The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially unveiled its proposed “open Internet” rules. Few are shocked because the Commission has spent the last few weeks in a public relations battle to manage public anger at their undermining of Internet access.
Two months the ago, the Young Democrats of America sent out one of its most popular emails in the past year on this topic.
On Thursday morning, we joined other activists, organizations and companies rallying outside FCC headquarters to ensure that the open Internet does not die off without a fight. There’s still more to do.
Young people in this country have watched as Twitter has helped topple autocrats, and social networks have helped boost voter turnout. We’ve seen tyrants shut off the Internet and countries manipulate it to censor and spy on personal conversations.
To young people, the Internet is a rapidly evolving, ever-changing place. The proliferation of apps and tools, like Facebook, Google docs, Instagram and Kickstarter are a product of an Internet that is free of discrimination. A place of true capitalism. The best ideas rise to the top because people use them. The FCC’s action, or inaction, stands to undermine this marketplace.
Re-classifying the Internet as a telecommunications service is the only reasonable option and the legal course a federal judge directed the FCC to take. As the Internet comes under increasing threat from the entrenched interests of phone and cable companies, the FCC is the bulwark against stagnation.
Allowing broadband providers to tax access is like pouring sand into the economic engine of the Internet. The open Internet is our main means of communication and our greatest platform for free speech and innovation. Allowing broadband providers to prioritize certain content and services is de facto censorship and restricts new market entrants.
The end has already started to come. Netflix has brokered a deal with Comcast to deliver its content at manageable speeds. While Netflix may be able to pay for the fast lanes, could an upstart political candidate who relies on videos and social networks?
The result is censorship by vast monopolies resulting in poor customer service and price gouging -- as anyone who has spent hours stuck on hold or waiting at home for the repair person can attest. Should the FCC empower them more?
Ideas are not pawns to be manipulated for profit by broadband providers. The Internet is fundamental to communication and should be governed like a telephone line.
Instead, the FCC has chosen corporate profits over our rights to connect and communicate.
This is a message for the FCC and our elected leaders. The people who will live with the results of your decision are those who increasingly spend their lives and earn their livelihoods online. Only reclassification of the Internet as a common carrier will do justice to its role in our world.
Yee is a vice president of the Young Democrats of America and a digital entrepreneur.