If you like watching spinning dials on your computer or smart phone, you might be a fan of the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to erase “net neutrality” rules.
But we suspect you are not. Most of us really don’t want to give cable companies and other internet service providers the power to censor or slow down the websites we visit.
Monday was the last day for public comment on a plan, by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, to roll back net neutrality rules, and we’re here to tell you that the agency got an earful about what a dumb idea this is. The FCC received some 8 million comments, many from the businesses and organizations that would know best, such as the American Library Association, about what a threat it would be to the free exchange of information to allow internet providers to dictate who rules the online world.
“Protecting net neutrality is crucial to ensuring that the internet remains a central driver of economic growth and opportunity, job creation, education, free expression, and civic organizing for everyone,” wrote the American Library Association, Common Cause and 169 other public interest organizations.
“Net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online,” wrote a trade group that includes Amazon, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, PayPal, Reddit, Spotify, Twitter and about 30 other Web companies.
“Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice,” wrote a group of more than 1,000 startups, innovators, investors and entrepreneurial support organizations from all 50 states.
Without net neutrality rules, service providers could speed up certain services that pay extra fees and slow down response times for everyone else. Studies show users begin to abandon a website if it doesn’t load within seconds. The power to slow down a website is the power to shunt some public speech and internet start-ups into an abyss from which they might never emerge.
But the Trump administration is keen on rolling back Obama-era internet protections, listening more to enormous broadband companies like Verizon, who stand to make a financial killing if net neutrality rules are swept aside, than to ordinary internet users such as you.
Reply comments are due to the FCC by Aug. 16, and the agency will make a decision at some point after that. We hope the commissioners pay close attention to the millions of objections to this very bad idea.
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