It looks like Wheeler will probably be stepping down from the FCC. How as a concerned citizen can we stop the large broadband companies from putting data caps and tiers on our internet service. We as Americans already pay more for megabyte than any other country in the world. What are some of the tools we have to encourage change in the right direction?
The nature of Networking and the Internet makes the practical concept of net neutrality nothing more than a buzzword. For one net neutrality would mean that a network could not protect its systems from attacks by shutting out certain bad actors since they would be entitled to a fair share of bandwidth on any network just as any normal actor. And a network needs to be able to take the steps to provide for its customers a service that is useful to them.
The best thing you can do to ensure no caps is to only purchase service from Vendors that offer quality unlimited service with a guarantee. Even if it cost more. And do everything you can to avoid providing any income to those companies that operate in a manner that is opposed to your beliefs. So for instance: if you are against Comcast but Comcast is the primary service provider for your area, and you choose to use an alternative cable internet provider you are still providing income to Comcast since they get Line fees and other charges. Instead choose service that uses an alternate delivery service that does not operate in a way that you are opposed to. Eventually when enough people do this then the companies that do perform well grow and provide better services. But if you keep rewarding bad actors because they are the best option, they keep doing what they are doing.
There's a simple way to protect it: start building support to pass laws through Congress.
One of the problems with Net Neutrality as it exists now, is that it was a hallmark of the Obama presidency to repurpose existing laws and regulatory bodies to achieve things through regulation. It could very well be that Ajit Pai is simply repealing them because he disagreed with how it was done. Remember, even Tom Wheeler initially balked at doing it through Title II.
The funny thing here is that there's some growing consensus that some regulations would be OK (strangest of all from AT&T itself). But Title II has two problems
- There's no limiting principle inherent in Title II. The FCC can ostensibly write any regulations it likes and, while courts would strike some of them down, that becomes a costly and time consuming proposition. Those costs will be passed on to consumers.
- FCC regulations can be overturned fairly easily
So how could legislation succeed here?
- Identify the parts of Title II that people want to keep. I find most people couldn't tell you what this involves beyond "Don't block Google" (seriously, this seems to be the top argument for it right now, despite the fact that such moves have not happened to Google). Net Neutrality needs a coherent set of goals (and goals that are not built around bad things that might happen)
- Build a consensus around the goals. The FCC moves side stepped this part of the process.
At this point, people get cynical about Congress, but it's worth noting that Congress can, and does, still pass laws (i.e. meaningful patent reforms have been passed). Meaningful laws would be the best way to go.