Donald Trump has voiced strident opposition to net neutrality in the past. Now as president-elect, his FCC appointments all but guarantee he will abolish it — with devastating consequences for equal access to the Internet.
Our new president-elect has already shown a rampant disregard for Internet freedom. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump once stated he would like to “close up the Internet” in some areas to stop terrorism, the way Iran and China do. No less dangerous, though, is his position on Net Neutrality.
Simply put, Net Neutrality is a regulation which states that Internet service providers cannot block content, put websites behind paywalls, or charge types of content different prices for the same broadband. It is why Comcast and Verizon cannot block websites and make you buy a “premium package” to access them, like they do for cable television. It also means they cannot slow down websites and force their companies to pay a fee to restore service, like Comcast did to Netflix a couple years ago.
Major Internet companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon support Net Neutrality. So do organizations as ideologically disparate as MoveOn.org, the AARP, the ACLU, and the Christian Coalition.
It is widely regarded as a necessary regulation to ensure all people are free to use the Internet without being discriminated against for the content they create.
Trump, however, does not share this view. As President Obama pushed the Federal Communications Commission to pass sweeping Net Neutrality protections, Trump blasted them as a “top down power grab.” And his latest moves prove he has not changed his views.
Last month, Trump announced two appointments to the FCC: Former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison, and Reagan-era FTC official and Verizon consultant Jeffrey Eisenach. Jamison has stated that letting cable providers throttle websites based on their content is “economics-driven and technology-driven policy,” while Eisenach blasted Net Neutrality as “crony capitalism.”
They are not alone. As WIRED has noted, not only is Trump’s transition team unified against Net Neutrality, DirectTV is refusing to comply with FCC pricing rules on the expectation that the incoming administration will do away with them.
Simply put, if Trump and his FCC nominees succeed in repealing President Obama’s Net Neutrality rules, the results will be terribly detrimental across the board: Not only will consumers face higher prices for video streaming and other services, all makers of content online will risk discrimination by telecoms, from independent writers to political websites.
And this is far from the only danger. Numerous political causes, like Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock protestors, have used the Internet to spread their message, raise money, and organize events. Without a neutral net, they lose the guarantee of equal use of broadband.
Further, as Shareblue’s editor-in-chief Melissa McEwan explains, “Net Neutrality is crucial in guaranteeing equal access to an essential tool of modern life. It is almost impossible, for example, to apply for educational opportunities or search for a job without access to the Internet. Additionally, the web provides key organizing infrastructure, especially for a nation the size of the United States, where there is no easily accessible center point for all its citizens. Organizing resistance is, of course, precisely what Trump hopes to quell with his assault on Net Neutrality.”
Freedom of expression is a bedrock American value, and the Internet is the main forum where that expression takes place. We must keep a close eye on Trump’s regulators to ensure preservation of access to the Internet for all Americans.