The Internet as we know it did not end with FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s decision to repeal Obama’s net neutrality measure, but activists were crestfallen anyway. The debate online reached heated levels, complete with dramatic threats and suicide pacts on the part of the activists. Now, the US Senate has amassed enough sponsors to block the FCC’s decision. If this goes through, the matter of whether to make the FCC be the steward of net neutrality might be taken out of Ajit Pai’s hands.
Ajit Pai isn’t necessarily taking a stance that the Internet shouldn’t be free and accessible to everyone, but merely that the FCC isn’t the organization to oversee it, and that this political battle is being stated on false fronts in the first place. Activists have framed it as “big corporations vs. the people,” but it’s actually “access providers vs. content providers.” Social media websites have taken up arms in activist support of net neutrality, while telecom companies have protested it. For Ajit Pai’s part, he tried to lighten the mood with a humorous video just before Christmas where he tried to communicate his aims via popular Internet memes such as Star Wars references and the Harlem Shake dance, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
The actual policy that was set up for repeal is also widely misunderstood. Even reporters at Washington Post report the 2015 measure as having the effect of preventing Internet service providers from showing favorable traffic preferences based on websites or content. Surely, that was the eventual intent, but all that then-president Obama actually passed in 2015 was a reclassification of the Internet to fall under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This act was initially designed to moderate communication “by wire and radio.” At this point, the political system is beginning to show its strain in trying to keep up with the rate of technology progress.
Nevertheless, this ad-hoc solution is widely seen as a step better than no steps at all, so pro-net-neutrality activists are vowing to make support of Title II Internet moderation a campaign issue.