Editors’ Note: We’ve asked the FCC to share their perspective on net neutrality, and will publish their commentary when it becomes available.
Since its origin as a resource for scientists, the internet has grown to become the heartbeat of American innovation and social interaction. It is the backbone of digital commerce. A nervous system that connects and empowers the isolated and oppressed. A wonderland that inspires innovation, opens doors to education and work training, and provides small businesses the opportunity to challenge even the largest of corporations.
All of that has now been threatened by the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality protections one year ago today. These protections are essential to keeping the internet open and free. The Trump FCC ignored millions of comments from Americans pleading to keep strong net neutrality rules in place. It turned its back on the American people and walked away from its duty to safeguard the Internet and act in the public interest.
The FCC’s net neutrality repeal left the market for broadband internet access virtually lawless, giving internet service providers (ISPs) an opening to control peoples’ online activities at their discretion. Gone are rules that required ISPs to treat all internet traffic equally. Gone are rules that prevented ISPs from speeding up traffic of some websites for a fee or punishing others by slowing their traffic down.
You pay your hard-earned money each month to connect to the internet, but it is your ISP that can decide whether to block a website, charge a company more money to make their content stream faster, or slow down your favorite site. While these tactics may be profitable for ISPs and large edge providers who can afford an ISP imposed tax, small businesses, non-profits, entrepreneurs and, in turn, you, would suffer.
Having paid a fair price, you deserve to get fair treatment. You deserve to have access to the entire internet without your experience being manipulated. You should not be left wondering when a video glitches or downloads slowly whether it is because of your ISP or the website you are on.
Until a year ago, the FCC was the federal agency that ensured consumers got a fair shake by overseeing ISPs and calling them to account when they stepped out of bounds.
Without the FCC acting as sheriff, it is unfortunately not surprising that big corporations have started exploring ways to change how consumers access the Internet in order to benefit their bottom line.
Research from independent analysts shows that nearly every mobile ISP is throttling at least one streaming video service or using discriminatory boosting practices. Wireless providers are openly throttling video traffic and charging consumers extra for watching high-definition (HD) streams. ISPs have rolled out internet plans that favor companies they are affiliated with, despite full page ads swearing they value net neutrality. And most concerning, an ISP was found throttling so-called “unlimited” plans for a fire department during wildfires in California.
Make no mistake, these new practices are just ISPs sticking a toe in the water. Without an agency with the authority to investigate and punish unfair or discriminatory practices, ISPs will continue taking bolder and more blatantly anti-consumer steps.
That is why we have fought over the past year to restore net neutrality rules and put a cop back on the ISP beat.
In May, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill restoring net neutrality rules. Despite the support of a bipartisan majority of Americans, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives refused our efforts to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Fortunately, the time is fast coming when the people’s voices will be heard. Large corporations will no longer be able to block progress on this important consumer protection issue.
The path to restoring open Internet protections hasn’t proven easy, and the road ahead will be hard. But because of the American people, we are in a better position to restore strong net neutrality rules in the U.S. House of Representatives next year.