On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved by a vote of 3-2 to advance a proposal that could change the Internet as we know it. The plan could potentially make it easier for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to create "fast lanes," or priority access for companies willing to pay, if such a deal is deemed “commercially reasonable.”
During the hearing, commissioner Ajit Pai spoke against Chairman Wheeler’s plan and stated that the regulation (or deregulation) of the Internet should be something that’s decided by Congress. It’s a noble sentiment. Unfortunately, our legislature—unlike the diverse Commission—is comprised mostly of old white men who, we suspect, know very little about the Internet and how it works.
There is, of course, at least one exception (though he’s still notably white, male, and not young): United States Senator Al Franken. Moments after the FCC’s vote, Franken released a statement condemning the decision.
“Anyone who values a free and open Internet should be deeply troubled by the FCC’s vote, and I plan to do everything I can to convince them that they need to change course.”
We imagine that includes explaining to his fellow legislators just what exactly the Internet is. He told Time Magazine earlier this week ““We literally have members of Congress—I’ve heard members of the House—say, ‘We’ve had all this innovation on the Internet without net neutrality. Why do we need it now?”
At the end of the day, Congress has little say on the future of the Internet. It’s squarely on the FCC to determine appropriate regulations.
The best Senator Franken can do is urge bureaucratic institutions like the FCC and the Department of Justice to value consumer choice over broadband carrier profits and strike down monopolistic activity like the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger. And despite Wheeler’s claims that he “understands this issue in [his] bones,” today’s vote makes us think that he fully doesn’t grasp—or worse, care—what happens to the consumer.
Andy is a graphics editor and cartoonist at Fusion.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.