Trump’s FCC Pick Wants to Kill Net Neutrality
With the whirlwind thatís followed President Donald Trumpís inauguration, readers may have found it difficult to keep up with the many transitions happening under the new administration. Admittedly, thereís a lot to keep on top of.
Though it certainly has not achieved the same level of media attention and general consternation as other political developments, the newly appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, is worth keeping an eye on. But that may prove difficult heís moving swiftly to undo some important policies put into place under former commissioner Tom Wheeler.
One of Paiís moves has been to start dismantling 2015ís net neutrality rules; one of the first actions on this goal can be seen though his move earlier this month to put an end to investigations into whether Comcast, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon (a former employer of Paiís) were violating these rules.
AT&T, for example, formed a partnership with DirecTV wherein the formerís mobile subscribers could access the latterís video streaming service using wireless data that would not be counted against a userís bandwidth limit.
Though on the surface such a package may sound appealing to some, this demonstrates a rather flagrant breach of the FCCís net neutrality rules. These rules, in essence, mandated that internet providers could not provide preferential treatment to any particular service; all must be treated equally.
A key reason for enforcing this, net neutrality proponents argue, is to avoid discouraging competition, especially from smaller services.
Pai, in explaining his decision to drop the net neutrality inquiries, stated that the FCC would no longer ďfocus on denying Americans free data.Ē Critics might argue, however, that such service-specific, no-cap mobile plans actually show that wireless providers set meaningless data limits on users. Paiís characterization is arguably disingenuous.
Ensuring fair competition is not the most crucial purpose of enforcing net neutrality, readers will discover. While we may be in the early days of net neutralityís death, it is not difficult to see where the future may lead.
During and after the recent, contentious presidential race much was made of the waning trust in the media and ďfake news.Ē With the end of net neutrality, the manipulation of new outlets could result in a truly alarming predicament.
Let us imagine a few possible scenarios from a net neutrality-free America.
In one, perhaps a news outlet with a political agenda, like Breitbart or Townhall, has formed a deal with an internet service provider where their customers connect to their articles quickly, while their competitorsí articles load substantially slower.
Or perhaps, in another hypothetical situation, as a result of a business agreement, customers of a particular mobile data provider are granted a one percent discount on their next bill for every five minutes of Fox News viewed on their network.
In both cases, it is probable customers would find themselves pushed toward consuming specific news sources, perhaps even to the exclusion of others. Simply put, those information distributors with the most money and influence would have an unprecedented path to controlling and manipulating the publicís perception.
Already internet and mobile data providers like AT&T and Comcast are singing Paiís praises, eagerly anticipating the opening of the net neutrality floodgates. Is axing net neutrality in order to benefit major corporations really worth the potential Pandoraís box doing so could open?
Photo Credit: FCC / Wikimedia Commons