A little over a year ago, the Federal Communications Commission seemed like an evil cabal of cronies, threatening to ruin the US as we know it. Today, the agency is making decisions to help securing the future of the internet, giving broadband to poor people, and banning robocalls. Isn’t this a pleasant surprise.
It’s easy to get pissed off at powerful, bureaucratic government agencies, and people got pissed indeed last year when the FCC passed open internet rules that would’ve wrecked net neutrality as we know it. At the time, my fellow Gizmodo writers and I wrote pretty fiercely about how the agency must think we’re all idiots, and we weren’t the only ones. The public comment process turned out to be record-breaking, with more than 4 million people weighing in on how much the FCC was fucking up.
This is where it gets crazy: The FCC actually listened.
After many months and a pretty assertive intervention from President Obama, the agency passed new open internet rules and declared the internet should be treated as a public utility, following the advice of many smart internet experts. It sent a strong message that big telecom companies no longer got free reign over our internet service, and that needed to happen because the Comcasts and Verizons of the world haven’t missed an opportunity to indicate that they care more about their bottom line than their customers—a dangerous situation when the telecom business effectively runs like a natural monopoly.
The fun doesn’t stop there. On Thursday the FCC moved forward with a plan that would offer subsidies so that poor Americans could get broadband access. That’s probably as close as we’ll come to declaring internet access a human right here in the States. It’s also a strong indication that agency is committed to the public good despite the fact that so many of its commissioners—including Chairman Tom Wheeler—have close ties with big telecom.
Oh, and as a bonus, the FCC also cracked down on robocalls and spam texts. That’s great! Those are the worst.
There’s reason to be optimistic. As I’ve said before, America’s internet is shitty and slow for myriad, complicated reasons, but this year, the FCC has addressed some of those head on.
The agency is redefining broadband to bring Americans, especially those in rural areas, faster speeds. It also overruled state laws blocking municipal broadband projects, an act that ensures more cities can offer its citizens blazingly fast internet. Did you know that Chattanooga, Tennessee has the fastest internet in the country, and the city sells service directly to consumers for just $70 a month? Just imagine if all cities made that kind of commitment to improving internet access.
Apparently the chorus of concerned citizens yelling at the FCC worked. In fact, the agency’s kicking ass right now. Let’s hope it keeps it up.
Image via Getty