A Little History
In 2015, the FCC categorized the internet as a public utility – making sure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) respected the privacy of users and treated everyone with the same basic fairness. But President Trump, almost immediately after being inaugurated, directed the FCC to reverse that ruling – allowing ISPs to collect and sell our personal information as well as limit/change the internet content itself.
Basic Fairness vs. Corporate Power
With their recently passed House Bill, H.R.1644, or the Save the Internet Act of 2019, Democrats seek to restore basic fairness to internet communications by making telecommunication companies operate the internet just like the telephone service, as a utility, and to do so in the name of basic fairness.
Tom Reed has voiced support for the Republican alternative, H.R.1096, a bill that allows the telecommunication companies to do whatever they want — for their profit and benefit and against the privacy, fairness and affordable interests of consumers. My Irish mother used to warn me about people who cheat by cautioning me to watch out for them “trying to pull a fast one.” When my second-generation Italian father thought someone was trying to trick him, he would use the word “fleece.”
Tom Reed has a pattern. He uses words we all like to hear, such as “choice” and “freedom.” But he never explains for whom those qualities work. In this case, the “freedom” is for the telecommunication companies to do what they want regardless of whether it goes against the interests of consumers. As a result, telecommunication companies stand to make a windfall by increasing prices and selling our private data; I’m sure they’ll use some of that money to reward Tom Reed for his support through abundant campaign donations so he can keep voting their interests.
Net Neutrality and Rural Broadband: A Bi-Partisan Issue
Both of my parents were Republicans. For them, that meant a respect for really hard work, for people who started out poor to have a chance to succeed, and for everyone else to work as hard as they did to have a decent middle class life. What Tom Reed represents as a Republican is not what they were all about.
We all have to think critically about what our communities need and want from the internet, and ask ourselves seriously whether the bill Tom Reed supports will help or will hinder us from getting it: accessibility, fairness, and affordability while protecting your right to privacy.