The Federal Communications Commission went ahead with a scheduled vote on “net neutrality” on December 14 and, as expected, it rescinded the Obama era rule, which for the last two years has barred internet service providers from blocking, slowing access to, or charging extra for certain content.
In a speech before the vote was taken, chairman Ajit Pai said, “The main complaint the consumers have about the internet is not and has never been that their internet providers are blocking access to content.” He believes that the main problem is that many Americans still have no access to the internet, and that the neutrality rules could do mischief in that area. They could dissuade the Comcasts and Verizons of the world from investing the additional capital necessary to expand their networks to the point where everyone has access.
Neither of the two dissenters, the Democratic commissioners, Mignon Clyburn or Jessica Rosenworcel, was interesting in fudging the issue. Clyburn said, “I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order.” Rosenworcel was similarly forthright, “This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
Left Wing View
Some of the bones of contention that surround this act are procedural. The public comment process that is supposed to precede changes in agency rules was hit in this case by what Slate calls “a mysterious cyberattack, which is currently under a federal investigation,” and which included huge numbers of fraudulent or bot-produced comments.
The New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, warned shortly before the vote that “moving forwards with this vote” under those circumstances “will make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda.” His office says that as many as two million “real Americans” may have had their identities misused in the context of this attack.
As a report in Vox observed, tensions were high in the room during the speeches and vote, and “at one point … the room was evacuated for about 10 minutes due to an apparent security threat.”
After the FCC vote, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced his plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act that would restore the 2015 rules. Otherwise, he said, ordinary people will all “be at the mercy of the big broadband companies” who are interested only in profit. In a tweet, Markey urged people supportive of net neutrality to “keep making your voices heard! The fight is not over … spread the word.”
To this, Alyssa Milano, a television actress known for her roles in “Who’s the Boss?” in the 1980s and “Charmed” at the turn of the millennium, responded, “Let us know how we can help you, @SenMarkey!”
Right Wing View
There are some on social media who aren’t so much anti-NN as opposed to the way it has been sold and defended. Erick Erickson, a writer and so-called “Resurgent conservative,” for example, tweeted, “if the left had just repeated over and over ‘Comcast customer service supports this’ instead of ‘we’re all going to die,” they probably could have won the net neutrality argument.”
Later in the day, though, Cruz was taking the Ericksonian line, discussing the marketing of NN rather than the merits. He tweeted an imagined conversation between a “snowflake” who was worried that the internet had been destroyed in this vote, and an “informed observer” with a cooler head.
A Cruz admirer, “Lisa,” pursued the thought, saying it is “insane … how quickly #Democrats massive propaganda campaign managed to cause a panic in young children to college kids.”
Erik Pacheco, a young conservative activist, wrote: “Despite all the hate, #AjitPai worked tirelessly to free the internet of Obama era regulations, and give it back to us – the people.”