Assault on the Internet

Trump threatens net neutrality at the expense of users

Ending net neutrality is terrible news. This is what Donald Trump has set in motion through the United States Federal Communications Commission. There, last Thursday, the three representatives appointed by the Republicans voted against the two Democrats in favor of suppressing the legal boundaries that currently forbid internet providers from discriminating against content providers, favoring some at the expense of others.

The decision has generated an important controversy, since it entails a fundamental change in the way the internet has worked up until now and, undoubtedly, will give way to a great number of judicial disputes. Hence the public rejection of the decision by 21 of the creators and drivers of the internet, a rejection which became known yesterday.

Currently, internet service providers, which in many cases market their own content in those networks as well, cannot prioritize their products over those of their competitors by granting them a greater bandwidth, nor can they forbid companies or private individuals from accessing the internet for commercial, political, religious or moral reasons.

This practice — known as neutrality — is good for the user, who does not have to pay higher prices in order to access certain content with faster download speeds. From the viewpoint of competitors and innovation, it is positive as well, for the companies that are already on the market cannot block or discriminate against those who intend to enter it. It is furthermore beneficial for freedom of speech and democracy, since content cannot be blocked.

Two years ago, former President Barack Obama signed legislation preemptively in order to maintain this neutrality. And, since last year, the European Union has legislation guaranteeing it, although this has not prevented a great and worrisome business concentration — which competition law* will have to engage at some point — that has allowed the birth of new platforms and services which can be accessed regardless of the provider used.

This base democratic principle is the one that Trump is jeopardizing, acting, as is customary, in favor of the business interests of the few against the interests of citizens and consumers and above all, showing utter contempt toward the rest of the world. Given U.S. hegemony in the digital domain, his initiative — once more, one-sided — will not only erode free competition, innovation, and equal access to the internet in the U.S., but eventually in the rest of the world, which will be able to do very little against American companies’ dominance of the market.

Once more, Trump proves to be a president guided by a blind defense of business interests, even at the expense of most citizens.

*Editor’s note: Competition law is a law that promotes or seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies.

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