Net Neutrality Issue Deepens in United States, to Impact Globally
The US’s top media regulator voted to end rules protecting an open internet on Thursday, a move critics warn will hand control of the future of the web to cable and telecoms companies.
At a packed meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the watchdog’s commissioners voted three to two to dismantle the “net neutrality” rules that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites more for delivering certain services or blocking others should they, for example, compete with services the cable company also offers.
Outside, protesters angrily called on Congress to block the FCC’s efforts. Bouquets of flowers and white candles were placed on the grass outside the building, an apparent reference to the “death” of open internet. Posters of the angry-face emoji covered the walkway.
And activists carried hand-made signs that read: “Don’t make the internet a private toll road”; “Ajit Pai doesn’t want you to meet your fiancé online”; and “Don’t undermine our democracy – that’s Russia’s job.”
FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, denounced the move. “I dissent because I am among the millions outraged, outraged because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers,” she said.
FCC chair Ajit Pai and his two fellow Republicans voted for the repeal. Pai said the current rules had impeded innovation and addressed non-existent concerns. “We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for much of its existence.” He called claims that the move would kill the internet “outlandish”.
Net neutrality’s advocates argue that an open internet has been essential to the creation of today’s web, and has allowed companies like Skype to compete with telecoms providers and Netflix to change the media landscape. They say the removal of the rules will affect consumers worldwide.