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The battle for Net Neutrality is far from over. Despite the “Day of Action” earlier this year, when nearly every major technology company threw its support behind Net Neutrality, it appears that the biggest cable TV companies are not giving up. The latest rumor is that the FCC is planning to vote on a plan to weaken Net Neutrality on November 22 – literally, the day before Thanksgiving. The idea being, of course, that people will be so focused on the holiday and travel that they won’t even be thinking about Net Neutrality.
The real reason for concern, of course, is that the current FCC Chairman is Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer and lobbyist, and someone who has made the weakening of Net Neutrality a key focus of his tenure. Under the Trump administration, he has largely been given carte blanche to gut Net Neutrality if he thinks that it will help out businesses in the cable industry.
The sneaky way the FCC plans to gut Net Neutrality
That’s the scary part, because the current effort to weaken Net Neutrality avoids any mention of throttling websites, blocking certain Internet traffic, or censoring content. Instead, it focuses on what can best be described as “doing what’s right for business” – getting rid of regulatory red tape, updating the rules of the game for modern network providers (why should they be treated like analog-era telephone companies?), and making sure that cable companies have plenty of economic incentives to invest in next generation infrastructure.
From the perspective of the FCC, fans of cheap, ubiquitous Internet should be praising this move. They should be saluting the big cable companies for helping to get rid of regulation and paving the way for a super-fast 5G network. Theoretically, once the big cable companies are able to charge content providers like Netflix for access to the “fast lane” of the Internet, they’ll have plenty of cash in their coffers to build out some really fast network infrastructure.
It’s time to defend Net Neutrality once more
But let’s take a step back and think about whether that argument makes any sense. In many ways, gutting Net Neutrality in the name of business is like gutting the environment in the name of oil companies or coal companies. In short, there is a lot more harm that could result from getting rid of Net Neutrality than good.
Moreover, if the FCC really believes what it says, why is it scheduling a vote under the cover of darkness on November 22? In the same way that companies love to dump their negative news on a late Friday afternoon when nobody is paying attention, it now appears that government regulators are planning to dump their news – a proposal to weaken Net Neutrality – at a time when nobody is paying attention.
The good news is that there is still time to act. Net Neutrality supporters have put up a website – Battleforthenet.com – that clearly outlines what everyday users of the Internet can do to make their voice heard. It now appears that the Day of Action on July 12 was not enough. Let’s just hope that a barrage of interest and concern around Net Neutrality beyond just Reddit will wake up members of Congress from their deep slumber and remind them that nobody can take over the Net without a battle.