No one owns the internet. It is, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it Wednesday, “a public good.”
Yet Federal Communications Commission rules that are scheduled to take effect June 11 treat the internet as the property of companies that provide access to it. Some of those internet service providers, including Comcast, Time-Warner and Verizon, are among the largest and wealthiest companies in America. Many have subsidiaries or affiliated companies that also produce vast amounts of programming, putting them in position to control internet access and download speeds in ways that enhance the value of their own products.
Wednesday the Senate voted 52-47, with all Democrats and three Republicans in the majority, to kill the FCC rule favoring a handful of large corporations and restore, as law, “net neutrality” as the internet’s governing principle.
Net neutrality, under which the internet has operated since its inception, ensures that there is no favoritism in internet access. The concept is more important now than ever, because the internet has become a fundamental economic driver rather than an entertainment portal. Now, equal access means equal access to the tools of economic opportunity.
Congress should kill the FCC rule. If it does not do so, net neutrality proponents should ensure that it is a major campaign issue in every district where an incumbent congressman has voted to turn over the public good to narrow interests for their profit.