On Dec. 21, the FCC passed new rules — written by corporations — that will end net neutrality. For the first time in history, the U.S. government approved corporate censorship of the Internet, putting the future of online free speech at risk. Unbelievably, the person leading the charge was Obama appointee Julius Genachowski (known in some circles as Judas GenaComcast for his historic sellout and notorious industry-friendly attitude).
These rules also violate President Obama’s campaign promise to protect net neutrality and appoint an FCC commissioner who would do the same, but some media are reporting the corporate spin that this is a “net neutrality compromise.” And the White House is trying to convince us this isn’t a sellout as well with their wholly supportive statements.
This is not a compromise, and it doesn’t fulfill Obama’s campaign promise — not even close. There’s no such thing as half a First Amendment and no such thing as prohibiting “some” corporate censorship. In reality, these rules are what Sen. Al Franken said they are.
“The FCC’s action … is simply inadequate to protect consumers or preserve the free and open Internet,” Franken said. “I am particularly disappointed to learn that the order will not specifically ban paid prioritization, allowing big companies to pay for a fast lane on the Internet and abandoning the foundation of net neutrality. The rule also contains almost no protections for mobile broadband service, remaining silent on the blocking of content, applications and devices. Wireless technology is the future of the Internet, and for many rural Minnesotans, it’s often the only choice for broadband.”
Dec. 21 marked another historic sellout to big corporations by the Obama administration, not some kind of “win.” The record must be set straight.
Here’s why the new rules are nothing but a sop to big business.
Corporate censorship is allowed on your phone: The rules passed on Dec. 21 by Obama FCC Chairman Genachowski absurdly create different corporate censorship rules for wired and wireless Internet, allowing big corporations like Comcast to block websites they don’t like on your phone — a clear failure to protect net neutrality and put you, the consumer, in control of what you can and can’t do online.
Online tollbooths are allowed, destroying innovation: The rules would allow big Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast to charge for access to the “fast lane.” Big companies that could afford to pay these fees like Google or Amazon would get their websites delivered to consumers quickly, while independent newspapers, bloggers, innovators and small businesses would see their sites languish in the slow lane, destroying a level playing field for competition online and clearly violating net neutrality.
The rules allow corporations to create “public” and “private” Internets, destroying the one Internet as we know it: For the first time, these rules would embrace a “public Internet” for regular people vs. a “private Internet” with all the new innovations for corporations who pay more — ending the Internet as we know it and creating tiers of free speech and innovation, accessible only if you have pockets deep enough to pay off the corporations.
The FCC could have reclassified the Internet as a communications service (reversing a Bush-era mistake); regulated greedy corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T with enforceable rules; and protected free speech online. But it didn’t. Instead, it allowed these corporations to write their own rules.
It’s imperative that the FCC’s action isn’t seen as a “win” for net neutrality — the Internet is still unprotected from corporate abuse, and we still have to fight until we truly win.
Jason Rosenbaum is a senior online campaign director at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org).