On Thursday, Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) actually did it. The FCC voted to kill net neutrality, and people who use the internet (which is, you know, everyone) are really, really not happy — as proven by these tweets about the net neutrality vote. We're looking down the barrel of a very different internet, folks, and people are getting scared.
The FCC's 3-2 vote takes apart regulations meant to keep the internet an even playing field, preventing internet service providers (ISPs) from giving preferential treatment to sites or apps, or throttling or blocking service. The now-dismantled regulations were passed in 2015, under the Obama administration, and treated high-speed internet as a Class II utility on a level with phone access.
Speaking before the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the rollback was intended to protect consumers. “We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” he said, per The New York Times. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
But a lot of people aren't buying it. Critics say that the new rules will in fact only make it easier for ISPs to create tiered service and pay-to-play lanes, making it harder for underground content or smaller websites to find footing, and harder for internet users to find content that isn't mainstream.
And of course, charging an arm and a leg for all the different packages and add-ons.
My friend, that's already been done:
Some people still had hope, though. Many people shared information on how to contact your representatives in Congress, in the hopes that they'd be able to overturn or neutralize the vote.
Advocates of net neutrality have their allies in Congress, too. Two days before the vote multiple legislators spoke out against Pai's move to end net neutrality, with two separate groups of Democrats writing letters to the FCC to ask for a delay on the vote. "[Y]our plan ignores the central and critical role that access to a free and open internet plays in Americans' lives," read a letter signed by 39 Democratic senators.
And it's a bipartisan issue. On Dec. 14, the day of the vote, Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Independent Sen. Angus King, both of Maine, also wrote a joint letter also asking for a delay. "This is a matter of enormous importance with significant implications for our entire economy, and therefore merits the most thorough, deliberate, and thoughtful process that can be provided. The process thus far in this important matter has not met that standard," it read.
The decision is also under criticism for reportedly ignoring comments on the move. Back in April, Pai announced that the FCC would be reviewing the rules around net neutrality and possibly overturning them. A public comment period that opened in May brought in more than 22 million public comments on the topic, although an investigation into the comments indicated that at least a million were likely fake, per NPR. But despite the fact that a study funded by ISPs found that more than 98 percent of unique comments supported net neutrality and did not want it repealed, the FCC reportedly ignored comments that did not express either new facts or a legal argument against repealing net neutrality, according to Ars Technica.
So at the end of the day, it looks like making net neutrality trend on Twitter is actually, for once, a way of making your voice heard that's just as effective as actually calling your congressional representatives, as messed up as that may be. It's still free to Tweet, at least. For now.