by Devin Coldewey
May 30, 2017
Net neutrality is viewed by many as a bright spot in the otherwise rather dim and confused tech policies of the United States, and its enemies are subject to the harshest disdain. How, many ask, could anyone oppose such a simple, common-sense measure, except out of ignorance, avarice or both?
In fact, the maneuvers we see playing out today are part of a complex dance of dispute that has been going on for quite a long time — longer than you might think. All the same, we have arrived at a tipping point for the internet as a whole, and crowding the fulcrum of the balance of power are two agencies: the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. These organizations, so reliably effective and reliably banal, after toiling in the background for decades, have suddenly become visible at the forefront of a conflict that may change the nature of the premier tool of the digital age.
In order to understand what’s happening to the internet today and how we can keep it free and open in the future, we have to consult its past.
It’s remarkably hard, however, to find that past in a single narrative thread, with a minimum of legal and technical jargon. That’s what I’ve tried to create with this series, Commission Impossible. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.