Corporatocracy: Net Neutrality and Corporate America’s Crusade Against Free Speech

Recent decisions surrounding net neutrality have sent the public into a state of panic, some of it exaggerated, but ultimately not without reason. Net neutrality allows the internet to be an open marketplace of ideas over which internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon or Time Warner have little control. On Thursday, December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the independent government agency tasked with the regulation of interstate communication, voted on the controversial decision to repeal the Obama-era policy of Net Neutrality, which forced internet service providers such as Verizon or AT&T to treat all data on the web equally.

What this means is that the internet will be run in a manner similar to a utility-like telephone service. Scrapping net neutrality effectively gives ISPs the power to charge for additional content and higher-quality, faster service as well as to block and censor certain websites. The repeal of policies that protect net neutrality in the face of wide consumer opposition is a clear sign of the power of corporate interests in the government.

Proponents of the repeal, like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, claim that giving ISPs more control over the internet would act as a remedy to the self-serving censorship promoted by companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

In a recent speech Pai stated, “When it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate,” referring to the rise in suppression of tweets, particularly from both conservative and libertarian accounts.

I am a free speech absolutist, believing that freedom of speech is essential to a free society, and thus am entirely against the suppression of any speech provided it does not consist of libel, slander, or direct threats of violence. However, I believe that the logic of those supporting the repeal is critically flawed on this issue.

This flaw is exposed by a quick look at those who will benefit from the policy. Many recent instances of online censorship have come from large corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. The repeal of net neutrality will allow ISPs to implement methods such as internet “fast lanes” which provide quicker service and easier access to those willing–and able– to pay; most notably large companies. Since ISPs value profit above all else, they will gladly allow these companies to gain and keep unchallenged control over the internet. Meanwhile, smaller independent startups will be left unable to pay and unable to grow. Such problems will extend to the media, with well-off parent companies given more opportunities to promote mainstream networks such as Fox News, NBC, ABC, and CNN, crushing independent media and allowing corporate-sponsored investigative journalism to run rampant. Thus, Americans will be left to the mercy of big business, blind to any issues deemed unfit for our eyes.

Furthermore, I believe that the scrapping of net neutrality represents a submission to the will of corporatocracy– a society or system that is governed or controlled by corporations– rather than that of the people. It will ultimately further ensnare the internet, which should be a free and open marketplace of ideas. If any good can come of this, it may be that this issue provides a rare unifying link for liberals and conservatives in the country, as suppression of free speech is a negative concept for the people in both parties.

Ultimately, the repeal of net neutrality will only line the pockets of the elite.