Think about the websites you visit. The movies you stream. The music you listen to online. The animal videos that are just too cute not to share.
Now think about the freedom to use the Internet however and whenever you choose being taken away from you. That’s exactly what Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are trying to do.
Right now, those companies are constrained by a principle called net neutrality—the so-called “guiding principle of the Internet.” It’s the idea that people should be free to access all the content available online without ISPs dictating how, when, and where that content can be accessed.
In other words, net neutrality holds that the company you pay for Internet access can’t control what you do online.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission adopted strong net neutrality rules that banned ISPs from slowing down connection speeds to competing services—e.g., Comcast can’t slow down content or applications specific to Verizon because it wants you to switch to their services—or blocking websites in an effort to charge individuals or companies more for services they’re already paying for.
But now the open Internet as we know it is under threat again. Net neutrality rules are in danger of being overturned by Donald Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai and broadband companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
But these corporations aren’t doing this alone. They’re getting help from at least eight handpicked members of Congress, all Republicans (Paul Ryan being the most notable), who’ve signed statements of support for overturning the neutrality rules.
Why? All we need to do is follow the money.
These eight lawmakers have all received significant campaign contributions from these corporations. That means the big broadband corporations and their special interest groups are attempting—and succeeding—to influence policymakers’ decisions on rules that affect us all.
The fun doesn’t stop there.
Ajit Pai—the FCC chairman bent on overturning net neutrality—is a former lawyer for Verizon, one of the very companies petitioning to have the rules changed. Lately Pai has been citing an academic paper arguing that the FCC “eschewed economics and embraced populism as [its] guiding principle” in making decisions on issues like net neutrality.
The catch? This paper wasn’t written by independent experts. It was funded and commissioned by CALinnovates, a telecommunications industry trade group. Their biggest member? None other than AT&T, which stands to benefit a lot if these rules are overturned.
This is just one example of “information laundering,” in which corporate-commissioned research is being used to further corporate agendas. It’s just another way corporations are using their money and influence to lobby members of Congress.
During a recent day of action, major websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google stood up in defense of net neutrality by using pop-up ads, GIFs, and videos to inform the public of the issue and ask them to tell the FCC to “preserve the open Internet.”
You too can fight back against corporate influence by calling the FCC and telling them you won’t give up your right to use the Internet the way you want.
Razan Azzarkani is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.