The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on rolling back net neutrality protections and to weigh media ownership rules again on Thursday, Dec. 14. Surveys show the changes are not supported by people across the country, regardless of political party. KUNM spoke with Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, about what these policy shifts could mean in New Mexico.
HARRISON: The public is completely against this. Poll after poll, surveys, people you talk to, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian—just a recent poll yesterday said that only one in five Republicans would support what is going to happen with this vote.
KUNM: And it’s pretty much a sure thing, right? These protections will be repealed. So what is next for consumers and users of the internet?
HARRISON: With the FCC being 3-to-2 Republican right now, those are the definite predictions, is that they’re not going to change their mind. So what I expect will immediately happen is litigation. I expect there to be lawsuits against this decision. I expect Congress to introduce bills to stop this.
What we’re talking about is taking cable to our internet. And think about how cable is right now. You know, if you want television you can get your free couple of channels. But then you have to pay more to get more channels. You have to pay more to get the high definition this and that. What net neutrality will do is that to the internet.
KUNM: The internet has been such a boost for small businesses and, especially, businesses in rural areas that are maybe shipping products out of that rural area. Do you think that this is going to create a real problem for economic development in a big, vast state like ours?
HARRISON: It will absolutely cripple our small businesses in New Mexico and across the country. As you know, we are already dealing with making sure we have internet available in our vast regions. And people already have to pay higher prices to get satellite that’s already sketchy. We talk about, you know, when you’re somewhere and you don’t have good internet service and that video takes forever to load, imagine that all the time.
KUNM: The FCC is also considering overhauling media ownership rules, and those rules are meant to ensure that there are news options out there. Do you think these two decisions together—net neutrality and media ownership—could radically change how the flow of news and information is controlled?
HARRISON: It will control that. It will change the way we look at news. It will change the kind of news we get. When you look at newspapers and television stations and networks that are all being taken over by the same people, they get to control what gets out.
These two decisions in a hyper-partisan FCC, where people are literally not listening to the will of the people—this is something that will radically change the way we look at democracy in this country.
KUNM: There are five people on the Federal Communications Commission and only three votes are really needed to make this happen. How is it that just three people in this country get to make this huge decision?
HARRISON: It’s horrifying. It is not right that three appointed people can make a decision that’s going to affect, you know, more than 300 million people. And to be able to do it so cavalierly, this is something that is outrageous, and they need to be called on it. It’s so undemocratic. And I just urge your listeners to get behind our senators and reps who are on board, and keep pushing, and stay on top of this issue.
When we lose, it’s not a loss. It’s just opening another door for litigation and statute change. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s find some protection. They’ve heard about this issue as much if not more than the tax bill from their constituents. They’ve got to change their minds, or they have to be replaced in the next election.