As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to vote on the future of net neutrality in the U.S. on Thursday, it turns out a vast majority of the country doesn’t want them to repeal the rules that are in place.
It’s almost certain that the FCC will repeal the regulations, as Republican nominees dominate its leadership, but a whopping 83% of people surveyed by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy said they were against the move. And what’s more, the support for net neutrality is bipartisan.
Net neutrality is the principle that all online traffic should be treated equally. That means internet service providers can’t favor certain services over others on the basis of who’s willing to pay up, or try to offer people cut-down packages of services while raising the price of accessing the full internet.
The FCC moved to protect net neutrality a few years back by classifying broadband providers as “common carriers” that must serve anyone without discrimination. However, the new FCC chair is Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who has long opposed net neutrality. Pai wants to roll back that classification, and claims that doing so will restore “internet freedom.”
The cable companies like this idea. So do the equipment manufacturers that supply them, because higher prices for consumers may mean more money for investment in telecommunications networks.
However, the American people do not support the change. That 83% opposing the rollback includes 75% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats and 86% of independents, according to the survey.
“A decision to repeal net neutrality would be tacking against strong headwinds of public opinion blowing in the opposite direction,” said Steve Kull, director of the school’s Program for Public Consultation.
Many tech companies are also against the move, ranging from giants such as Netflix and Amazon to sites such as Reddit, Etsy and Kickstarter. Some argue that a net neutrality repeal would hurt entire sectors, such as video-based online education.
Thursday’s vote follows a public consultation in which millions of pro-repeal comments were likely faked by automated bots. New York state attorney Eric Schneiderman complained last month that many of the comments were made using people’s identities without their knowledge, and that the FCC was unwilling to help him investigate the identity theft.