US President Donald Trump has always professed a dislike for net neutrality laws, which were strengthened by the previous administration of Barack Obama.
The purpose of net neutrality rules is to make the internet fairer. It’s supposed to make all web traffic equal, so that a small website has the same chance as a big company’s website of being delivered to the end user.
While it’s beyond the scope of this article to dive into the technicalities of net neutrality and how it actually works in practice, it seems like a fairly good idea, in principle.
Which is probably why there has been so much confusion and exasperation about the Trump administration’s antagonistic stance on the issue.
People may have thought if anything, subsequent administrations would have wanted to strengthen net neutrality rules rather than weaken them – which is apparently what Trump wants to do.
He has appointed a vehement anti-net neutrality chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pay, who has actually made it a priority to make net neutrality more or less meaningless.
If he and Trump succeed, it will probably mean that only large companies with big budgets will get their websites seen by web surfers, with smaller websites hardly getting any bandwidth.
Trump’s anti-neutrality stance does have its supporters – his Republican Party colleagues are mostly with him.
They claim it’s not that they’re against the rules necessarily – the White House says net neutrality can actually be helpful – but the Obama administration “went about this the wrong way”.
As quoted in the Washington Post, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said: “We support the FCC chair’s efforts to review and consider rolling back these rules, and believe that the best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty.”
And there are also voices of support for Trump in the media.
TheFederalist.com says net neutrality supporters are wrong to issue slogans such as, “Free speech can only exist if the net remains neutral”.
The website says: “Aside from being hypocritical and insufferably self-righteous, these claims are also irrelevant to the actual issue of net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to turn Internet service providers into regulated utilities, which the Trump administration has just reversed, was never about stopping them from controlling content.
“It’s actually about money. It’s about who pays for all of that bandwidth we’re using. To be more specific, it’s about trying to make certain unpopular companies (like Comcast) pay for it, so that other, more popular companies (like Netflix) don’t have to.”
But tech giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix and others are part of a pressure group that is trying to preserve net neutrality.
What this actually says about net neutrality rules is anyone’s guess – it may come down to actually having to look at the existing regulations yourself and seeing what changes the Trump administration wants to make.
But Reuters reports that many big tech firms have formed a group to express their opposition to the Trump administration’s idea of creating paid-for “fast lanes” through which big companies can ensure getting their website to the end user first.
The Internet Association – as the group of tech companies is calling itself – filed a paper with the FCC saying dismantling net neutrality rules “will create significant uncertainty in the market and upset the careful balance that has led to the current virtuous circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem”.
The news agency adds that the big telecommunications providers which had wanted net neutrality rules to be changed are claiming that they will ensure that no one gets treated unfairly even when they’re paid higher rates to ensure some companies’ data has priority over others’ on its networks.