The death of net neutrality began looming like an ominous specter since President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai, who until 2003 was Associate General Counsel for Verizon, as the Federal Communications Commission chair, replacing Tom Wheeler.
As chair, Pai's stint has involved continuously chipping away at the foundations set by the previous administration to protect America's internet. Little by little, and turning deaf ears to those painstakingly remaining to fight for the internet to remain free and fair, Pai has been reversing progress made during Wheeler's helm. He is hated by nearly everyone who supports net neutrality — but hatred hasn't helped.
Pai Eyes December For Final Vote To End Net Neutrality
Now, reports say Pai is on the verge of laying out plans for a final vote to kill net neutrality once and for all. Next week, Pai will officially call for a December vote to reverse a landmark 2015 net neutrality order barring the blocking or slowing down of web content.
The imminent death of net neutrality should naturally anger U.S. citizens who want their internet to remain untouched by the crusty hands of corporate greed. To them, an America stripped away of net neutrality is a cause for chaos: because the internet won't have protections, internet service providers will have optimum chance to exploit it for monetary gain. By charging subscribers, for example, higher fees to access certain types of services — pay more if you want Netflix, pay more if you want faster Facebook, pay more if you want to access this site — they stand to seize control of the internet.
From there, it's bound to be a slippery slope. What's to stop ISPs, pray tell, from introducing "packaged" internet plans that restructures the internet as a bundles-based subscription service? Facebook could be in one package while Netflix on another; to get both, pay for both.
Could Net Neutrality Still Be Saved?
While organizations such as the ACLU relentlessly fight to protect net neutrality, still, the battle seems won — in Pai's favor, needless to say. In May, the FCC voted 2-1 to advance his plan to withdraw former Obama administration's order reclassifying ISPs as if they were utilities.
Also in May, Pai asked for public comment on whether the FCC should keep regulations limiting ISPs' ability to throttle, slow down, or prioritize certain services over others, also known as "paid prioritization." According to industry officials who spoke to Reuters, they expect Pai to drop such regulations.
The final vote, per sources, will occur Dec. 14.
ISPs argue dropping net neutrality rules could result in billions of broadbands investments, while critics say it will harm regular consumers, smaller internet services, and flat-out poison a free and open internet.
What do you think? For a primer on net neutrality, check out our article.