SEJ, Other Journalism Groups, Support Net Neutrality

December 6, 2017 — The Society of Environmental Journalists has joined other journalism and open-government groups in urging the Federal Communications Commission not to end its established net neutrality rule. When an internet service provider also owns a news outlet, then it can give its own news content an advantage by charging other information providers or even excluding them, if the net is not neutral. This will tend to push out smaller news media companies and increase concentration in the news industry.

The Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, and the Sunlight Foundation joined SEJ in announcing their support for net neutrality. The groups urged the FCC to hold hearings on the issue before deciding it.

Net neutrality is the policy that requires internet service providers to treat all data equally as they shuttle it through the internet — not giving an advantage in speed or priority to particular content or types of content. The doctrine quickly devolves into technical and legal complexities, but the concept is to provide a level playing field for all competitors on the net.

Under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC is poised to repeal a net neutrality rule it adopted in 2015. Action is expected the week of Dec. 11. Opponents of repeal have asked Pai to delay a vote, but he has rejected those pleas. Pai was originally appointed to the FCC by President Obama. President Trump appointed him chairman in 2017, and nominated him for a second five-year term on the FCC. Congress confirmed his reappointment this year.

Supporting the repeal of net neutrality are many of the major telecommunications firms, who often own the pipes over which the internet operates. Repeal of net neutrality would empower the telecom firms as gatekeepers of information, making it into a press freedom issue.

A FCC action to repeal net neutrality is likely to be met with protests and lawsuits.