Net neutrality was a significant pillar of American strength and honor when it became a regulation of the Federal Communications Commission in 2015.
But then an anti-regulation zealot, Ajit Pai, was appointed chairman of the FCC in 2017 and immediately plunged into an effort to make net neutrality go away. After pushing the issue to an FCC vote, he broke a tie and it was repealed last December.
That means Internet providers could speed up transmission service for those willing to pay for it, while slowing down or even blocking it for those who can’t afford a higher level of service.
For most of the country, so far, net neutrality is in jeopardy. Some members of Congress are working to stop the new regulations which favor rich corporations and individuals over ordinary Americans.
Other members are not.
This time Washington’s state government has your back. Washington was the first state to pass regulations requiring that net neutrality be observed within its borders.
“Today we make history. Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open Internet,” Gov. Jay Inslee said during a bill signing ceremony.
“We’ve seen the power of an open Internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history.”
It was a big win for Inslee and the people of our state.
As it stands, any network corporation doing business in our state must observe network neutrality.
Now the danger is from outside our borders — all the way east to Washington, D.C.
Here are a few examples of what is at stake if you don’t live in Washington:
▪ Smaller providers could be priced out of business by the corporate giants.
▪ The same is true for smaller startups trying to get established.
▪ Streaming services could be speeded up for a price and slowed down for not paying the price.
▪ Parts of the Internet could be effectively removed from lower-paying subscribers.
▪ Free speech could, possibly, be denied.
We have to be both grateful for what the Legislature, governor, state attorney general and others have done for our state for now, but the fear remains that the FCC or Congress could find a way to overturn or get around Washington’s net neutrality laws.
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say the U.S. Senate is only a single vote away from reversing the FCC. But these days, one vote short often means nothing changes.
The irony of the commission’s name seems to elude the Federal Communications Commission members.
Its emphasis should be on communications. Its purpose now, however, seems to want to snarl that up.
The Internet has become as critical to people’s lives as electricity and other utilities, and it should be treated as such. Net neutrality should become the law of the land.