Skip to main content

Say Goodbye To Net Neutrality

Trump's new FCC Chairman wants to "fire up the weed whacker" and reduce the regulations that keep the internet free.

Republicans are in a mad scramble to enact as much of their agenda as possible before Trump inevitably implodes and Washington comes to a screaming halt. Part of that scramble is to overturn as much of Obama's legacy as possible, including undoing net neutrality:

President Trump on Monday designated Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission and an outspoken opponent of new net neutrality rules, to be the agency’s new chairman.

Pai, 44, would take over for Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who stepped down on Friday. Wheeler’s term had not expired but Trump gets to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority. 

You might be forgiven if you don't quite remember what Net Neutrality is because this was settled over two years ago when John Oliver successfully mobilized the country to oppose it. The short version is this: Net Neutrality rules prevent internet providers from charging websites extra for better speeds or simply cutting speeds for websites that run afoul of them.

The longer version is that without Net Neutrality, websites that run counter to the interests of corporations, whether it be rival startups or anti-corporate political sites, will see their access to the internet dry up or be priced out of reach, in effect suppressing innovation and free speech. In other words, the internet will become a censored domain controlled by the rich, censoring dissent that affects their bottom line.

If this sounds insane, consider the following hypothetical:

The Daily Banter continues to expose President Trump's various scandals and corruption and over the next 2 year and becomes one of the most read websites in the country (hey, it could happen!). Fed up with our "fake news" and "demoralizing" attacks, Trump informs the Banter's internet provider that if the site's internet service is not throttled, the FCC may have to start investigating the provider, bogging it down in red tape and multi-billion dollar lawsuits. Eager to please the FCC, the provider complies and the Banter suddenly discovers that it can only handle a small fraction of the traffic it used to. Oh, sure, the previous level of service can be restored but, gee golly whiz, it's going to cost tens of thousands of dollars a month. Internet traffic is just so darn expensive these days!

It's an underhanded form of censorship that is not just plausible, but likely. Trump may not even have to order the provider to do anything as corporations seeking the favor of the most corrupt administration in American may voluntarily silence his critics.

There's a reason Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives call Net Neutrality an "attack on free speech." Net Neutrality prevents the wealthy from controlling the most open platform for the exchange of information in human history. If you believe, like many (rich) conservatives do, that money is free speech, then not being able to buy greater access on the internet for your message is an affront that cannot be tolerated.

And now the rich will have their chance to take over the web and relegate the left to dial up access while they blast their pro-corporate and pro-Trump propaganda at high speed. Unfortunately, I don't think John Oliver's almost guaranteed response to this will make a difference. Republicans do not respond to public shaming when it comes to pushing through their anti-democratic agenda. Welcome to the future of freedom in Trump's America.