On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on the repeal of net neutrality. We feel passionately that this is only one crucial political action being buried in the tsunami of news pouring out of the republican controlled federal government. Among these are a looming government shutdown, a tax bill with the potential to crash the economy, and a controversial special election for a vacant U.S. senate seat featuring an accused-pedophile. All of this is taking place under the umbrella of Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation unveiling nonstop revelations into the relationship between key players of the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.
Net neutrality may very well slip through the cracks. It is a vital aspect of American freedom and democracy, but there are essentially no tools available to fight its repeal. As an independent commission, the FCC does not answer to the American people. After commissioners are appointed by the president and approved by the senate, the FCC does not answer to the federal government. One of the few exceptions is if congress decides to implement a congressional resolution of disapproval, which seems severely unlikely and out of tune with republican objectives.
The message for people fighting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was simple — call your elected officials, show up at their offices, force them to hold town halls, etc. Avoiding the fatality of Net Neutrality seems hopeless in comparison. You can make a complaint to the FCC or urge your representatives to fight back against the commission; you can tweet #NetNeutrality or repost a Facebook image that illustrates what the internet would look like without it. You can do all of that and more, and yet the FCC has no concrete responsibility to value your thoughts on the matter.
The bigger problem — the one that the FCC is successfully capitalizing on — is that net neutrality is incredibly confusing for anyone who does not study or work in a technology field. This is not a generational issue. This is not an issue of ignorance. The fact is that watching “Mr. Robot” is sadly not enough to understand the complexities of the internet (although I like to think it makes me an expert). So, a true step we can take is spreading awareness of what Net Neutrality means and why it must be preserved.
Internet service providers (ISPs), operate within a heavily monopolized industry. Most communities only have one or two internet companies operating in their area, giving them little to no choice in who provides their internet. In 2015, President Obama imposed strict net neutrality rules with the promise of keeping the internet open and free. With these rules, the handful of massive ISPs that operate within the internet industry cannot restrict what sites their customers choose to access and utilize. Without net neutrality, they can.
Its repeal could have immediate personal effects on Americans. Let’s say, for example, that you enjoy watching Netflix (I know for sure that Netflix is one of the most vital forces in my own life). Let’s also say that Verizon Fios is your ISP. Now, Verizon might get a little jealous that you chose a Netflix subscription over including cable in your Verizon package, and so they decide to cut off your access to Netflix. You cannot switch providers, because Verizon is the only provider in your area. What do you do? Do you live without knowing the end of “Stranger Things”? Do you pay an extra fee to Verizon to reach the Netflix website? Do you suck it up and buy a cable package like your parents had back in 2005?
Let’s take another example. You are a politically active progressive who uses the internet to organize political meetings and rallies. Your ISP does not support you — indeed they are probably living on the complete opposite side of the ideological spectrum. Your left-wing, socialist tendencies do not match the corporate interests of AT&T, and AT&T decides to cut of your access to events posted on Facebook.
Furthermore, the FCC is relentlessly trying to push their agenda as a positive change, tweeting out the link to Chairman Ajit Pai’s press release on the repeal called, “Myth vs. Fact.” He also promises that revoking net neutrality will make it easier for providers to reach the 13% of Americans who do not have access to the internet. This seemingly charitable approach is still just another effort to put more money into the pockets of the ISPs.
In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration which successfully provided electricity to rural communities across the country. Chairman Pai’s rhetoric on spreading internet mirrors this effort, but there is a key difference. The Rural Electrification Administration used cooperative power companies that were run by their own employees. The FCC, on the other hand, will rely on contracting private companies, only deepening the monopolization of the internet industry.
Repealing net neutrality rules is a big deal. It is another step on the eerie road to fascism in America. However hopeless the fight we must engage in it. As a media company, 3 Generations supports net neutrality. The content on our website and on our Vimeo page are pieces of work that illuminate atrocities from genocide in Rwanda to sex trafficking in Miami. We believe that engagement with this sort of content is vital hearing the humanity behind human rights abuses.