.
Take action & demand your representative save the free & fair internet.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) June 11, 2018
The FCC’s rollback of #NetNeutrality will turn into the equivalent of paying $50 to drive 35 mph down a highway, $75 to go 45 mph, $150 to go 55 mph and $250 to go 65+ mph.
— J.D. Scholten (@JDScholten) June 11, 2018
So, @AjitPaiFCC was all over TV today smugly celebrating the repeal of #NetNeutrality. But the reality is that he's going to lose. The battle for the free and open Internet rages on.#SaveNetNeutrality
1st, contact your representatives at https://t.co/RcwYYmkluC.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) June 12, 2018
The @FCC’s deeply immoral repeal of #netneutrality goes into effect today. On behalf of working families who are tired of paying more for less, you can count on me to keep fighting this. pic.twitter.com/hWO3OA363N
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) June 11, 2018
Republicans are 100% to blame for the end of #NetNeutrality. They are also to blame for not saving DREAMers, separating immigrant families, assaults on minority, women and LGBT rights, no gun reform, the tax scam and for letting Trump destroy our country. Traitors, all of them.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) June 11, 2018