Cartoon of girl black/white on one side and on color on a computer surrounded by technical symbols

So far, the Trump administration has been every bit the worst case scenario we feared. And while some of the agendas of his underlings have been thwarted by just how outlandishly villainous they are, others are more likely to slip under the radar of the average American. One of the latter is the very idea of an open internet.

Under President Barack Obama’s FCC, the internet was ruled to be a public utility, in recognition of the importance it plays in the lives of everyone from Netflix bingers to homeless people using smartphones to look for work. This let the FCC regulate internet service providers, and they used that to put in place privacy protections and maintain net neutrality – the principle that all internet traffic, no matter if you’re visiting Facebook or your friend’s obscure blog, must be given the same access.

Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has already dismantled our privacy protections, letting our ISPs spy on us so they can sell our data for even more profit. Now he’s looking to kill net neutrality. Get ready for your favorite sites to be held ransom, throttled unless you (or they) pay a premium.

That’s the really ugly thing about it: This isn’t fixing a problem, it’s creating a new one for profit. In order to make their preferred sites and services “fast,” they would be slowing down everything else.

And there’s nothing to stop ISPs from using this to stifle or promote political views. They can give Fox News a priority connection and slow The Guardian to a crawl. Look at what Sinclair Broadcast Group has done to Columbus TV news and ask yourself if you want Time Warner – the ISP so hated they had to change their name to Spectrum – deciding what political views you can and can’t access.

ISPs claim this will help “innovation,” but the only thing it’ll help them innovate is new ways to drain money from a population already struggling with student debt and a stagnating minimum wage. It’s just another way to funnel more money to the top. We’ve seen this kind of thing before. That profit never goes into innovation. It goes into the offshore accounts of the rich.

We’re lucky here in Columbus to actually have a choice of high speed ISPs, though Spectrum uses aggressive tactics like exclusivity contracts with property managers to stifle that as much as possible. Most of the country is under one monopoly or another. And while there’s always the possibility of a company offering net neutrality and privacy as features, your average person doesn’t care enough to support it.

We need to care. We need to care not just for our Netflix streams and our torrents, but because our democracy is at stake. We’ve seen what cable news has done to this country. Letting our internet service providers – all large corporations – have any control over what the American public sees and does on the internet would be catastrophic.

For more information on this fight and what you can do, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation at

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