The internet is quite popular these days, but companies such as AT&T and Comcast that provide internet service are not. That’s one reason why Democrats are betting that voters will punish Republicans in the next election for scrapping rules designed to stop internet providers from harvesting personal information without permission and manipulating how easily users can access certain parts of the web.
The threat of voter disapproval was not enough to thwart the legislation repealing online privacy rules that the Republican majority recently rushed through Congress with party-line votes. Democrats hammered their Republican colleagues for selling out their constituents’ personal information to big business, a charge that could come back to haunt the GOP now that a looming fight over net neutrality at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) promises to keep the broadband lobby in the media spotlight.
“I think there was a great political education that just took place after the privacy vote was cast,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) told reporters on Wednesday.
A few hours later, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to dismantle his commission’s authority to enforce net neutrality rules. The rules prevent internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T from blocking or slowing access to web content, or providing priority speeds to web services like Netflix in exchange for special payments. It also bars sweetheart deals with wealthy media conglomerates, ensuring that the corporate media does not dominate the web.
To enforce these rules, the FCC voted in 2015 to classify ISPs as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act, allowing the government to regulate the internet more like a public utility that everyone needs to use. ISPs have been trying to sue and lobby their way out from under the classification ever since.
Net Neutrality on the Chopping Block
Pai, who was once a lawyer for Verizon, consistently promoted the industry’s positions on net…