We must fight for net neutrality—this newspaper depends on it
Net neutrality protests outside a Federal Building in Los Angeles on Nov. 28. The activists gathered in protest of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai's, plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations. | Ronen Tivony / Sipa via AP Images

On November 21, the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, revealed plans to repeal net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that the internet should be open and that internet service providers should not be able to charge customers more for certain content.

You can equate net neutrality to a theme park: once you buy your ticket and enter the park, you’re free to enjoy all the rides there. The end of net neutrality would mean that, once you buy your ticket, the rides you’re allowed to take would depend on which ticket booth you purchased your ticket from. You may be forced to get into a second, slower line for the teacups. The haunted house may be completely off limits, or require a $10.99 premium.

Certain internet content providers will be able to craft exclusive deals with certain internet service providers. As of right now, for instance, Netflix is unable to make a deal with AT&T to work exclusively on their network. If net neutrality is repealed, such a scenario could become a reality. Its repeal would allow the telecom giants to cut up the internet just like the cable companies already do with their channel packages.

AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon (where FCC head Ajit Pai worked previously) have been gunning for net neutrality for a long time. They claim that eliminating it would “spur innovation” and allow for more dynamism in the marketplace. “The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that would be pro-competitive,” said Pai in an interview.

In other words, if internet service providers were able to cut up the internet by way of deals with certain services, they could charge whatever they want for them. What’s worse is that Congress could pass legislation regulating the internet in a way that it has never been before. It could result in outright censorship. It’s a goal that is 100 percent profit-driven, and its attainment would drive the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the internet as a tool for liberation and intellectual/creative freedom.

Fight for the Future has published an open letter featuring dozens of artists. “Without net neutrality, there will be less awesome art. Period,” reads the letter. “The medium that allows us to be great artists is under threat. Without a free and open internet, so much music, writing, film, art, culture, passion, and creativity would be lost.”

Pai and his type in the telecom boardrooms want “every sector [to] compete and let the consumers decide who wins and loses,” but your average user can only lose in a post-net neutrality world.

Ajit Pai, chair of the FCC, former Verizon lawyer, and key force behind efforts to end net neutrality. | Susan Walsh / AP

However, the average user is fighting back before the final FCC vote on December 14.

This Thursday, groups including Fight for the Future, Freepress Action Fund, and Demand Progress are planning protests at Verizon stores across the country. You can find one near you by clicking here.

That day of action will culminate in a protest Thursday night in Washington, D.C. at the FCC Chairman’s Dinner, where activists plan to make their opinions known. And on the day before the vote, there will be a final protest outside the FCC building at 445 12 St. SW in Washington, D.C.

Net neutrality is of special concern to independent press like People’s World. Without net neutrality, internet service providers could slow us down or outright block us. The combination of Trump’s “fake news” attacks and the end of net neutrality could spell doom for the independent press. If you enjoy the content that People’s World creates, we, perhaps selfishly, certainly self-interestedly, ask you to make your voice heard on this matter.

Make calls. Attend a local event. Time is running out.

> Call the FCC directly: (202) 418-1000 or 1-888-CALL FCC (225-5322)

> Contact Ajit Pai, chair of the FCC.

> Contact your members of Congress.


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.