Do big companies have the power to modify the democracy of the net?
America’s internet community is in the middle of a battle over net neutrality: the right to keep the internet open, unregulated and free. Presently a law erected under the Obama government, dubbed Title II, forbids any ISP from controlling the way Americans consume the net. But the Federal Communications Committee is looking to overthrow net neutrality and give ISPs unprecedented powers. Despite losing an initial 12th of July vote, the FCC has another chance to pass its motion at an upcoming December 14 meeting.
FCC’s efforts are spearheaded by Ajit Pai, who has deemed Title II “heavy handed”. Pai believes the internet isn’t as free or open as its claimed. “Now look: I love Twitter. But let’s not kid ourselves,” Pai said, “when it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”
Pai believes increased regulation will create better competition between ISPs, and give consumers a better deal. But his stance has drawn the ire of prominent businesses. During the July vote, a Day of Action was created, a nationwide push to keep net neutrality alive. More than 100,000 advocates joined forces – including Reddit, Netflix and Airbnb .
Ironically, three internet giants who have long been bastions of net neutrality were noticeably muted in their support of the Day of Action.
Google wrote a blog post and sent an email to Day of Action members; people who were already cognizant of and interested in the subject.
Facebook arguably took a stronger position. Mark Zuckerberg wrote a short Facebook post that argued for a free and open internet. It must be said that he didn’t use the abundance of social tools at his disposal to amplify this veiwpoint.
Last but not least, Amazon opted for a tiny banner split between its ads. Not a great effort.
One explanation for this is that since 2014, Google and Facbook alone have increased their market share and now account for more than 70% of all internet traffic. By working with the FCC, these internet giants could easily increase their revenue and wipe out competitors. Imagine a world in which they strike up agreements with ISPs and lock you in to their service. Imagine a world where the content you like is throttled because your ISP doesn't have a deal with content provider. It’s the very definition of anti-competitive.
Plus, with Google’s push to become a part of our everyday home life – AI, gadgets and more – what would stop the search engine giant invading our homes further?
Pai is attempting to regulate an open market pitched on a delicate tightrope. If you’re committed to keeping net neutrality alive and well in the US, keep your eyes peeled for next month’s vote.
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