In recent news Net Neutrality has come to the foreground as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) look to alter the free nature of Internet service provision and thus dismantle the democratic framework that it was founded upon. Net neutrality is the principle that ensures Internet service providers treat all of its traffic amongst its users equally. Now, FCC regulation changes aim to challenge the legal structure that abides to providing equal Internet service to all its customers. This news poses a severe threat to small corporations who depend on the Internet as it aims to divide the quality of Internet provision by capital assessment and means testing. Essentially, corporations who can afford the fees set by the Internet service providers (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T) will be entitled to a faster Internet service. The threat this poses to smaller corporations is significant as access to their online content is at risk of being slowed or even blocked. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, has spoken out in favour of net neutrality saying that, “being able to connect freely and equally to the Internet is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.”

The FCC, who are responsible for regulating the Internet service providers, have suggested implementing a sort of ‘pay-to-play’ agenda. Wealthy service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will be in the position where they can dictate their Internet provision based on who pays the biggest fee. What we would see is a complete shift from a ‘free’ Internet, towards an exploitative agenda that benefits the wealthier contributors. This regulation change would be inherently bias toward large corporations and would challenge smaller companies who wouldn’t be able afford the fastest Internet service provision. Comcast, one of the world’s largest Internet service providers, will have a monopoly on Internet provision, as there are only a select few of significant global Internet providers. Internet service globally does not lend itself to a particularly competitive market and thus FCC regulation change would benefit hugely the monopoly of Internet providers.

This regulation change will indirectly enable the large corporate service providers to control web access and availability to online content. This unsurprisingly has sparked huge debate over whether or not these Internet providers will block or slow down Internet content to those companies who cant afford the higher fees.  The question that needs to be addressed here is what does this say about the nature of our ‘free press’ and if this regulation change a step toward an authoritarian version of a controlled media network? This regulation change can broadly be regarded as what Marx refers to as a failure of Capitalism. The knock on affect FCC changes to net neutrality will have on start-up and small business will be catastrophic. The Internet will be re-shaped into a network based around capital accumulation, which will ignore the needs and capabilities of the smaller corporate business ideals.

Greenpeace has spoken out recently against the FCC regulation changes to the Internet, stating how without a ‘free’ transfer of information and communication over the Internet their green agenda will quickly become redundant and the idea of having a positive impact on the environment will be implausible. Greenpeace entirely relies on the Internet to promote, uncover and change the environmental issues we all face on a global scale today. What Greenpeace fear is that their task of preserving the environment will be made even harder as the wealthy energy companies such as Shell will have the available funds in order to promote sustainable energy schemes of their own, facilitated by new ‘fast-line’ internet access. Alternatively the access to Greenpeace environmental discoveries and research will not have the same level of access or online promotion. Greenpeace is a company who is constantly challenging these large corporate energy companies who exploit the environment. Without equal Internet rights Greenpeace face a struggle when it comes to exposing these companies and their exploitative nature.  Large Internet companies like Facebook Inc, Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc have all shared in Greenpeace’s fear that this type of internet would be inherently unfair and that, “the regulation change would be a grave threat to the internet”.

In David Pomerantz’ Greenpeace blog he identifies how if there was a pay-to-play Internet scheme adopted by the FCC, Greenpeace would almost without question capitulate as its online access would be severely reduced. As a result Greenpeace would not be able to compete financially to the inflated demands offered by the service providers.

Greenpeace to date is the world’s largest company who actively fight and campaign to saving the environment. They are an organization passionate about protecting the Earth and its fragile nature. In order for Greenpeace to successfully tackle their environmentalist agendas they rely hugely on the Internet as it allows them to communicate to people on a global scale and rally support for various peace keeping and environmentalist schemes. Greenpeace is a company who survives by this form of global communication and as the threat of Internet service provision change looms, Greenpeace prepare to fight for access to equal Internet provision. To follow up on point made by Berners-Lee, the free Internet is now very much apart of our society. By changing this notion we will surely have to face significant repercussions that will occur as our society is re-shaped around this type of capitalist driven Internet. Surely this latest Internet debate will also highlight how the free-press is being challenged.  A free-press, arguably the corner stone of any functioning democracy, is being diluted and diminished as power struggles between large and small corporations have emerged. The power that large Internet corporations have over government legislation and their influence on change is surely something that should be addressed and regulated. To de-limit regulation on organizations such as Comcast and Verizon, only serves to benefit a capitalist profit engineered agenda, whilst companies like Greenpeace struggle to compete.

BY: William Selmon