Net Neutrality has been back in the spotlight this week after Wednesday 12th July was declared as a ‘Day of Action’ in which everyone who cares about the issue, from big tech companies to individual users, was encouraged to protest online against the policies of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Trump administration.
Ajit Pai and Net Neutrality
After his election, Trump appointed former Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai as the new Chairman of the FCC. Pai has made no secret of his allegiances to the US’s ISPs (he is a former lawyer for one of the biggest, Verizon) and his policies reflect this.
He has already done away with regulations which protected user privacy online and his next target is net neutrality. This is the rules which prohibit ISPs from discriminating against different sites for financial purposes. The rules ensure that everything online is equal and big businesses cannot pay for faster websites or to get their rivals throttled.
Pai sees this anti-competitive and cannot seem to grasp why people feel so passionately about the issue. There has already been huge and vocal criticism of the proposals. As we reported back in May, the FCC website, which was accepting public comments on the proposals, crashed after British comedian John Oliver did a segment condemning them on his weekly show, Last Week Tonight.
The Day of Action
But this week’s ‘Day of Action’ was perhaps the largest and most significant show of opposition to the proposals. Almost every online tech firm you think of took part in some way, including Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Tumblr, Twitter, Yelp, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Vimeo, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, YouTube; the list goes on and on!
But participation went well beyond the tech community. Other organisations involved include such diverse bodies as the American Library Association, ACLU, Free Press, Greenpeace and National Hispanic Media Coalition.
The manner in which they voiced their support varied. Some allowed visitors to submit comments to the FCC with a couple of clicks, while others let users contact their Congressman to raise their concerns.
The targets for the day included submitting two million comments to the FCC (gradually over several days so as not to crash their site), send five million emails to Congress (also spaced out), and make 124,000 phone calls to representatives.
Is Ajit Pai listening?
Sadly, the FCC is not a democratic body and is therefore under no obligation to pay heed to the huge outcry their new proposals have created. Indeed, such is the arrogance of their new Chairman, that he has already claimed that public comments contain numerous “fake comments” and had the temerity to title his proposals “Restoring Internet Freedom”.
As Evan Greer, the Campaign Director for Fight For the Future, a not-for-profit organisation which created the ‘Day of Action’ has said “The internet has had a profoundly democratising impact on our society. If we lose these protections, then we will lose all that diversity.”
“Ajit Pai has made it clear that he doesn’t care what millions of people have to say or to listen to the voices of the leading technology companies in the world,” she went on. “That said Ajit Pai answers to Congress and Congress will soon be well aware that people from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support the current rules,”
It is to be hoped that Congress is indeed paying heed to the views of millions of Americans, the majority of the tech community, and many more influential organisations besides.
Can it really be that they are wrong and Ajit Pai and his former employers Verizon, who stand to make huge profits from his proposed changes, are right? Of course not, and it is vital that all readers of VPNCompare.co.uk take the time the voice their opposition too. You can do so here and if you are resident in the USA, why not contact your Congressman too.