Two years ago this February, the Federal Communications Commission re-classified internet services as a public utility, opening the door to regulation (but not federal taxation) and preventing companies from pulling bullshit like Comcast’s shakedown of Netflix for bandwidth access the year before. The move was a major victory for net neutrality advocates who feel that all data is created equal, and that governments and providers should not discriminate or charge consumers different prices based on a site or app’s content, platform, or purpose—for example, not charging more to access a streaming service over a news site.
Now, to our utter lack of surprise here at The A.V. Club, those gains are now in danger of being reversed, thanks to President Trump’s pick for the incoming head of the FCC. Ajit Pai, an outspoken critic of net neutrality, is reportedly Trump’s top pick to head the agency, according to a Washington Post story originating with an unverified report in Politico. Pai is one of two Republicans on the five-person FCC commission that regulates America’s communications infrastructure, and has consistently opposed pro-consumer regulations in the name of the free market. Along with “suggesting that he would steer the agency in a direction more favorable to big phone and cable companies,” as The Washington Post puts it, Pai also opposes privacy regulations that require ISPs to ask consumers’ permission before using their data, has criticized the “zero rating” report put forward earlier this month, and would likely approve more mergers between huge media and telecom companies as FCC chairman.
FCC commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for five-year terms. Pai’s last term ended on June 30, 2016, but agency rules allow him to continue to serve through 2017. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2012, and so could begin serving as FCC chairman immediately; however, he’d have to be re-confirmed this year to remain in his post. You can send his office an e-mail to let him know how you feel about net neutrality at this link, and find more resources on how to effectively annoy your reps about this and any other number of important issues here.