Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are waging war against consumer protections, and they’re winning. In 2017, ISPs successfully repealed federal net neutrality and state governments have been passing their own laws to protect consumers. So far only California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Maine have passed laws to replace net neutrality but ISPs have already sued all but Washington.
Maine’s new laws are the most aggressive against ISPs. Under Maine’s new laws, ISPs must disclose what data they collect from people and who they sell that data to. Consumers must also opt-in to give away their sensitive data as opposed to current inconvenient opt-out options. The new laws also eliminate many of the sulfurous fees that have reached an all-time high.
The latest lawsuit against Maine is trying to use the first amendment’s freedom of speech defense, claiming Maine’s law “imposes unprecedented and unduly burdensome restrictions on ISPs’ protected speech.”
But, most experts agree with FCC lawyer Gigi Sohn when she says “Big broadband is clearly trying untested First Amendment arguments in the hope that something sticks.”
Consumers are the Casualties
In the past, AT&T used a loophole in net neutrality laws to charge iPhone users a separate fee just to use the facetime app. This has been since repealed due to overwhelming negative feedback.
All wireless service providers engage in some type of speed throttling, where speeds are purposely reduced. Studies have shown apps like YouTube or Netflix are specifically targeted to encourage users to upgrade to more expensive plans.
Since net neutrality’s repeal, wireless providers have already promoted their own products like streaming services or partnered up with big platforms like Disney. This seemingly innocent maneuver also gives a huge advantage to big industry players killing off smaller competition.
There are countless examples of ISPs blocking services, messages, people, and apps before and even during net neutrality.
ISPs claim that having less regulation will enable them to innovate without bureaucracy holding them back. Unfortunately, that argument has been proven wrong so many times. In just the last couple years, the US government has granted ISPs hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks so they can improve infrastructure. To date, there has been very little improvement to existing infrastructure across all ISPs.
What Can We Do?
In all honesty, there isn’t much any individual person can do. Legislature is not a democratic process so the only thing people can do is contact their local senators and implore them to reinstate net neutrality on a federal level or encourage your state to pass local laws similar to net neutrality. Hopefully, with enough public outcry, ISPs will be forced to concede and be more consumer-friendly.