There is usually resistance towards anything the ruling party does in the US, but net neutrality is proving to be a very bad smell for the Republicans as the Writers Guild of America West and small businesses join the push back.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has erased the rules and is now moving onto the classification of telcos as common utilities to kill off any return route, but that has not prevented a horde of legal cases. The Attorney Generals of 23 jurisdictions are making a nuisance of themselves, so are the internet companies with their own lawsuits, but we can’t imagine Pai suspected comedy and documentary writers would sign-up.
The Writers Guild of America West are the latest to adorn the chainmail, joining various advocacy organizations to file an intervenor brief to reinstate net neutrality:
“Last year, the Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Pai repealed open Internet protections, leaving powerful Internet providers free to decide what content reaches viewers and how, harming content creators and consumers alike,” a statement reads.
“The decision to abandon those protections, which had been overwhelmingly supported by the public and upheld in court, was factually and legally unsound. The Writers Guild of America West has joined fellow intervenors in filing a brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the FCC’s abdication of its responsibilities to protect competition and ensure a free and open Internet.”
While these group might not be the biggest heavyweights in the technology lobby, they can be public figures. The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labour union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and internet programming; some of its members will have a notable presence and an emotional link to the general public. This is an opportunity for the opposition to whip the general public into a frenzy.
During the first days of the net neutrality annihilation, Pai’s opposition did an excellent job in rallying the general public in support of the rules. The FCC’s website was flooded with public comments, the original some were very dubious, as the removal of the rules was perceived as the end of days. Pai and his cronies did well to negate much of the negative PR generated through the chapter, but another resurgence of public support for net neutrality would not a welcome turn of events for the Republicans.
Elsewhere, research commissioned by insureon states the majority of small businesses are worried about the impact of net neutrality on their prospects. 48% of small business owners were not aware that the FCC repealed net neutrality, while of those who were aware, 63% were against the FCC’s moves.
The concern here is about preferential conditions for websites, as the removal of the rules opens up a pay-to-play environment for the speed at which websites can be loaded. 76% think the repeal could give big corporations an unfair advantage online, while 77% worry that they may not be able to afford to pay higher prices for faster loading times on their website. Website loading times might sound like a first world problem, but it will significantly impact customer experience and also website ranking results on search engines. The risk is online businesses could be held to ransom.
Again, these are not organizations which will swing the heaviest of punches in the lobby game, but there is a PR risk. Small businesses are supposedly the ‘backbone’ of the US economy, or so say shallow politicians chasing the lime light. Whether this attitude prevails under the pressure of campaign funding from multi-national corporations is suspect, though removing the rules which offer protections to the ‘backbone’ of the US economy from the money-grabbing telcos could be a disaster.
The net neutrality supporters in the US need a win in the legal system, and whipping up a public euphoria of support might well just be the momentum needed. While the resistance has been vocal and active, it has not slowed Pai’s gradual march towards net neutrality eradication. New ideas are needed.