December 17, 2017

South Coast Today Op-Ed: The internet is for all of us ... not just the rich and powerful

The internet is an important part of our lives. In Massachusetts and across the country, students of all ages go online to complete their homework. Entrepreneurs and small businesses sell goods and do business online. Families come together to watch their favorite movies or shows. But right now our access to a fair and open internet is under attack. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to roll back key federal protections known as net neutrality rules - rules that make sure companies can't block, filter, or charge customers more to access certain websites or apps.

Fifty-five years ago, President John F. Kennedy re-ignited America's spirit of discovery and declared that our country would go to the moon. We barreled into the Space Age and the government was right smack at the center of it all. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, was a product of our commitment to push the bounds of human knowledge to discover breakthroughs in science, medicine, engineering, and technology. And it was there, at DARPA, that a bunch of government and government-funded researchers created the internet.

The government plays just as important a role today in ensuring the internet remains an engine of innovation, education, and commerce. This is where the FCC comes in. In 2015, the FCC issued its Open Internet Order, establishing strong net neutrality rules to prevent big companies from deciding how or when we use the internet. These rules have the overwhelming support of the vast majority of Americans, Republican or Democrat.

But there's one powerful interest that doesn't support net neutrality: giant internet companies. Big internet companies don't want the FCC to work for all Americans; they want the FCC to work for them. They want the FCC to gut net neutrality rules so they have the power to pick the next round of America's winners and losers. After net neutrality rules were passed, these powerful companies deployed armies of lobbyists and lawyers and invested massive amounts of money into burying net neutrality rules.

Now they have the champagne chilled and ready to pop because they have a president and a GOP-controlled Congress that's more interested in stuffing the pockets of the rich and the powerful than taking care of just about everybody else. President Trump's choice to lead the FCC, Chairman Ajit Pai, has been a fierce opponent of net neutrality. He's so committed to internet giants that he was willing to rewrite the federal rules to make it harder for Massachusetts to protect our own citizens with laws that protect internet access.

Chairman Pai's notion of a fair and open internet is one that works for the highest bidder and leaves everyone else behind. That's not the way it should work in America. Small businesses, entrepreneurs, local news stations, and people all across our commonwealth need net neutrality protections.

In Massachusetts, groups including Free Press, the Massachusetts Chapter of the ACLU, Fight for the Future, and countless others have led the fight to defend net neutrality and have helped citizens make their voices heard. Every American who cares about a fair and open internet should speak out about why net neutrality matters and push the FCC to reverse its decision to kill net neutrality rules. The internet doesn't belong to big internet companies. It belongs to all of us. And all of us should be part of this fight.

Read the op-ed on the South Coast Today website here.


By:  Senator Elizabeth Warren
Source: South Coast Today