In this era, victories are celebrated, never savored. After (very) narrowly rejecting giving a monster a seat in the highest chamber of our legislative branch, it finally felt as if the liberal movement was regaining traction.
Then, before we could wash our champagne glasses, the FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era provisions protecting an open and fair internet. Once again we’re left scratching our heads, wondering why half the population is rejoicing. The usual Trump cheerleaders praised the decision, and if you listen to their arguments without any background knowledge, they start to make sense.
The main argument they use against liberals at first seems fair: Trump is trying to give up his own executive authority over the internet. Why would the left want to give that control back to Trump? This idea starts with a grain of truth but is highly misleading. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) gave its authority over broadband services to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The FTC is a much smaller agency that lacks rulemaking authority. Most importantly, they lack the ability to write pre-emptive rules. The FTC can only enforce the rules that are in the ISP’s terms and conditions with the end user after they’ve been breached. This means we’re trusting the ISPs, some of the most hated companies, to play by the rules.
This is a greater degree of trust than is earned. In 2008, Comcast was caught slowing upload speeds for peer-to-peer products such as BitTorrent. In 2012, AT&T limited the video-chat service, Facetime, unless you had a more costly shared data plan. In July of 2017, Verizon was accused of slowing speeds of streaming services like Netflix and YouTube. The FCC is the only agency with the strength to protect the internet from these unfair practices. If the right truly cares about a strong free market, they should reconsider whether this is a victory.