As the Trump administration wages war on "net neutrality," we regular consumers should be scared, very scared -- even if we've never heard the term before. As State Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, I don't mind saying that I'm scared too.
Just last week, at MIT, Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, joined an expert panel convened by Massachusetts' U.S. Senator Ed Markey. Mr. Berners-Lee and Senator Markey used the evening to spread the alarm nationwide. Here in Massachusetts, as a member of a special State Senate body charged with preserving the equal-access Internet for our state, I've been hard at work on the issue, too.
Today we take it for granted that Verizon, Comcast, RCN and other "Internet service providers" will allow us to call up, at will, pretty much every website and every service. We don't appreciate that such even-handedness is required by federal regulation.
The new rules, promulgated by the Trump-era
Federal Communications Commission
, will do away with equal access, leaving ISPs free to create "fast lanes" for certain sites and "slow lanes" for others. "No lanes" are an option, too, meaning that Verizon will be legally free to black out CNN or the New York Times -- or your little startup -- or your feisty independent online publication -- unless the site meets Verizon's terms or the consumer pays more.
In a recent State Senate hearing, I challenged the ISPs to disclose what they will do with their new powers if the FCC finalizes the arrangement. None will admit to having any plans to change anything at all. To which I say, "Well, then, support the State Senate bill to bar any alteration of the free-access Internet." Ominously, this they decline to do.
Stay tuned and stay vigilant. I promise you that I will.