NET NEUTRALITY AND THE PROGRESSIVE CAUSE

Like it or not, the seemingly dull topic of net neutrality has become the moment’s clearest battle between the people and corporations. And it provides an opportunity for the current minority party to re-establish itself firmly as the party of the people.

Net neutrality, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. It is the idea of the internet as open and free, with equal access for all. And under the previous administration, the FCC for the first time officially weighed in, putting rules in place to make net neutrality the relative law of the land.

But now those rules are in danger of being rolled back by the current administration and FCC Chair Ajit Pai.

Why, you ask. Why would the United States of America not have a free and open internet? Why would we opt for the least democratic approach to managing this all-important platform?

Because business. Because money. Because freedom.

The net neutrality fight is one of the clearest illustrations of what happens when big money dominates our government. Service providers like AT&T and Verizon, and the telecom industry, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in this fight. For them, this is all about profits. Without net neutrality rules, they will be free to set their own rules. And their incentive is to increase shareholder value in any way they can, so long as it’s legal.

Meanwhile the public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality. Recent polls put the number at 61% support, 18% oppose, and 21% no opinion. The FCC, since it began debate under the Obama administration, has been flooded with public comments, calls, and letters by people who support a free and open internet.

So again, how is it possible that the current FCC will dismantle such a popular policy?

For one thing, Ajit Pai, the man with the most power over the decision, is a Republican attorney who spent two years working for Verizon and has advocated deregulation throughout his career.

The telecom industry opposing net neutrality lobbies hard, spending money to support appointees and candidates who also oppose the policies currently in place. And in turn, those policies are sold to the public as a “government takeover” of the internet, part of the “bureaucracy problem” business has been railing against for years. True freedom, they tell us, means an internet with no rules or regulations. But true free for them means business gets to make the rules, while ordinary citizens suffer the consequences — in this case likely higher costs or lesser service.

If these rules are overturned, it will be a clear case of business buyout of our government, of favoring big money over ordinary citizens.

The question is simple — should the internet be a public resource or a private one? Handing over power to the corporations is capitalist way. But it is not in the best interest of the users — you and me.

This is exactly the kind of issue that Democrats, if they want to take advantage of the progressive thrust of the country at the current moment, need to rally behind. A progressive populist party would use this issue, and others like it, to show how corporations have been granted too much favor in this country. It’s time to listen to the will of the people again.

Democrats: be the party of the people, not corporations. Voters will reward you for it.