In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to more strictly regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and to implement a policy known as net neutrality. Net neutrality has been equated to “the First Amendment of the Internet.” This means that all data everywhere is treated equally, and ISPs cannot charge website hosts for faster internet service. Net neutrality also prevents ISPs from manipulating internet speed based on the type of data. In brief, net neutrality would prevent ISPs from ‘throttling’ data of their competitors while favoring their own products. However, the current FCC chairman and former telecom attorney, Ajit Pai, seeks to eliminate net neutrality.
Standing in line with the broadband giants, AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, Ajit Pai claims that net neutrality is too strict on the companies. He would rather see them self-regulate. This self-regulation resulted of Netflix having a 30% increase in speed in 2014, for Comcast and Verizon users giving technical advantages to streaming services they own. Because ‘self-regulation’ has such a poor track record, many tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, showed their support for net neutrality by joining up with smaller companies, namely Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo, and Etsy. Other activist organizations in support of net neutrality include Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and Demand Progress.
Despite the amble evidence of the failure of ‘self-regulation’ in broadband, Pai believes that “nothing was broken,” and only after a market failure should such rules be made, dismissing the concerns of the people as “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom.” Furthermore, Pai posits that net neutrality would help foreign leader take control over the internet despite having no evidence to support his claim.
The corporate media’s coverage of net neutrality tends to put the public in the back seat, withholding information and putting it off as irrelevant. Most Americans support net neutrality and would prefer the media accurately cover the arguments on the issue. For example, MSNBC—which is owned by Comcast, the largest ISP in the nation—had its reporter, Stephanie Ruhle, attempt to dismantle viewers’ understanding by bluntly blaming the government for not catching up with technology. Independent sources, however, tend to look at the overwhelming support for net neutrality and highlight the impacts that reversing it would have on the public.
John O’Day “Net Neutrality Reduced to Mogul vs. Mogul in Corporate Media’s Shallow Coverage” Common Dreams, August 19, 2017, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/08/19/net-neutrality-reduced-mogul-vs-mogul-corporate-medias-shallow-coverage.
Olivia Solon, “Ajit Pai: the man who could destroy the open internet,” The Guardian, July 12, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/12/ajit-pai-fcc-net-neutrality-open-internet.
Student Researcher: Andy Lo (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)