The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly come under fire for refusing to acknowledge the benefits of net neutrality. As a former lawyer for telecom giant Verizon Wireless, Pai has made it abundantly clear where he stands. Big telecoms are suffering, he says, and the only way to encourage market growth is to give ISPs more freedom.
Just last week, Pai cited a study that he said shows how net neutrality has an adverse effect on ISP growth. Pledging his case in the FCC’s annual report on wireless competition, Pai said that wireless investment was down 9% from last year, claiming stringent net neutrality regulations that went into effect in 2016 were to blame.
Only they aren’t.
According to the same report, wireless investment was also down from 2013 to 2015, which was a good two years before net neutrality rules were in place. Policy advocates were quick to point out Pai’s apparent bias, accusing him of “cherry-picking the facts” to meet his narrative.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming obvious that the public uproar simply isn’t enough to change the minds of those in Congress. Even after nearly 9 million users left comments urging the FCC not to repeal net neutrality, the process is still likely to move forward.
Perhaps more debilitating is the fact that despite near-unanimous disapproval from the public, Pai was recently re-elected as FCC chair for another five-year term.
Why the FCC wants to dismantle the internet
The FCC and the handful of ISPs that control the market want to repeal net neutrality under the guise that it will “free up competition.” The opposite is true. By dismantling the net neutrality safeguards that are currently in place, the top three telecoms will be able to gain an even greater hold on the market, earning more revenue and effectively snuffing out any and all competitors.
With the impending rollback on the table, cable companies couldn’t be happier. In an open blog post, Comcast Senior Executive Vice-President David Cohen was all about the accolades.
“We applaud chairman Pai for remaining focused on creating light touch regulatory environment that is pro-consumer, pro-investment, and pro-innovation, Cohen said. “Especially with the present partisan political rhetoric and debate.”
This isn’t the first time Pai’s tried to claim net neutrality stunts market growth. Last month, Pai made the same case for net neutrality repeal at the Mobile World Congress exhibition, stating:
“The FCC is currently examining whether we should change our Internet regulations in order to encourage greater deployment and investment and bring digital opportunity to more Americans.”
Why net neutrality is so important
While the rules and regulations surrounding net neutrality are complicated, the premise is simple: every website, no matter how big or how small, should be treated the same. Under the current net neutrality rules, your ISP is forced to provide a free and open internet. They aren’t allowed to speed up or slow down specific sites and services.
It’s a free and open environment, which, naturally, the big telecom companies hate. That’s why they’ve spent millions — $572 million to be exact — and employed thousands of lobbyists to work on their behalf. By dismantling net neutrality, your ISP will have the freedom to pick and choose how you use the internet.
If a certain streaming site were able to make a deal with your ISP, then you’d likely experience faster streaming speeds for that service, while competing services would probably become much slower.
It’s giving your ISP more power to craft and control the internet, which translates to more power for telecoms and fewer options for consumers.
Using a VPN to fight back
While the deregulation process is still underway, some ISPs have already been caught throttling customer speeds. Verizon, one of the biggest telecom companies in the U.S., was recently exposed for secretly throttling Netflix and YouTube speeds even when customers were paying for unlimited data.
If you think your ISP is blocking sites or purposely slowing your internet speeds, you can use a VPN to encrypt your network and bypass their regulations. Because a VPN creates a secure tunnel between your network and sites you visit, your ISP won’t be able to regulate your speeds.
Additionally, if you live in the U.S., you can join the fight for net neutrality and make your voice heard by visiting the FCC’s website and filing a form in favor of supporting internet freedom.