Your Internet Access Under Trump - Part 2
Where Do We Go from Here?
The rollback of net neutrality has met with serious opposition, with 83 percent of Americans who are opposed to ending net neutrality.
Congress have discussed legislation that would overrule the FCC and assure net neutrality. The move is led by Democrats, and it's not sure that they have the numbers to pass such legislation, but the extreme unpopularity of the new rules could lead Republicans to buck party policy in an election year. The challenge has also gone to court, with 22 State Attorneys-General filing a lawsuit challenging the move away from Net Neutrality.
The fight to preserve the neutrality of the net is just beginning and concerned consumers should pay close attention to new developments and make their preferences clear to their elected representatives.
Cutting the Lifeline
Many low-income Americans may not even notice the loss of net neutrality because they won't be online at all. Another target of Trump's FCC is the Lifeline Program, which was initiated in 1985 to provide poor communities and homes on Native American Tribal Lands with subsidized telephone and internet access. Americans who receive Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, or Federal Public Housing Assistance, along with several Native American-specific programs, are automatically eligible.
Lifeline services provide poor Americans, especially those in rural areas, with vital connections to jobs, family, and life-saving emergency services.
Lifeline is now under threat from Trump's FCC, led by long-time program critic Ajit Pai. In Nov. 2017, the FCC voted to begin scaling back Lifeline by reducing benefits available to Tribal communities. Further reductions, aimed at severely curtailing the scope and coverage of the program, are under discussion.
If you are a Lifeline user, if you are among the many Americans eligible for the program but not currently using it, or if you simply care about communication access for the poor, these cuts should be a matter of grave concern.
In April 2017, President Trump signed a bill repealing internet privacy rules passed last year by the FCC that would have given Americans greater control over what service providers can do with their data. The new law overturned FCC regulations would have required broadband companies to get permission from their customers to use their “sensitive” data, including browsing history, geolocation and financial and medical information, to create targeted advertisements. The bill utilized a little-known tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that lets Congress and the president overturn specific agency regulations.
The Bottom Line
Internet policy is a serious issue that affects nearly every American. It's also an issue that allows the government to act quickly and with minimal debate or public input because most moves are initiated by the FCC, rather than by the legislature. The FCC moves faster (and with less debate and discussion than Congress) so changes can happen fast and with limited opposition. If you are worried about how the recent moves by the FCC will affect your internet access and your online privacy, you'll need to stay informed, pay close attention to new developments, and make your opinion known to your representatives. An informed base of citizens is the best assurance of free and accessible internet!