Dem 51
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FCC Reinstates Net Neutrality

This is kind of inside baseball, but it is important given the role the Internet plays in elections nowadays. On Monday, new FCC commissioner Anna Gomez was sworn in. This gave Democratic appointees a 3-2 majority. It took Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel exactly one day to reverse a key ruling made by the FCC when Donald Trump's appointees held the majority. Rosenworcel reinstated net neutrality, something that was abolished during the Trump administration. The basic idea is that all Internet traffic is equal and no Internet traffic is more equal.

For example, it is no longer legal for AT&T, Comcast, T-mobile, or any other Internet carrier to say to,, and a few hundred million other websites: "If you want your content delivered speedily and without interruption to your customers, just pay us $10 million/month and we will make sure it happens." All the carriers must treat all content equally. They can no longer sell "fast lanes" to the highest bidders or blackmail sites into paying them for carriage. They can also no longer do anything to advantage (or disadvantage) one site over another. For example, Comcast can no longer provide high-speed service for its own "NOW TV" streaming service while intentionally slowing down Amazon Prime streaming, so people give up on the latter and switch to the former. It can also no longer discriminate against the hundreds of millions of small websites around the country and focus on blackmailing the 100 biggest ones into paying for great service. From the point of view of the carriers, this decision is a real bummer. From the point of view of consumers and people running the hundreds of millions of small websites, it is a winner. We're not biased here at all. This was the right thing to do. Go Jessica! Here is a photo of her.

Jessica Rosenworcel

Rosenworcel said that in the modern era, Internet service is a basic necessity, like water and electricity. An electricity company in some region cannot decide to provide electricity to big factories and office buildings in its service area and tell households to go buy a generator. They must provide service to anyone in their area, big or little. Now that holds for Internet as well.

Democrats have long fought for net neutrality (i.e., carrier must be neutral regarding content and can't favor one content producer over another), but Republicans have sided with the carriers who sought to make money by essentially blackmailing large content producers like Netflix, Disney, Facebook, Amazon, etc., into paying extra just for their content to be carried. Maybe an analogy might help here. Imagine that the USPS decided that first class packages from Amazon would be delivered promptly (because Amazon was paying the USPS a "fee" for "special service"), but first class packages from Walmart and eBay would sit in warehouses until there happened to be some empty space on a USPS truck. They can't do that. It is illegal. Essentially the postal system has something like net neutrality, too. All customers have to be treated equally. Now that applies to the Internet as well.

A decision of the FCC can be revoked by the FCC. If a Republican is elected president and is able to replace one of the Democratic commissioners by his or her own appointee (not that we think the next president will be a "she" unless Donald Trump picks Nikki Haley as his veep and then he eats one Big Mac too many), then net neutrality could be as dead as Ron DeSantis' presidential hopes. It would be better if Congress embedded net neutrality into federal law, but Republicans in Congress would never go for it, so it remains something for the FCC to decide and re-decide whenever the partisan balance on the commission changes. (V)

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