The principles of openness and accessibility that underpin net neutrality were baked into the internet's original architecture, and for the most part these concepts have prevailed for the last several decades. But these principles are now threatened as never before under the Trump administration. That's why open internet advocates are bracing for what's likely to be a lengthy, bruising fight to protect online freedom.
"It took a decade to win the fight for net neutrality, and people will not sit by silently when politicians threaten to take it away."
Pai's distaste for the FCC's net neutrality policy has been well-documented. He claims he supports internet openness, and yet he bitterly opposed the 2015 FCC Open Internet order. He recently vowed to take a "weed whacker" to the net neutrality rules, along with other FCC policies that he claimed are "holding back investment, innovation, and job creation"—an assertion that is vigorously disputed by open internet advocates.Not surprisingly, one of Pai's first moves as Trump's newly-chosen FCC chief was to halt the agency's net neutrality inquiry into zero-rating, a controversial practice in which ISPs exempt certain services from data caps, effectively favoring those offerings at the expense of rivals. Open internet advocates say that zero-rating practices violate open internet principles by creating the kind of discriminatory online environment that the FCC's net neutrality policy was designed to prevent.Earlier this week, Trump signed a bill recently rammed through Congress by GOP lawmakers that eliminates FCC rules protecting consumers from broadband industry privacy abuses. This action, which was extremely unpopular across party lines, effectively gives ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon permission to track and sell private consumer data without user consent.Now, Pai is coming after net neutrality itself—and Trump supports him. "The president pledged to reverse this type of federal overreach," White House press secretary Sean Spicer reminded reporters last week. It's worth noting that Trump can't kill the FCC's policy by fiat from the Oval Office—the FCC is supposed to be an independent agency, after all—but it's clear that Pai is more than willing to oblige the president.
"Donald Trump is about to find out the hard way what happens when you mess with the internet."