Saturday, May 20, 2017

Uncle Charlie Declares War On the Internet

The rule established two short years ago by the Federal Communications Commission - affectionately known as Uncle Charlie in CB radio slang - establishing a free and neutral Internet is dead.  This past Thursday, the FCC voted two to one to end Net neutrality and allow your Internet service provider (ISP) to have more leeway over the Internet, which means that the big company that lets you access the Internet could (will?) decide that certain sites - like streaming services from companies owned by rival ISPs or any sites that your own ISP may find politically offensive - will take more time to upload or won't load at all.  And if you want faster lanes for some Internet traffic, you'll have to pay more.  It's not going to happen right away, but the decision begins the process of dismantling yet another achievement of the Obama administration.
The FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer,  says that the rules keeping the ISPs' filthy hands off our Internet are too burdensome and too cumbersome to allow more services and more choices for consumers, and he says that they also hobble innovation.  He also believes that the Internet is a commercial, not a public, enterprise (proof once again that the only public entity in America anymore is Eliot Spitzer's sex life) and so should be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.  Except that the FTC wouldn't have the ability to enforce rules of fair play even if there were any such rules to speak of.  Small wonder that Pai got praised by one communications company executive for "remaining focused on creating a light-touch regulatory environment that is pro-consumer, pro-investment, and pro-innovation."  And anti-freedom. 
Pai (above) is all but forcing Congress to decide how Internet access would be governed.  There's a possibility of creating new legislation to determine who writes the rules for the Net, which Pai seems to want to make Congress do, but the deadlock on Capitol Hill renders that possibility unlikely.  And, oh yes, in case you're thinking that a Democratic President will reverse Pai's reversal of Net neutrality in 2021, rest assured (rest assured, that is, if you work for AT&T or Verizon) that the Republican caucuses in Congress, having already established themselves as permanent majorities through gerrymandering and voter restriction laws, are now working to pass a law that would make it illegal for a presidentially appointed agency to change regulatory rules without congressional approval.      
But what about all of those pro-Net-neutrality e-mails and comments to the FCC that crashed Uncle Charlie's Web site?  Pai blamed it all on hackers.  End of discussion.
I guess it's time for me to finally start doing what I've been threatening to do here for awhile - stop talking about politics so much.  If I keep going after Trump, many of you might never get to read what I think about him, because any anti-Trump page will probably take so long to load (if it loads at all) that you won't even bother trying to read it.  My Family page and my beautiful-women picture blog likely won't be affected, but I'll have to take former George Walker Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer's advice and watch what I say in this space.  I might just stop discussing politics altogether.  Maybe I'll just talk about classic rock here. 
I know that anything I write about classic rock won't be blocked by ISPs.  Because classic rock is overwhelmingly white, mostly male, familiar, and out of step with the times - just like the folks who provide our Internet service.   

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