Opinion: The Telecom industry bought a law

Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer

Big Brother is always watching and he just invited a friend to watch along with him.

On April 4, Donald Trump wiped away landmark online privacy protections by signing a measure into law which repealed Obama-Era Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations.

The Obama Era rules required internet service providers (ISP’s) – companies like Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum, and AT&T – to gain the consent of their customers before sharing personal data such as web activity and browsing history.

Following the repeal of said regulation, these companies now have free reign to monitor what users do online and use the information however they want to, such as selling it to advertisers. They can monitor the content of your communication, track your geolocation, see your financial information, track your browsing history, and much more. Thanks to the rollback on the FCC regulation, they can do all this without your permission and without informing you they are doing so.

In addition, ISPs no longer have to inform users if there is any sort of data breach. This means if an ISP gets hacked and secure information such as passwords or is stolen from their customers, they do not have to inform any of their customers that the hack took place.

People who voted yes on this Bill defended themselves by saying that because companies like Google and Facebook can track your internet activity, ISPs should be able to as well. The problem with this argument is that Google and Facebook can only track you when you’re using their services and you can easily choose to not use their services as there are a plethora of alternatives. ISPs on the other hand have access to every single action you take on the internet and you have no way around it because you can’t access the internet without an ISP providing it. Not only is their argument extremely flawed, but they don’t even have public support for what they’re doing.

A YouGov poll taken just days before this bill was signed showed that 74 percent of Americans are against the Bill. What is even more remarkable is that 75 percent of Republicans also said they were against the Bill being passed with 80 percent of Democrats opposing it and 69 percent of independents.

So with so much support how did this Bill make it through Congress and get signed by the President?

Including the House and Senate, 265 members of Congress voted for this Bill to pass, all of whom were Republicans. According to OpenSecrets.org, those 265 members of Congress received $8,121,535 from the Telecom industry in the past year alone.

That’s not to say that they voted for this Bill solely due to bribery, but the contributions from the industry may help explain why a Bill with a 12 percent approval rating made it through both chambers of Congress. Then the same man who cried foul about an unsubstantiated wiretapping story signed away our right to online privacy.

ISPs already have monopolies all across the country. In most areas people only have one or two options to choose from when picking their internet provider. The odds are already stacked against us, and Congress is making it worse.

In a recent press conference, Sean Spicer stated that rolling back net neutrality policies would be next on Trump’s list for things to do regarding the internet. Net neutrality prevents ISPs from speeding up, slowing down, or outright blocking traffic from websites and apps. The repeal of such a policy would help ISPs increase profits while the rest of us are stuck with a slower and less fair internet.

Privacy matters, a fair and free internet matters, security matters, and unless we start caring more about these things there is not much to stop our government from dismantling it all.