Recently and widely reported was the news that hit consumer browsers and social media pages on Sunday regarding the first strike by California to thwart the Trump administration’s effort to increase its tightening stranglehold upon our beloved virtual realm. The internet was awash with articles, blogs and fiery rhetoric disputing the legality of California Governor (D), Jerry Brown’s audacious new state law imposing a neutral market for internet service providers (ISP) operating in the nation’s most populated state. The Trump administration was quick to respond with a lawsuit by way of the Department of Justice to repeal the state’s law and reimpose its current restrictive protocols regarding internet commerce.
During the Obama administration, an effort was made in 2014 to ensure that all ISP’s were obliged to conduct business in as democratic a manner as possible by restricting their ability to throttle data speeds, consolidate, and provide internet “fast lanes” for clients that were willing to pay to corner the market. The war for the internet began that day in earnest.
Almost immediately upon winning the 2016 Presidential election, Donald Trump began dismantling eight years of his predecessors works. Just like the common sense environmental regulations that safeguarded our planet, campaign finance controls and commercial banking laws designed to prevent another 2008 like financial crash, net neutrality did not escape the wrath of the executive order killing spree that President Trump conducted with the almost unanimously blind support of his Republican controlled congress.
A campaign was conducted to engage the populous and the opposition was fierce indeed. Open protests, countless articles, and hundreds of thousands of calls to representatives across the nation immediately followed the announcements regarding the rollback of Net Neutrality directives. There is precious little this generation cares more for than unrestricted access to the greatest information collective in the history of the world.
During the announcement and deliberation process the Federal Communications Commission issued a period of public comment to be held in a virtual forum and the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of comments were received in real time and while the obvious majority were in opposition to the removal of net neutrality laws there were a strange series of uniform comments made by sock accounts and duplicate profiles in defense of the rollbacks. Conveniently echoing the verbiage used by the FCC Chairman himself, Ajit Pai. The effort was to still be overrun by dissenters, but the message was clear to those with eyes to see, the decision had been made and only a modicum of proforma would be applied to placate traditional democracy.
Flipping the Script
Traditional democracy, therein lies the rub. We have let the reins of the horses go and they will deliver us to our peril should we reject the teachings of our own very recent past. Republicans have long since held to the standard of state’s rights when the matters at hand were abortion, religion and human or civil rights.
Yet, regarding net neutrality, they would like for us to believe that in this instance interstate commerce regulations are the superseding issue here and that domain is purely federal. That case could well be made, but the hypocritical nature of the argument undermines its validity.
An intangible network of information services is not under the directive of any one entity and so, is unable to be trafficked or controlled by any singular noun. Commerce conducted in the state of California is subject to its regulatory requirements. The federal government stepping in to conduct business on California’s behalf is precisely the manner of action republicans have been fighting against for years in order to protect “traditional values” and business practices.
So, the objective now is to flip the narrative and deliver the people a more restrictive internet that relies on the moral ambiguity of a few immensely large telecom companies. Ethics and capitalism rarely go hand in hand. The nature of these industries requires an approach that focuses on a monopolistic endeavor.
The greater the market share the greater the profit. Yet, monopolies are illegal in this country. By spinning gold diction out of straw action, the would be corporatocratic enablers within the FCC and the Trump administration are poised to consolidate the open internet and reduce its competitive, commercial nature to a mere suggestion.
This is an excerpt from a statement by FCC Chairman Pai. Read these next lines carefully…
“Not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits. They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans. But notwithstanding the consumer benefits, this state law bans them.”
Don’t Call it a Kickback!
What our deceptively sly friend is referring to are package deals provided by the telecom giants like Comcast, T-mobile and AT&T. They are not free; and his remark about lower-income Americans being favorable to deals like these is ludicrous in the extreme as the providers often have the most expensive contact services of all the wireless carriers on the market. These industry monoliths offer bundled media services like Netflix and Hulu as combined options with a Zero-rating, which means that customers will have no data caps on the media viewed in these applications.
Sounds innocent, but when considered thoughtfully the object of this measure is to entice media providers to consolidate and exclude other customers by providing their services on platforms that exclusively offer their content at higher speeds.
The impact severely constricts the market for upstart applications and new business. Something the Republicans have been fervently against when it comes to say, renewable clean energy platforms. Boxing out alternatives is not what democracy is about. The democratic process is the central pillar of our nation and its ideology, it is what defines us; it is inherent in all that we do and that includes interstate and local commerce.
The steps California has taken to ensure it citizens the right to a free and open internet are admirable, if not courageous, in the face of the instantaneous backlash it prompted. The full weight of the Department of Justice and the office of the President will now be applied to California so the outcome of this David and Goliath reenactment is uncertain.
Echoes of Revolution
Though, with states like Oregon, Vermont and Washington all following suit in similar fashion the hallmarks of democracy can be seen more clearly. The voices of those fighting back in protest at state and local level, on the web, in the street and above all in the voting booth echo the ringing cry of the masses that once drowned out the British Empire’s totalitarian decrees.
Our need for a free, fair, open internet has become the lynchpin of our ability to remain informed about and conduct our daily commerce and communications, our jobs and personal relationships and indeed, our very lives. We must consider an attack on net neutrality as an attack upon our very way of life in the modern age and respond accordingly. Good luck California, the people are with you. Fight Back HERE