November 22, 2016

Net neutrality is on the chopping block

Donald Trump just appointed two long-time opponents to the FCC’s rules.

Back in February, the FCC — spurred by the Obama administration and a record 4 million public comments following John Oliver’s rant — set net neutrality rules to ensure equal access to the internet.

But, after Donald Trump recently named two long-time net neutrality opponents, Jeff Eisenach and Mark Jamison, to oversee telecom policy at the FCC, there’s reason to believe those rules will soon be dismantled.

“Explain it to me like I’m five”

Sure. Basically, net neutrality rules ensure that all content and services are treated equal, no matter who creates it.

To put it another way, internet service providers (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T) are prohibited from doing things like charging websites (Netflix, YouTube) special fees to deliver content to consumers based on self-interest.

For example…

Since Comcast owns 10% of Hulu, it would make sense for them to intentionally hurt the download speeds of Netflix, a competitor.

For one, it would significantly harm the Netflix user experience and probably lead to plenty of Hulu subscriptions thanks to the lack of buffering (aka. the spinny circle of death).

Plus, considering over 23 million people rely on Comcast for internet, it would effectively strongarm Netflix into paying a premium to bring those speeds back up and be treated fairly.

Okay, so telecom behemoths want these rules squashed then?

That is correct. Thus, they’re thrilled about Eisenach and Jamison getting the nod — particularly Verizon, who has been paying Mr. Eisenach to underwrite their work, and Sprint, who Jamison previously worked for as a lobbyist.

Meanwhile, tech behemoths like Facebook and Google who rely on these cable companies to be their “pipes,” are probably not the happiest campers right now.

Now, before you start blaming all of this on Donald Trump…

Don’t, because it’s not really his fault.

Yeah, it’s easy to point the finger and, like most of the media, blame the “evil president elect doing the evil thing to help the evil corporations!”

But, the fact is that Republican lawmakers have strongly opposed these rules for a while, with dozens of bills put forward over the years to try and weaken or kill them.

So whether Donald Trump, John Kasich, or Jeb freakin’ Bush had won the presidency, net neutrality would have had the same massive target on its back. Doesn’t make it any less scary, though.

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