President Donald Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet

[Commentary] Comcast, Charter (now Spectrum), Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T account for over 80 percent of wired subscriptions and have almost total power in their territories. According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 75 percent of Americans have at most one choice for high-speed data. It’s about to get worse: President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, under the leadership of its fiercely deregulatory chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to let these companies become even more powerful by letting them do whatever they want and allowing them to merge with one another.

Chairman Pai has already pushed Congress to erase rules that would have constrained these companies from using and selling our sensitive online information. And he is getting ready to wipe out the classification of high-speed data services as a utility — even though, without this legal label, the FCC’s authority to require these five companies to treat their customers fairly will be fatally undermined. Combining untrammeled power over distribution with must-have content gives a network operator both the incentive and the ability to use its network to benefit itself, whether or not its actions are good for the public. This has been true of communications networks from the telegraph forward, and we’re seeing this same pattern play out with high-speed internet access.

[Crawford is a professor at Harvard Law School]


President Donald Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet