Updated: Mar 3, 2019
With the stroke of a pen on a Thursday morning, Ajit Pai and his republican toadies at the FCC have repealed the net neutrality rules implemented by the Obama administration in 2015. This is a landmark ruling that promises far-reaching and devastating consequences for consumers, as well as potentially encroaching on the first amendment. These ramifications will be felt not just in the United States but around the world.
Net neutrality was largely designed in order to protect consumers from the monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior of ISP's. It ensured that ISP's could not throttle speeds or block content as they saw fit. It also made it illegal to offer tiered plans based on access to certain services in the same way that cable companies do. In many cases these cable companies and internet service providers are one and the same, so to suggest that they will "self-regulate" in good faith when it comes to internet plans is laughable.
ISP's argue that stifling regulations have harmed competition among ISP's and hence innovation. Frankly this reeks of bullshit. When I was living in Brooklyn from 2012-2015, we had literally one option for high-speed internet - Time Warner Cable, a Comcast subsidiary. This was before net neutrality, but conveniently Verizon and Comcast had already divvied up the postcodes across New York City such that only one option was available for the vast majority of consumers. They don't want competition, they want control.
This is an early Christmas present for ISP's and a giant F-you to everyone else, from consumers to small businesses. Even internet service giants such as Amazon and Facebook may suffer, as ISP's are now free to implement fee-based systems in order to allow distribution of and access to these services on their platforms. One issue is that the FCC is woefully equipped to rule on technical matters such as this. Donald Drumpf had the opportunity to address this with the selection of a new FCC chair, however opted to cave to corporate interests as usual with the appointment of Ajit Pai. Pai is a former general counsel to Verizon and it shows. Remember the good old days when elected officials made some semblance of effort to disguise their corruption and compromised interests? Ajit Pai is blatantly shilling for Verizon in this ruling, to the point where I wouldn't even be surprised if he was still on their payroll. And this really drives at the crux of the matter - Washington corruption is so endemic and has been so normalized that the perpetrators are now operating in full daylight.
There are options from this point. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has announced that he plans to sue the FCC over this ruling. The decision still has to clear congress, so there is hope there, albeit slim, with Republicans holding a majority. That's really about it though, unfortunately. Rest assured that you are not insulated from this. This is not a decision that is isolated to the US - this will affect you, irrespective of where you call home. Get angry and get vocal.
Thankfully this ruling will likely take time for it's effects to manifest. Let's hold out hope that this God-forsaken administration blows up (figuratively of course, despite Trump's best efforts in goading the North Koreans) and this farcical situation can be reversed in the not-too-distant future.