Whether the FCC should allow internet service providers (ISPs) to prioritize download speeds for certain websites has been a hotly contested issue ever since FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the department's plans to discontinue Obama-era regulations that help keep the net "neutral." These regulations were intended to ensure ISPs treat every website equally, whether it's a fan-fiction blog run by a 12-year-old, or a massive, omni-present social media conglomerate.
So who's glad these regulations are being removed? Internet service providers, who would love to charge customers more money for the same services — and exert more control over which websites are successful. Who's unhappy with the regulations being removed? Pretty much everyone else.
Many people question why Congress would even consider backing a change that's so hugely unpopular with voters. The most recent poll shows that roughly 52% of registered voters support net neutrality, while just 18% don't. While this statistic holds true on either side of the aisle, the Republican-controlled Congress has shown far more willingness to repeal the Obama-era regulations than their Democratic predecessors.
The Verge recently published a series of graphs and charts which outline exactly how much internet providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast donate to political campaigns. Spoiler alert: it's a LOT. Though they donate slightly more to Republicans, who have proven more willing to repeal regulations, internet providers pour millions and millions of dollars into Congress so they can exert influence over the legislative processes surrounding their industry.
Support for net neutrality has become part of the Democratic platform, while Republicans claim regulations stifle the free market industry of the internet. But ISPs don't care about political party. They spend huge amounts of money on both side of the aisle to try and buy influence wherever they can get it.
This isn't the first time net neutrality has been under attack since the Obama regulations were set in place. Last March, only a short while after Donald Trump took office, Congress voted to allow internet providers to sell customer data without permission. Not unlike net neutrality, these changes, though incredibly influential, often go unnoticed by the average voter. All 265 of the Congress people who voted to allow this change were Republicans, though ISPs donate anywhere they think it might be beneficial.
The FCC, controlled by Republicans, is set to vote on repealing net neutrality this Thursday, December 14. They are expected to pass the new measure, though many experts have lobbied Congress with pleas to cancel the vote. One group, which included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, sent a letter to Congress saying the new laws were based "on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology." So get excited for the future!