Say goodbye to an “Open Internet.” Say hello to “slow and fast lanes” where the quality and responsiveness of websites you click on will be subject to the whims of your warm-hearted Internet Service provider. And if they don’t agree that the sites you like to visit are “worthy,” you’ll have to pay more to access them in any reasonable manner.
Trump has tapped net neutrality foe Ajit Pai to become Chairman of the FCC, the agency responsible for enforcing and promulgating rules that assure an open Internet. His appointment, like many Federal appointments, will not require initial Senate approval (although he will need to be reconfirmed by the Republican-dominated Senate in 2017).
Why is this important? Because as head of the FCC, that agency will now be dominated by officials opposed to the idea of an “open Internet:”
Net neutrality is the idea that your Internet provider must treat all Web traffic equally. A court decision in January struck down FCC rules meant to ensure that Internet providers do not discriminate by blocking or slowing certain content.
That decision opened the door for Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to cut deals with content providers, which would pay to stream their content in an Internet “fast lane.”
Under President Obama’s leadership, the FCC reacted to this Court decision by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service and thus applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996. The new Rule took effect in June, 2015. This nullified the prior Court decision and effectively made “net neutrality” the law of the land, at least temporarily. In 2016, the FCC’s new Rules were upheld by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. We have enjoyed an “open Internet” since that time.
That is all going to change, and not because of any Court decision, but because of Donald Trump.
His nominee, Ajit Pai, will, in position as Chairman, be empowered to revoke the old rules.
What does that mean, in English?
First off, the web could get more expensive. The impact on the average Internet user will likely not be felt right away. But over time, websites would probably pass on to consumers the costs of paying for high-speed access, according to Harold Feld, a senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge.
In addition, it could become difficult to view certain websites owned by companies that can’t afford to pay for access to an Internet fast lane, Feld said.
On top of Internet users potentially paying more, they would also be more confused, Feld said. Under the proposed rules, people would need to make sense of a fragmented Internet landscape where the time it takes to load an online video would depend on whether that website paid extra to their Internet provider. Consumers may start choosing their Internet providers based on which websites they like to visit.
Why is Trump doing this, aside from his general penchant for doing as much harm as possible in the name of “deregulation?” Well it’s entirely possible—even likely--that Trump is too stupid to understand the implications of what he’s doing, but catering to the class of corporate Telecom CEO’s that have sucked up to the Republican Party in their efforts to impose more fees on the American people under the guise of “economic interests” and “encouraging investment.”
Among corporations, opponents include AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Juniper, dLink, Wintel, Alcatel-Lucent, Corning, Panasonic, Ericsson, and others.
Pai claims that supporters of “net neutrality" are “hysterical,“ and that there is not a “shred of evidence” that Internet content would be compromised by rescinding the rules. His statement dissenting from the Rules imposed during the Obama Administration is summarized here. Boiled down, his position is that enforcement of net neutrality rules constitutes a “tax” on broadband providers that ultimately hurts consumers:
Pai's promotion won't come as a surprise, but his new role should worry any supporters of a fair and open internet. Last month Pai and the FCC's other Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly sent a letter to telecoms and carrier lobbying groups promising to "revisit" the net neutrality rules laid out in 2015 that protect consumers from practices like pay-for-priority access, blocking and throttling. According to Pai and O'Rielly, these rules for carrier transparency and traffic fairness create "unjustified burdens" for service providers and the pair intend to "undo" them.
Before joining the FCC Pai worked as an attorney for Verizon.
There are arguments for and against net neutrality that are well summarized in this Wikipedia entry. But ultimately the only question you may need to ask yourself is this: When was the last time the Republican Party did anything in the interests of the American consumer?