In an opinion piece in The Advocate recently, Daniel Erspamer tried to argue that net neutrality is one of “the more complex issues of our time” and suggested that what people really want is “internet freedom.” This is a red herring pushing the idea that net neutrality is an arcane concept that only technologists can understand or care about.
Americans across the political spectrum understand that net neutrality is a simple concept — the ISPs (mostly cable companies) that we pay to get online should not get to control what apps and services we use and should not get to choose winners and losers. We get to choose. That’s internet freedom.
This basic principle is not a new thing that showed up with the 2015 rules. In 2002, Republican FCC chair Michael Powell lectured ISPs not to block websites or services and let Americans use the devices of their choice.
The truth is that net neutrality is about large ISPs that operate in a dysfunctional market where there’s little to no competition wanting to use their position to tax all sites and services that operate in an actually competitive market — the internet.
As a member of Louisiana’s flourishing startup community, I can tell you that these kinds of access fees would kill startups before they even launch. The 2015 rules are court-tested and protect entrepreneurs, small businesses, churches, local news sites and non-mainstream news outlets.
Despite overwhelming support for net neutrality protections, the FCC, now headed by a former Verizon lawyer, discarded all net neutrality protections in a December vote. This was rushed through despite the protests of over millions of Americans and over 1,000 startups, church groups, and the most important pioneers of the internet.
Thankfully, net neutrality isn’t dead yet. Congress can override the FCC’s decision, and the Senate is now one vote shy of doing so. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has said he’s still open to supporting the CRA repeal effort, and if net neutrality protections are important to you, you should make your voice heard by calling his office.
The argument that ISPs like Cox, Verizon and Comcast make is the opposite of freedom. They’re terrified that more and more people are “cutting the cord” and their assault on net neutrality is nothing more than big companies trying to decide what you get to do online. Their ideal version of the internet are walled gardens where you get to see what these large companies let you.
That’s not freedom and that’s not the internet we Americans want or deserve.