Can Cities Create Net Neutrality? The SF Plan

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Above Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

The Internet is no longer a luxury available to a select few. It is an essential tool for communication, education and community-building. It should be available and affordable to all San Franciscans, regardless of where they live or their economic status. To that end, it needs to be treated as a public utility.

Until the November election, the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates Internet service, agreed with this basic premise.

But elections have consequences. One of those consequences was the appointment of Ajit Pai as FCC chairman. Pai and his Republican allies in Congress are moving at record speeds to roll back existing consumer protections and privacy regulations.

First, Congress and the FCC collaborated to repeal broadband privacy rules. Now, Internet service providers can sell your personal data to the highest bidder. This outrageous move puts the interests of big business over those of everyday Americans.

Next on the chopping block is the FCC’s 2015 landmark net neutrality ruling. Internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&T are required to provide the same service for all consumers. This equal access policy is known as net neutrality, and enshrines an “open” Internet. The rules defining it were affirmed by a federal court.

Under the plan announced by the FCC, however, those who can afford top dollar — namely, big corporations — can prioritize their own content above that of small business, academia and individual users. This undermines the core democratizing principle of the Internet. Additionally, individuals could expect data cap charges that will add to their monthly bills. Providing tiered levels of service will harm innovation, stifle creativity and widen the digital divide.

Now, more than ever, cities across the country must stand up and fight for equity. For more than two years, we have been working diligently to design and deploy a citywide municipal fiber network that will offer more options than currently available and ensure all of San Francisco is connected to a fast and affordable Internet.

We are working to ensure that robust Internet service is available to children looking to educate themselves, small businesses trying to expand their reach, and seniors seeking to access city services. This project aims to close the digital divide for the 100,000 San Franciscans, including 1 in 7 San Francisco public schoolchildren, who lack Internet access at home. Private industry has been unable to meet this need.

We have been building support by meeting directly with the community about their priorities and values through San Franciscans for Municipal Fiber. We have enlisted the help of the brightest academic, business and privacy experts from around the country to answer key questions as we finalize this undertaking.

While the Trump administration seeks to dismantle the Internet as we know it, we have a plan. Now, it is time to execute. We need your help. Join us in supporting an open Internet.

 

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    At least Trump does us the service of pointing out all the poisoned vessels that need to be emptied. If Trump picks him, he’s toxic.