What Net Neutrality Means for the World
To the extent that Internet Access is a human right, this decision is an International disaster. And a major diminution of the role the US plays in International affairs. There were times when the US would argue strongly for human rights around the world and would back that up with action. There were also times when the US had what Senator George Mitchell in 1997 called the moral suasion to press these arguments.
In the 1990’s Mitchel was Bill Clinton’s negotiator who ended the “troubles” in Ireland. He gave a talk that expressed the term and noted that we were at the time the only country in history whose army was welcomed on foreign soil (usually that is a sign of aggression). In his work, he had no authority other than that suasion to get the parties in Ireland and England to even sit at the same table much less enforce any agreement. My point is that this kind of International respect is what drives solutions and ends wars rather than starts them.
In the US, we have now sacrificed that respect on the altar of big business. The FCC and by extension the US as a whole now believes that the right to try “economic innovation” — new billing plans initiated by Internet providers — trumps the rights of the people to unfettered access to anything on the net. In China the government defines rights, in the US it is now businesses that do so.
It’s a small step for emerging nations whose telecoms are often government-run taxing agencies to read this as license to restrict what their citizens can say and hear and see. And to avoid the issue of rights altogether.
US scientists created the Internet as an engine of freedom and equality. No longer do we retain the moral suasion to make any statement about human rights without this decision being slapped back in our face (along with some other comments about torture…)
Agit Pai did not address our place in the world directly and potentially did not consider that we were once a beacon for what that world could be. The FCC used to be more than perfunctory television and telephone regulator, it was a model for localism, social responsibility, and fairly done economic development. That model is now gone. And with it goes yet another venue for respect for America’s arguments for the rights of people everywhere.