Today's the Net Neutrality Day of Action.
Here's what I said about net neutrality during the open comment period in 2014, before the Title II rules passed, when the FCC was pushing a policy that would allow ISPs to charge websites for fast lanes:
This is exactly the kind of policy you get when you put a cable company lobbyist in charge of the FCC: a plan nobody but the cable companies could possibly want, and that seeks to make the Internet work like cable TV.
This plan has no benefit whatsoever to consumers. Cable companies demand extortion money from content providers; the providers who are willing and able to pay pass that cost on to their consumers (as Netflix has already done by raising its streaming subscription price), and the providers who aren't are put at a crippling disadvantage. You can bet the ever-increasing bottom dollar on your cable bill that if Comcast had had the opportunity to demand a premium from YouTube to stream video in 2005, we wouldn't be talking about YouTube today -- though maybe that would have been good news for Real Networks, as we'd probably still be limping along on the vastly inferior RealPlayer. Buffering...
This proposal is a government handout to the kind of companies that need it the least: monopolies and near-monopolies that already provide poor service at exorbitant prices, and suffer no market backlash for the simple reason that they provide a necessary service and have no competition.
Google doesn't want this. Microsoft doesn't want this. Netflix doesn't want this. Amazon doesn't want this. Consumers don't want this, and small businesses sure as hell don't want this. The only ones who DO want this are the cable companies who pick our pockets every month -- and their former employees like Chairman Wheeler.
And here's what I said during the open comment period this year, with the FCC preparing to repeal the Title II rules and, once again, proposing Internet fast lanes:
Seeking public comment? This is a farce. Chairman Pai heard exactly what the public had to say in 2014. The public responded, overwhelmingly, in support of net neutrality; indeed, the public interest was so high that the traffic brought down fcc.gov.
If Chairman Pai cared what the public thought, he would not be reversing a rule supported by the public in order to grant more power to internet service providers, some of the most despised companies in America. Nobody wants this except Comcast, AT&T, Charter, and Time Warner.
There is no free market competition in broadband Internet in America. There is no incentive for ISPs to compete on price or on service. We, as Americans, are a captive audience; our only choices are "use whatever ISP is available at our address" and "try to participate in twenty-first century America without Internet access".
We've already seen AT&T prioritizing its own traffic and Comcast banning protocols it didn't like. We need net neutrality protections to prevent predatory, monopolistic ISPs from engaging in that behavior. This is obvious to every American who's seen their monthly bill go up while the quality of service goes down.
But Chairman Pai has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't care what the American public has to say. If he did, he wouldn't even be considering repealing net neutrality.
I was wrong about Wheeler. He backed away from the fast-lane proposal, and passed Title II regulation. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than I ever thought we'd get.
I don't think I'm wrong about Pai. I'd love to be, but I think the fix is in. Pai doesn't give a fuck what the American public has to say.
But it's not about Pai. Pai won't last forever. Trump won't last forever. Even if the Republican majority in Congress sticks around, they're going to have to face their constituents sooner or later. And while net neutrality is a partisan issue on Capitol Hill, it's got broad bipartisan support everywhere else.
I don't think today's protests are going to make a damn bit of difference to Pai. But this is a long game. We need to keep the pressure on.
And hey, I've been surprised before. I thought SOPA and the TPP were foregone conclusions too. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised again.