A law, driven forward by Donald Trump, could have serious consequences on Internet access around the world. Privileges for a few and censorship for others would be the result of a proposal opposed by many.
The address, delivered by Ajit Pai, Director of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States of America, did not go unnoticed. Pai’s plan to bring an end to net neutrality – a measure which was adopted in 2015 – received immediate criticism from large parts of the population.
Even though at the time, the net neutrality order meant that broadband Internet would be reclassified as a public service – in the same category as water, electricity, gas, or telephone services – if the new law is passed, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would not be subject to such strict rules. The controversy arises in that it is unclear how the FCC will manage to maintain the basic protection of net neutrality that, amongst other things, prevents Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking, or reducing, Internet traffic.
The less rigid rules, which have become a trademark of the Trump administration, go against the measures put in place by the former FCC Director, Tom Wheeler, who was appointed by Barack Obama.
During that time, the Obama administration put in place the rules which prevent ISPs from blocking access to websites and also prevent them from showing favouritism, by directing Internet users to certain sites or services.
In the face of the Trump administration’s threat, alarm bells immediately started ringing and people opposing the reforms started putting on pressure to prevent the proposed reforms from going through. In fact, around 58,000 comments have been published on the FCC website, which have led to increased awareness and discussion of the topic and, more significantly, caused the website to crash. Added to this, there are campaigns to make telephone calls to Capitol Hill, complaining about the proposed reforms, demonstrations in the streets, and the formation of a coalition to organise the display of discontent.
The fear is that the proposed reform would allow ISPs to favour certain content, censor websites, or reduce download speeds when accessing certain services – such as Netflix or YouTube – to promote their own services which are more profitable for them.
The experts say that these laws are essential to maintain freedom of expression, particularly in a time when video streaming has become so popular. They are rules which will affect everybody, given that 70% of the planet’s Internet traffic goes through the United States.
Associations, such as Free Press, have explained that “Ajit Pai is conspiring with the ISP’s lobbyists to eliminate fundamental safeguards which keep the Internet open and free”.
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Phil Keesing)