Sunday, May 21, 2017

Net Neutrality: America's "Other" Health Crisis

It seems like everyone who is talking about net neutrality today worries that we're not talking enough about net neutrality. They're right. So, allow me to add mine to the choir of voices warning about Federal Communications Commission Chairman (and former Verizon lawyer) Ajit Pai's plan to dismantle the free and open flow of digital information by, in his own words, "taking a weed whacker to current net neutrality rules."

Back in 2015, which seems eons ago now, proponents of equal access to an Open Internet won a historic victory when the FCC reclassified the Internet as a public utility. What that means for you and I is that big phone and cable companies (and their lobbyists) were subject to federal oversight and regulation with regard to how they did business. If anyone reading this now is a member of the Greatest Generation, first, bravo! and, second, this should sound familiar, as the FCC's net neutrality rules are more or less a reapplication of the depression-era Title II rule intended to regulate the AT&T/Ma Bell monopoly. Title II prevents Internet Service Providers (ISP's) from stratifying our access to information by creating "fast" and "slow" lanes through paid prioritization.

If you still don't quite get all the ins and outs of how net neutrality works, I recommend taking a look at John Oliver's excellent summary. (It's about 20 minutes.) In what follows, I won't explain it in any more detail. I'm more interested in convincing you that denial of free and equal access to the internet is as much of a "health" crisis for our nation as the denial of free and equal access to medical care is.