FCC Chair's Policy Reversals Reveal Trump's 'Other War' Against Media [Analysis]
It is no secret that Donald Trump has been in an ongoing and seemingly unending war against media outlets and personalities even before he was elected president.
This escalated with the media's open criticism of the chief executive and his extreme actions.
While Trump continues his very public feud with networks and celebrities, his chosen Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has been busy chipping away at net neutrality rules that aim to protect the privacy and rights of consumers.
Which Side Is The FCC Really On?
Pai and his colleagues are convinced that the FCC is doing everyone a favor by leveling the playing field, but their actions could be seen as a way to neutralize internet service providers and other media practitioners who are not aligned with the president.
That may sound a little extreme, but Pai's moves are already favoring the bigger media providers despite his attempts to pass them off as support for open internet.
The Pai Contradiction
"[... there] is a digital divide in this country [...] one of our core priorities going forward should be to close that divide [...] to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans," Pai said in his first address as FCC chair on Jan. 24.
After just a month in office, however, Pai has already moved to weaken net neutrality rules on privacy and transparency. That is, the FCC is going soft on ISPs when it comes to collecting consumer data, which is a cause of concern in case an ISP decides to sell user data to advertisers.
Likewise, ISPs with less than 250,000 subscribers are no longer required to be transparent about their services, including broadband speeds, data caps, price, and hidden add-on fees, to consumers.
We will not discount the fact that Pai does have good intentions since he wants to bring broadband internet service to rural areas. But loosening the FCC's hold on ISPs could also bring about the unfair provision of services since consumers could go in blindly, not knowing about certain clauses on ISP services.
Let's also not forget about Pai's move to block nine ISPs that wanted to provide discounted broadband services to low-income families. We're pretty sure Pai promised to close the digital gap in America, so what exactly is his motivation in blocking affordable internet?
On another note, the FCC has also halted inquiries against zero-rating deals offered by Comcast and Verizon.
The move seems fine since both companies' subscribers can start watching and reading news for free without the preferred applications and services eating up their monthly data. But it could also be worrisome because the big companies inadvertently kill the "competitive atmosphere" that is supposed to exist in the market.
This then leads us to ...
The Other War
Some people may be confused as to why the FCC's move to chip away — and eventually get rid of — net neutrality can be counted under Trump's war against the media, as pointed out by Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Washington Post.
Consumers must not forget that the internet is also a major source of information and one of the fastest at that.
Doing away with net neutrality only opens up the possibility of limiting the types and sources of information people receive.
The new FCC's belief that it is doing American a favor by eliminating net neutrality is concerning because it does not seem to see how much its actions can hurt consumers, especially low-income ones.
What's more, big companies also create smaller branches to compete with the small players, and this will discourage and drive away new companies that cannot offer the same packages a conglomerate-backed company does.
Just like in the other "wars" the government has jumped into, Americans should also keep an eye on Pai and the FCC's next actions to ensure that consumers are not the ones who will suffer from their actions, and to hold the commission accountable should things head south.