Every once in a while, our imperfect democracy gives us an opportunity to see why – though sometimes a flawed system, as Winston Churchill once noted – it’s still better than all the others.
Mechanisms break down. Mistakes are made. It’s why we have checks and balances.
And we ultimately remain hopeful things will work out as the system intended.
We hope that is true with the recent vote on net neutrality. If the vote stands, it could take us a lot longer to visit our favorite web sites, to use our favorite but lesser-known internet apps, or just do what we need to do online without having to pay more to do it.
Despite thousands of protests, FCC commissioners, an un-elected bureaucracy bestowed with the awesome power of regulating our internet, voted to end the Obama-era policy on net neutrality, which codified a very basic framework requiting internet service providers to treat all network traffic equally. Net neutrality rules basically call for all internet content to be treated equally by providers, whether the news, “fake news” or anything in between.
Online business that charge for content can be treated no differently by service providers than the sleaziest website populated with low-quality content.
It makes sense. Think about how reliant we are upon the internet. Sure, it’s possible we could live without it, just like we do without electricity during a power outage. But just like when we lose power, life without the internet is much less convenient.
And slow internet is about as bad as no internet.
But that’s exactly what the FCC granted license for our internet services providers, or ISPs, to give us by repealing net neutrality. Without it, there’s nothing stopping ISPs like Comcast, for example, from creating fast lanes and slow lanes for providing internet content.
Imagine you want to watch Fox News and CNN for several hours a day, except the corporate parent for one of them creates an exclusive deal with Verizon. Verizon could, in theory, be able to speed up bandwidth, or user access, to one site and slow it for the other. Internet users know that when traffic is slowed to a crawl, people go to other sites.
So your internet provider has essentially created a roadblock for one of your favorite information sources. We don’t think unelected bureaucrats should have that sort of authority, nor should they give the fox the keys to the hen house.
We’re also of the mind that everyone should have equal access to internet content.
Allowing private companies to shape the internet’s destiny based solely on ad revenues, exclusive content deals or purely unregulated pay-for-play access rules is not creating a free and fair capitalism-based model, any more than allowing our water providers to ship more or less water to homes based on their Zip Codes would be considered creating a free market.
We believe the utility comparison is fair because about half of all Americans don’t have a choice for their ISP provider, according to the FCC commissioners themselves.
And before anyone tries to argue that deregulation would spur investment that would create more of these choices – well, “Capital investments were higher at 16 of the 24 publicly traded ISP firms (or units) following the FCC’s vote approving net neutrality in 2015.”
That means, as a report by pro-net neutrality organization FreePress.net notes, FCC Chariman Ajit Pai’s justification of getting rid of net neutrality as a way to spur investment “is not just the wrong metric to use, it is also demonstrably false and illogical.”
Congressman Steve Knight demonstrated an understanding of the need for balance between stopping a government overreach and allowing deregulation to create a free-for-all that puts consumers at risk.
And that’s where those all-important checks and balances come into play.
Knight gave his word he’ll “seek a legislative solution to protect consumers while also allowing the regulatory flexibility to innovate and invest in a modern internet infrastructure.”
This is what the people not only want, but need. We don’t want businesses to determine from which sources we get our information.
Congressman Knight, we commend your support for the most free exchange of ideas and knowledge possible. As the representative elected by the 25th Congressional District, we’re calling on you to follow through on legislation that would help make this right.