The Republican campaign against net neutrality has been quite effective, and just a few weeks ago, it came to an end when Donald Trump's choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission helped scrap the Obama-era policy altogether.
For those who take the idea of an open internet seriously, the developments are as ridiculous as they are scary. The Portland Press Herald reported yesterday on a high school student in Maine who reached out to Gov. Paul LePage (R) with her concerns about the policy. His response was underwhelming.
In the month leading up to the recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality regulations, Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Hope Osgood learned about the issue and how junking the longtime principle that all web traffic be treated equally could affect consumers' internet access. While browsing social media, she found an application that would generate a letter expressing her concerns and used it to email a message to LePage.She wrote, "The internet is the easiest way to access anything. News, information, etc. Companies being able to put restrictions on internet usage isn't ideal! People will be left in the dark about some things. All my school work is internet-based, but what happens if I can't reach what I need to? What about my lessons in school?" [...]Osgood said she's concerned that the loss of net neutrality could impede her studies. Beyond school, she's worried about the impact on social media because that's how she connects with friends.
The good news is, the Republican governor sent the student a hand-written response. The bad news is, the entirety of LePage's note read, "Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor."
Ordinarily, Republican opponents of net neutrality try to assuage fears by arguing that the public may not notice the difference. It's an optimistic response, to be sure, but this is generally how conservatives prefer to respond to concerns.
LePage, however, effectively gives away the game. If you're worried about Republicans defeating net neutrality, and the impact this might have on everything from education to commerce, take comfort in the fact that books will be unaffected.
I wonder what percentage of the population will find this argument compelling.
Disclosure: I work for MSNBC, which is owned by Comcast, which as Rachel recently explained on the show, has an interest in this fight. Comcast, one of the nation's leading internet service providers, is on record supporting net neutrality, but the company would like to get rid of the regulations that currently guarantee it.