Another day, another bad decision made on behalf of the Trump administration. In an expected but no-less shocking fashion, the administration continues to take steps backwards instead of forwards. As the Federal Communication Commission moved to officially repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration, we are now giving internet service providers (ISPs) greater autonomy to limit our freedoms in favor of seeking greater profits.
To acknowledge the role of high-speed internet as a medium of communication and gateway of information, the Obama administration required ISPs to treat all internet content the same. However, broadband companies have argued that the regulations represent unnecessary government regulations that hinder innovation. As a result, the FCC has given broadband companies the greenlight to exist how they see fit. They don’t have to treat web traffic equally; they can block and throttle web traffic; they can create internet fast-lanes; and they can prioritize their own content.
This moves me to question who the Restoring Internet Freedom Order is truly restoring internet freedom for. The only thing that we seem to be restoring—or rather strengthening—is the public’s distrust of the government’s ability to do its job correctly. Relying on ISPs to live up to their promise that business will remain as usual and practices will not change is a bad gamble. When it comes down to choosing a greater profit over the needs of the consumer, we need only look at history to know which will take greater precedent.
Per the FCC’s website, as a part of the rulemaking process, the agency gathers comments from the public and considers the input when developing policies. This, as a result, allows the public to participate in the decisions that affect them the most. Over the course of seven months, approximately 24 million comments have been made on the topic of net neutrality. However, despite the overwhelming number of comments opposing the repeal, the FCC still moved forward with its decision. Not to mention, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has alleged that over two million comments were fake, half a million from Russian addresses, and fifty thousand comments missing altogether. This is unacceptable.
FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said it best, “[the] record has been corrupted and [the] process for public participation lacks integrity.” The decision made today not only shows that there’s a total disregard for public opinion, but reinforces the Trump-era mindset of putting self above others. This is a clear slap in the face to the many Americans who voiced their opinion and took a clear stance against the decision made. We as a society chastise those who aren’t politically engaged, yet when we are, the people put in place to serve us let us down. I am calling on those who were active in this fight not to feel discouraged and not to give up. This is just the beginning of a battle that can be won.
I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for leading the fight and exemplifying the leadership that other state leaders should follow as well. Challenging the FCC’s decision is a step in the right direction to not only help protect New Yorkers, but all Americans. We should be implementing solutions to help bridge America’s digital divide, not make the gap larger. Technology isn’t just the way of the future, technology is our now. It’s a mechanism that allows us to communicate, innovate and connect with the world around us. People need the internet. If we’re taking away the protections that help to ensure a free and open internet now, one could only imagine what the future looks like.