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Big-Britches FCC FINALLY Bringing Back 'Net Neutrality'
And building out broadband for all Americans too!
The finally Democrat-led Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to begin the process of restoring the open internet — ie, bringing back “net neutrality.” This is a huge freaking deal, especially if you are tired of paying a whole lot for internet and still … having crappy internet.
Specifically, this means that the FCC will once again be able to regulate broadband communications under Title II of the Communications Act — a protection that the Trump-era FCC, under the leadership of Ajit Pai, nefariously did away with. Initially, the big issues surrounding net neutrality had to do with keeping ISPs from providing “fast lanes” for sites that pay them off (or that they own) and “slow lanes” for those that don’t. It means that they can’t block or throttle any sites or services in favor of other sites or services.
For background that won’t make you fall asleep, please see this classic segment from “Last Week Tonight.”
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Now, as FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel explained in a speech this past September, it encompasses a lot more and is even more necessary now than ever — as internet access has become more necessity than luxury, particularly since the pandemic.
Part of the plan is for the FCC to begin the process of regulating internet access as a utility, like water or power — which is fair, because like water and power, these companies often operate regionally, so it’s not as if consumers can just pick a competing ISP if their internet isn’t working out so well. Rosenworcel says that this authority will also allow the FCC to act quickly when necessary instead of requiring the regulating body to jump through hoops in order to protect consumers.
This is a public safety issue, Rosenworcel explained, as “when firefighters in Santa Clara, California, were responding to wildfires they discovered that the wireless connectivity on one of their command vehicles was being throttled. As a result of Title II repeal, the FCC lacked the authority to intervene.”
It would also allow the FCC to quickly address internet outages, so that they are able to intervene when an area just doesn’t have internet for 45 days, which is what happened in Hope Village in Detroit in 2021.
It would also allow the FCC to act when it comes to issues of national security, cyber security, network resilience and reliability, building broadband access for all Americans, stopping robotexts, and protecting consumer privacy.
The law requires telecommunications providers to protect the confidentiality of the proprietary information of their customers. That means that these providers cannot sell your location data, among other sensitive information.
As Rosenworcel explained:
“Those privacy protections currently extend to phone service customers but not broadband subscribers, because Title II does not cover the latter. Does that really make sense? Do we want our broadband providers selling off where we go and what we do online? Scraping our service for a payday from new artificial intelligence models? Doing any of this without our permission?”
I’m gonna say no! Because that’s all pretty terrible and gross.
Net neutrality was actually not a highly partisan issue at all until the Trump administration made it one, and made opposing it one of the conditions of the blind loyalty Trump demanded. Why? Because we all benefit from it and we all hate cable companies.
The case the “critics” have is that regulation is always bad and, for some reason, they’d rather keep this power in the hands of corporations than in the hands of the government. They toss around “scary” words like “micromanagement” and “government control” while not actually providing any evidence that it is a bad idea.
“There will be lots of talk about ‘net neutrality’ and virtually none about the core issue before the agency: namely, whether the FCC should claim for itself the freewheeling power to micromanage nearly every aspect of how the internet functions — from the services that consumers can access to the prices that can be charged,” Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner on the FCC, said in a statement.
For the next few months, the FCC will be taking public comments that they will take into consideration when preparing the final rule, which they hope to enact by 2024.
Everyone needs broadband now. Throttling no longer simply threatens to hinder the spread of adorable cat videos. People need internet access to find jobs, to do job interviews, they need it, often, to go to doctor’s appointments or psychologist appointments — and school children needed it during the pandemic to go to school. Should that ever happen again, we need to be better prepared than we were in 2020.