by Dalton Martin
The net neutrality laws are the product of Barack Obama’s presidency, and now with Republicans in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, these laws may soon be undone under Trump’s administration.
For those unaware of what exactly net neutrality is, it’s the concept that Internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. This would prevent a company like Comcast from throttling Internet traffic, or give preferential treatment in exchange for payment.
Opponents of these regulations see net neutrality as an unfair power grab by the government, while proponents stand by their belief that corporations should never have direct control on what can be accessed online.
While the Obama administration did introduce a set of successful rules to fight off Internet service provider’s lawsuits back in 2015, these regulations can quickly be removed once the President-elect steps into office. Donald Trump has previously voiced his issues over President Obama’s “attack on the internet,” which has led to speculation that the President-elect may work to remove the regulations.
Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2014
If Trump were to fight for the removal of Obama’s rules, the FCC would be required to give public notice and have open comment periods. The process of removal would be delayed by at least a few months, allowing net neutrality advocates time to rally up huge support for maintaining the rules in place.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to the commissioners, and Republicans will have a 3-2 majority. At that point, neutrality advocates would be able to sue the commission, but in a previous ruling over net neutrality, the courts ruled that the FCC has the discretion to remove broadband providers as common carriers, which is the only thing protecting net neutrality at this point.
Even if a Trump-controlled FCC does not pursue the removal of net neutrality, nothing is to stop a Republican Congress from taking steps into their own hands. Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL6) previously stated in 2015 that, “The FCC’s ‘net neutrality’ erodes the authority of Congress.” The Alabama Congressman further went into detail stating, “By putting Internet content under the thumb of federal bureaucrats, this ruling threatens free speech.” It appears that the Congressman and President-elect have a very similar stance on the issue of net neutrality.
The RNC’s official stance on the matter also appears to match up. Under the issue of Internet freedom, the party’s platform states:
“We will consistently support internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded government powers to tax and regulate so that the Internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power.”
Republicans in Congress have previously tried to pass a variety of bills that limit the FCC’s regulatory authority and eliminate net neutrality rules. One of the most infamous of those being the Internet Freedom Act that threatened to wipe out net neutrality rules entirely.
With the threat of a presidential veto now removed, nothing is stopping Congress from making amendments to the regulations protecting net neutrality. Those in favor for net neutrality can take solace in knowing that the complete elimination of the FCC’s rules protecting net neutrality is mostly unlikely, as most Republicans cannot agree as to whether to completely eliminate the regulations or to just change how much control the FCC has on the matter.
It is impossible to accurately predict what could happen to net neutrality this early on. Everything at this point is pure speculation based on previous efforts and off-hand comments. Net neutrality is still a strong thing to care about, especially in a time where technology is so intertwined into our day-to-day lives. So needless to say, it should be interesting to see if net neutrality can survive this new era of Trump.