If so many people are against dismantling net neutrality, how can it possibly be in peril? President Obama said more than once that “elections have consequences.” The consequences of last November’s election of Donald Trump signalled a reversal of much of Obama’s legislatively light and mostly pen and paper presidency. Such is the background on which the fate of net neutrality rests, despite strong support for keeping the status quo.
Recent polling shows that a “vast” majority of Americans favour the current FCC rules regarding net neutrality and are against the rules changes proposed by President Trump’s hand-picked FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai. The results are skewed somewhat by an overly biased and leading polling question. However, even if the polling question was fairly posed, I reckon that a majority would still side with the rules as they currently exist.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon shouldn’t be able to discriminate against rival services or sell internet fast lanes to the highest bidder. Net neutrality advocates also posit that it allows for innovation and thus growth and improvement, as well as being a bulwark to protect free speech.
Furthermore, recent polling demonstrates broad bi-partisan support: over 70% of respondents from both parties are squarely against any rule rollbacks. According to Motherboard, even the blue-collar voters in “flyover country,” who tipped the election to Trump, favour leaving the current rules in place. If this is so, why wouldn’t the President and his appointee, Pai, pay attention to this?
There are actually a few reasons. Firstly, voters have short memories. A few months after Pai dismantles net neutrality, if indeed he does, this whole matter will be ancient history. Other events will dominate the news. In fact, the liberal mainstream media (MSM), in its quest to “get” the “illegitimate” President Trump has harmed the whole net neutrality issue. One could argue that its vicious attacks drive Trump to dig in his heels on issues like net neutrality. That’s if he needed another reason.
Sadly, net neutrality is just not sexy enough for the MSM. How can you compare it to alleged Russian election meddling, for example? There is more interest in the MSM over things like handshake etiquette among world leaders and their wives at summits. These “stories” detract from substantive issues like net neutrality.
If net neutrality is destroyed, it will likely last for perhaps a 24-hour news cycle before it is relegated to the dustbin and fades from public consciousness. Meanwhile, other salacious stories will crop up to boost subscriptions or TV ratings. Net neutrality will not matter one iota come 2018, never mind 2020. By then, the dominating issues will be jobs, immigration, healthcare, the economy, and the North Korea missile crisis – just to name a few.
Of course, polls and pundits can be wrong. Changes to the FCC rules might actually be for the good! What then? Personally, I wouldn’t get all lathered up about this possibility, but it is food for thought. I mean, things were moving along nicely on all internet fronts up until 2015, before Obama imposed his ideology on the FCC. Is there possibly room for a competing GOP ideology?
Supporters of net neutrality remain adamant. Gigi Sohn, who served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, comments,
“The poll results are unsurprising and reflect what we have known for some time – the 2015 net neutrality rules are extremely popular with all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.”
Many folks presently feel giddy about keeping the net neutrality rules just the way they are. However, many of these same folks also believed the Obama administration about healthcare. Remember? It will cost less. You can keep your present doctor. And so on and so forth. How did that work out?
Rest assured, the proposed rules changes and designations are simply a change in the election tide, which is financed by big money donors (ISPs) who are now claiming the spoils. The poll that mattered was in November 2016. The net neutrality one will be long forgotten by the time 2020 rolls around.
That’s why all the polls, demonstrations, letter writing, and general handwringing are not likely to forestall the inevitable, though we can hope against hope.
Opinions are the writer’s own.
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