The soporific name is enough to induce apathy, but net neutrality is a topic that should concern everyone who believes in the open internet. Yesterday, visitors to major websites like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter saw messages about the future of the internet, with the much-reviled loading icon serving as a sort of mascot. It was all part of “net neutrality day of action,” a last-ditch effort to raise awareness and encourage comments to the Federal Communications Commission, which will decide the future of the issue.
In the simplest terms, net neutrality rules prohibit internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from blocking websites, slowing them down, or striking deals with companies to provide them with premium services.
Under Obama, the FCC reclassified internet access as a Title II telecommunications service and imposed strict net neutrality rules on internet service providers classifying them as utilities, which basically means that all internet content must be treated the same in the way it is delivered to broadband customers.
But new Federal Communications Commision Chairman Ajit Pai wants to roll back those rules, leaving ISPs to regulate themselves. Pai and his supporters argue that the regulation is slowing investment in broadband development, and that the reins need to be loosened to spur competition. There is some data that supports the idea that investment is slowing, but a recent USA Today study shows that blaming net neutrality rules for that situation is an oversimplification.
For media consumers, the loss of net neutrality could affect which websites they access and the speed with which those sites load, creating a have and have not dichotomy that would likely damage smaller publishers. The winners in this scenario would be major companies that could afford to strike deals with the ISPs, and, of course, the ISPs themselves. As Nilay Patel writes in an excellent and comprehensive overview of the issue for The Verge, “Rolling back Title II is a massive corporate handout that will line the pockets of Comcast and AT&T, while doing nothing for the average American.”
Below, more on the day of action and what’s next for net neutrality.
- Questions and answers: The Guardian’s Olivia Solon has a good overview of why the net neutrality protest matters.
- The Internet is Fucked (again): Patel’s column for The Verge is worth your time. It’s the best, most thorough explanation of the issue and its history that I’ve seen.
- Companies come together: The New York Times’s Cecilia Kang has screengrabs from around the internet showing the way various companies participated in the day of action.
- Infotainment: It may not be traditional journalism, but John Oliver does a better job than anyone at taking on net neutrality in an entertaining way.
- Time for a rebrand: Earlier this year, The Outline’s Andy Martino argued that net neutrality advocates need to figure out a better message.
Other notable stories
- Speaking of the internet, CJR columnist Trevor Timm says that getting President Trump blocked from Twitter would be a huge mistake. Meanwhile, I looked at a new lawsuit from the Knight First Amendment Institute that seeks to prevent Trump’s account from blocking users who disagree with him.
- In the latest effort by coastal media organizations to engage with Middle America, HuffPost staff members will be taking a seven-week bus tour through the country to “listen and learn.” Politico’s Hadas Gold has the story.
- After two months of granting interviews only to Fox News, President Trump spoke with Reuters’s Steve Holland and Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson. The president told Holland that he didn’t know about his son’s 2016 conversation with a Russian lawyer until recently, and that he didn’t fault Don Jr. for taking the meeting.
- Lydia Polgreen and co. aren’t the only ones on the road. The Wall Street Journal’s Reid J. Epstein and Deepa Seetharaman report on the conditions that regular Americans agree to when Mark Zuckerberg comes to visit.
- After allegations that Kevin Deutsch had fabricated sources in his book, Pill City, Newsday undertook an investigation into the 600 stories he had written for the outlet. Its review found “77 stories with 109 individuals from Deutsch’s reporting whom Newsday could not locate.” Deutsch responded on his blog, standing behind his reporting.
Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.