How President Trump Could Destroy Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Donald Trump’s presidential election victory could have dire consequences for U.S. internet freedom and openness, according to several tech policy experts and public interest advocates surveyed by Motherboard on Wednesday. The Republican billionaire will likely seek to roll back hard-won consumer protections safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible, as well as a host of other policies designed to protect consumers, ensure internet freedom, and promote broadband access, these experts and advocates said. In the wake of Trump’s election victory, FCC Chairman Wheeler is likely to step down before the billionaire reality TV star is inaugurated in January. Incoming presidents traditionally have the prerogative to select the leader of FCC, which has broad regulatory power over the nation’s cable, phone and satellite companies. It’s unclear whom Trump might nominate to lead the FCC, but Ajit Pai, the Kansas-born Republican FCC commissioner and former Verizon lawyer, is likely to be a contender. Trump has tapped Jeffrey Eisenach, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, to lead his telecom policy transition team, according to Politico. Eisenach is a well-known figure in right-wing telecommunications policy circles, with a reputation as a “crusader against regulation.” One immediate consequence of Trump’s election is a dimmer outlook for ATT’s proposed $85 billion buyout of entertainment giant Time Warner. Last month, Trump vowed to block the deal, warning that it would result in “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Trump’s ignorance about tech and telecom policy was on full display throughout the election season. For example, Trump blithely compared net neutrality to the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine, a bizarre and ignorant assertion for which he was roundly mocked. The Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated decades ago, required media outlets to afford a “reasonable opportunity” for the airing of opposing views on major issues. Net neutrality has nothing to do with the Fairness Doctrine, but rather ensures that consumers have open, unfettered access to the internet. Net neutrality can’t be torpedoed overnight. The FCC rules prohibiting online fast lanes and discriminatory broadband practices are now U.S. policy, and they can’t be dismantled at the whim of an authoritarian president. But a Trump-backed, Republican-led FCC could simply stop enforcing the net neutrality policy, rendering it essentially toothless. That could unleash the nation’s largest cable and phone companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to expand controversial practices like “zero-rating” that are designed to circumvent net neutrality.

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