Justice

Love Your Cable Company? This Image Shows What Some Want to Do to Your Internet

July 12th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Wednesday is a day of action for internet activists concerned about efforts to rollback net neutrality regulations, which are meant to prevent companies from charging more for certain services or faster internet.

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Hundreds of companies—including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Reddit—have joined with activists to send a message to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC): Keep the internet free, equitable, and open.

Ajit Pai, who was named FCC chairman by President Donald Trump in January, has indicated that he will rescind Obama-era net neutrality protections that prohibit cable internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, from charging customers more based on the types of websites or services they use, or blocking certain services outright.

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Eliminating those protections would only serve the interests of corporate ISPs, net neutrality advocates argue. It could also create a world where buying an internet package looks a lot like this.

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"Net neutrality is the idea that the internet should be free and open for everyone," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Wednesday. "If a service provider can block you from seeing certain content or can make you pay extra for it, that hurts all of us and we should have rules against it."

Twitter also threw its hat into the net neutrality ring on Tuesday, promoting a tweet calling on users to fight for internet protections. It was the first time the company used promoted tweets and hashtags to advocate for a policy issue, The Hill reported.

In February, Pai said that imposing "light-touch," or loosened, regulations at the FCC would foster competition and "maximize investments" in the telecommunications sector. But even some major telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon, which have challenged net neutrality regulations in the past, recently expressed doubts about how rolling back these rules could help the FCC achieve its goals.

"This may seem like an anomaly to many people who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet," AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs Bob Quinn said in a blog post on Tuesday. "But that's exactly the point—we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world."

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Because the FCC's internet regulations often shift based on the views of the chairman in charge at the time, there's a bipartisan push to take up the net neutrality debate in Congress, rather than leave it up to the FCC.

However, Democrats and Republicans are generally divided when it comes to their visions for internet regulations, with Republicans siding with Pai in favor of rescinding the net neutrality rules that were put in place in 2015.