Reprinted from The Washington Post by Gerry Smith on February 22, 2018.
“The internet is a set of pipes,” writes Gerry Smith in The Washington Post. “It’s also a set of values. Whose? The people who consider it a great social equalizer, a playing field that has to be level? Or the ones who own the network and consider themselves best qualified to manage it? It’s a philosophical contest fought under the banner of ‘net neutrality,’ a slogan that inspires rhetorical devotion but eludes precise definition. Broadly, it means everything on the internet should be equally accessible — that the internet should be a place where great ideas compete on equal terms with big money. Even in the contentious arena of net neutrality, that’s a principle everybody claims to honor. But the US has just done a big U-turn on how to interpret it.
“The US Federal Communications Commission voted December 14 to roll back net neutrality rules that had been enacted under Democratic President Barack Obama. ‘We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence,’ FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. The 2015 rules had imposed increased government oversight of broadband traffic, and internet service providers were treated as public utilities and were forbidden from blocking or slowing rivals’ content. The rules had also applied open-internet protections to wireless services for tablets and smartphones. The vote to vacate the net neutrality rules was foreshadowed in January when President Donald Trump picked Pai, a Republican member of the FCC and longtime foe of net neutrality regulation, to head the agency. In May, after Pai first proposed the idea of gutting net neutrality rules, websites and internet organizations promoted a ‘day of action’ to save net neutrality. Following the vote, other businesses weighed in. Burger King explained the debate in a video showing confused and irate customers having to wait a long time for their orders after ‘Whopper neutrality was repealed.’ Both the Obama administration and internet service providers, which had fought the 2015 rules, said they wanted an open internet and net neutrality, an idea also embraced by other countries with widely varying definitions of the principle. …