You know this net neutrality thing? Well, people really love it
Paging Commissioner Pai: Your 'plan' is less popular than Trumpcare
It's a funny thing, but the ability to buy an internet connection and not have the company you buy it from control what you can see and at what speed you can see it is a popular thing in the Land of the FreeTM.
According to a poll by Ipsos and commissioned by open source software developer Mozilla, no less than 76 per cent of Americans support net neutrality. And it's not just Democrats. According to the poll, which spoke to 1,000 people split evenly across political lines (and including independents), 73 per cent of Republicans support net neutrality too.
Perhaps equally as unsurprising, an equivalent majority do not trust the US government to protect their access to the internet – with 70 per cent of Americans placing "little or no" trust in the Trump administration, and 78 per cent feeling the same about Congress.
Mozilla is, of course, an open advocate of net neutrality, so if the results were different they may never have seen the light of day. But Ipsos is a legit and respected pollster and the methodology and questioning are fair.
So what are we to make of the fact that 78 per cent of Americans believe equal access to the internet is a right? Or that 54 per cent of us actively distrust ISPs (really, that low?)?
Net neutrality is also viewed as a "good thing" for pretty much everyone – except, that is, "big businesses," which only 46 per cent of respondents said would benefit from enforced neutrality rules (21 per cent said it would be a "bad thing" for them).
There was a pretty even spread on the question of whether ISPs will "voluntarily look out for consumers' best interests": 11 per cent strongly agree; 26 per cent strongly disagree; the rest sit in the middle.
Not that any of this is likely to change the mind of FCC chair Ajit Pai, who has made it plain that he is determined to undermine the rules introduced by his predecessor, and has already effectively said he will ignore any voices he doesn't agree with.
What it may do, however, is make the oncoming debate (well, shout-fest) even louder and more unpleasant than most already expected.
Mozilla is taking part in the "day of action" planned for July 12 that aims to send a loud message to lawmakers in Congress and to the FCC that people do not agree with the plan to overturn net neutrality.
The problem is that both Congress and particularly the FCC already know what that message is, having gone through five years of forceful debate over the issue.
There is little or nothing that people or industry can do to change Ajit Pai's mind – a former Verizon attorney who appears to only be listening to the cable industry. He does, however, seem to be heavily swayed by the views of the Republican Party, especially as it relates to his career.
As for the Republican Party, cable industry lobbyists have long had the ears of Congressmen, and the cable industry is a persistent and significant source of income for re-election campaigns, so the only point of leverage for net neutrality advocates is if they can get politicians to believe the topic is of such interest to voters that it threatens their seat.
It is for that reason that the only stat of real importance in the survey is 48 per cent – the number of Republicans who "somewhat support" net neutrality.
In the coming months, the cable industry will continue its determined effort to muddy the waters by ramming home its talking point that "Title II is not net neutrality" – meaning that the FCC proposal to change the classification of ISPs from common carriers to information providers is a separate issue from actual net neutrality.
In reality, that is not true. They are in fact effectively the same within the context of the laws that currently exist – but that is a more complex point and Big Cable is counting on net neutrality advocates not being able to make it succinctly.
If Big Cable achieves that goal, sufficient support for the FCC's proposal may hold and Pai will get his way. If, however, those 48 per cent of Republicans who "somewhat support" net neutrality are not convinced and start moving into the "strongly support" bucket, then we may see Congressional Republicans start to back away.
In short: It's going to get loud and messy and we don't know which way it will fall. ®