Over the past two months, millions of people have taken to the streets to challenge our nation’s authoritarian new president.
From the women’s marches that took place across the country and around the world to the mass protests against the Muslim ban and immigration raids, people are resisting the neo-fascist agenda President Trump is unleashing on our nation.
A primary reason why millions have been able to mobilize so quickly is because they have the ability to use the open internet to communicate to the masses and organize a resistance.
That’s why protecting the Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet open is more critical than ever. As authoritarianism rises, digital free speech can ensure our opposition to authoritarianism also rises.
But unfettered access to an open internet, and our ability to flex our digital muscles to advocate for the health and well being of our communities, could soon come to an end.
In January, Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In so doing he found someone who shares his disdain for popular democracy, privacy rights, the truth and the poor. And it appears his disdain also extends to the press.
During a congressional oversight hearing last week, Pai refused to answer questions from senators about whether he agrees with Trump’s claims that the media is the “enemy of the American people.”
In addition, Pai’s record at the FCC, where he’s served since 2012, demonstrates a legacy of attempting to harm communities of color. During his tenure, he’s vigorously opposed rules the agency adopted to protect the rights of internet users. He voted against:
- Adopting Net Neutrality rules that forbid ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from discriminating against different kinds of internet traffic.
- Expanding the FCC’s Lifeline program to address the digital divide by subsidizing broadband service for more families with low incomes.
- Requiring broadband providers to protect their customers’ privacy rights.
- Reining in the predatory rates phone companies charge families for calling their incarcerated loved ones.
The cable and telecom industry spent millions lobbying to kill all of these policies. Pai voted with that industry. But racial justice and public interest groups fought back and successfully pressured the FCC to adopt rules that empower internet users, especially people of color.
Now, just a few weeks into his chairmanship, Pai’s taken action to undermine Net Neutrality and dismantle Lifeline. And he’s ordered FCC lawyers to no longer defend in court the rules regulating prison-phone rates for intrastate calls.
Read the full piece at Freepress.