FCC reverses net neutrality rules, but open internet advocates anticipate congressional, court, and user resistance
The Trump-era Federal Communications Commission’s recent hair-thin vote to reverse net neutrality paralleled the Alabama Senate special election. In both instances, victors celebrate, but they also know they eked out a win from a near-miss.
The FCC votes reflected party separation. The three Republican commissioners voted for a policy change, while the Democrats voted to preserve relatively open Internet access in America. The former rules barred internet service providers from censoring or throttling access to certain sites or levying higher fees for swifter service. After Republican commissioners dealt American digital users this blow, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn delivered an impassioned dissent:
“As I close my eulogy of our 2015 net neutrality rules, carefully crafted rules that struck an appropriate balance in providing consumer protections and enabling opportunities and investment, I take ironic comfort in the words of then-Commissioner Pai from 2015, because I believe this will ring true about this Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” Clyburn said.
I am optimistic, that we will look back on today’s vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan path, that has served us so well. I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered.
The commissioner made time to explain the stakes in a discussion with journalist Roland Martin. “One of the things that we could pride ourselves on” the commissioner explained, was Internet openness and accessibility.
The previous rules meant “that you did not have to have a gatekeeper telling you what to do, telling you where to go, that if you wanted to have access that you didn’t have to pay a toll, you didn’t have to pay extra, that you were protected,” she said. The previous rules, Clyburn added, prevented Internet service providers from arbitrarily blocking users or showing preference between communities.
Under the old rules, “a little scrappy upstart” could easily compete in the digital world with traditional media. Now, no rule on the books will stop traditional media from having a positive cyber experience and other folks from having a compromised one. The ACLU announced its continued fight for an open digital world following the repeal.