The Federal Communications Commission on May 19th took the first steps toward dismantling the regulatory framework created in 2015 to protect net neutrality. But a new Consumer Reports survey found that a majority of Americans value those protections.
The 2015 rules were designed by the FCC under former chairman Tom Wheeler to safeguard consumers from practices that could restrict their choice of online content or drive up prices. They currently prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and Verizon from blocking or throttling lawful online traffic. They also ban ‘paid prioritisation’ deals that would create fast Internet lanes for content providers with the means to pay for them.
In the nationally representative survey, more than two-thirds of respondents said they oppose the idea of an ISP blocking online access to the movie-streaming service of a competitor. Sixty-two per cent also reject the idea of an ISP downgrading the transmission quality of products put out by a competitive streaming service.
According to current FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the 2015 rules against such practices are unnecessary, contending that the ‘light-touch’ regulation that preceded them worked just fine. The May 19th proposal for curtailing the commission’s authority to impose net neutrality rules was approved by a partisan two-to-one vote, prompting concern from consumer advocacy organisations such as Public Knowledge and the ACLU.
“Protecting net neutrality means preserving the internet as it was designed—a free, open platform for all that has spurred tremendous competition and innovation,” says Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilisation arm of Consumer Reports. “Eliminating the Open Internet Order takes away the Internet’s level playing field and would allow a select few corporations to choose winners and losers, preventing consumers from accessing the content that they want, when they want it.”
Among the survey’s findings: