By: Michael Rummel
The FCC is preparing to cripple the greatest information and media revolution since the printing press.
As a place for unfettered access to knowledge and connections to people and ideas from around the world, the internet gave rise to entire segments of the economy once completely unforeseeable and now utterly indispensable. Businesses small and large rely on internet freedom. Repealing net neutrality hurts everyone from small business owners to netflix users. Internet providers could, and would create a tiered internet service that would provide preferential treatment to larger corporations that could pay more for access, or for content created by the internet providers themselves.
Part of this comes down to how doggedly Ajit Pai’s FCC has pursued repealing the regulations currently in place on telecom providers. While the news cycle whips the nation’s focus from one headline to the next, Pai has kept his sights trained on Title II restrictions. Essentially, these regulations ensure that broadband companies provide fair and open access to all sites and platforms, rather than charging different prices for packages, like they do in the television market (A more detailed explanation can be found here).
An ideal world with true competition between internet providers would likely render the regulations unnecessary, but we don’t live in such a world. Most Americans have few or no real choices for their internet, particularly in rural and underserved areas. These regulations are likely the only thing keeping companies like Pai’s former employer, Verizon, from exploiting their oligopolic control of the market.
There is also no real need profit wise, as broadband companies are far from struggling. Comcast reported $2.5 billion in profits, Verizon $3.45 billion, and Time Warner 1.2 Billion. It’s naked greed that’s driving this move, and it will hit everyday Americans in both their wallet and their access to information. Claims from these companies that they wouldn’t seek to extract profits and limit access are demonstrably false.
A rollback of these regulations could also be devastating for startups and new organizations like The Common Courtesy. We’ve invested our own money and considerable time into getting our site running and producing content. We view our ambition – to provide a platform for bi-partisanship, independent thought, and reasonable debates to try and create common ground in a toxic political environment – as a noble and necessary one. However, we are reliant on a free and open internet to spread our message and content.
How can our site, and those of other dreamers and entrepreneurs, expect to expand, grow, and contribute to the economy and the nation at large if access to our site and ideas are hobbled? Repealing net neutrality will only further entrench the power of current media conglomerates, and limit new perspectives and voices. The concern here is one that will only grow larger, as nearly 40% of Americans use the internet as their main source of news, and that number is only increasing.
This proposed rollback manages to tie the three issue of monopolies/oligopolies, freedom of speech, and small business entrepreneurship in one. A vote to end it would empower these monopolies and oligopolies, hinder free speech, and inhibit entrepreneurs. To be honest, I can’t think of anything more anti-American.
I urge anyone that values innovation, free speech, and economic competition to call, write, and/or email your congressional representatives. If you can, join organizations fighting to keep net neutrality, and attend protests to ensure the FCC and members in Congress know how the American public feels about this.
We live in a time of media madness, exclamatory chyrons, and ceaseless “breaking news” updates, but no amount of hyperbolic rhetoric could come close to expressing the severity of this situation.
The future of the American internet is at stake.
Walker Marlatt also contributed to this article.