Internet: The fight over net neutrality
The government is “revving up to destroy the internet as we know it,” said Eric Limer in PopularMechanics.com. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission unveiled a plan to repeal net-neutrality rules—a change that would give internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon broad powers to determine what websites and services their customers see and use. Practically speaking, net neutrality “ensures that all bits and bytes” that travel across an internet network are “treated equally” so that a company can’t block or slow your access to, say, a news site it disagrees with, or charge you more to watch Netflix over its own “inferior streaming service.” But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer appointed by President Trump, argues that the rules are preventing broadband companies from offering customers a wider selection of services at different prices. “I am not being dramatic when I say the internet is at a crossroads,” said Evan Greer in NBCNews.com. If the Republican-majority FCC dismantles net neutrality when it meets on Dec. 14, the future of the internet for U.S. consumers will be a “hellscape of extra fees, slow-loading apps, and censorship.”
“A world without net neutrality will work just fine,” said Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg.com. Consumers “could even benefit,” as studies have shown that when “service prioritization” is applied on some internet platforms, users are rewarded with “higher quality” video and less bandwidth congestion. Net neutrality is “good in principle,” said WashingtonExaminer.com in an editorial, but it shouldn’t be codified into law. “The market will take care of wrongdoers,” because customers will flee providers that block or slow their service. Moreover, there’s plenty to like about internet “fast lanes.” Wouldn’t you prefer that data bytes flowing between, for instance, an operating room and an off-site surgeon “take precedence over bytes of 100 dudes Googling to find out whether Jennifer Lawrence is married”?
Internet providers have proven they can’t police themselves, said Brendon Hong in TheDailyBeast.com. Before net neutrality became law, AT&T censored a Pearl Jam live stream after the band criticized then-President George W. Bush. Verizon blocked texts from an abortion rights group whose “content was too controversial” and prevented Google Wallet from being downloaded on phones it sold because it was launching a competing payments app. “The courts will have to save net neutrality,” said Tim Wu in The New York Times. Pai could be subject to a lawsuit for reversing these rules without good reason, and the argument that “cable and phone companies, despite years of healthy profit, need to earn even more money than they already do” won’t likely meet with many sympathetic judicial ears. By pursuing such drastic changes, the FCC may have “overplayed its legal hand.” ■