Net Neutrality Is Back On The Table

It’s become clear that reversing the repeal of Net Neutrality, regulations that require Telecom providers (Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and ATT&T) to deliver all web content at the same speed, is a serious policy agenda for the Biden administration. Here’s why this is a very good thing for arts and culture organizations.

Last July, the Biden administration quietly issued an executive order on internet access competition, which encouraged the FCC to reinstitute Net Neutrality.

You know it’s becoming a big deal when GOP lawmakers are using procedural measures to hold up the confirmation for the final White House nomination to the five member FCC panel. That individual, Gigi Sohn, is a long-time advocate for Net Neutrality regulations and helped write many of the previous regulations in their previous role within the FCC.

It’s important to point out that this isn’t simply another political divide issue. In May 2021, the New York State Office of the Attorney General published a report that confirmed the campaign to justify killing off Net Neutrality was fraudulent. Many of those deceptive practices were planned and implemented by Telecom providers.

In 2018, then FCC chair Ajit Pai, used that fraudulent data to justify killing Net Neutrality. Telecom providers lost no time putting their finger on the scale, consequences be damned.

For instance, Verizon was caught throttling data of a first responder command center in California overseeing wildfire operations. The action was so egregious, it prompted that state’s legislature to adopt the first ever state based net neutrality laws.

On the other side of the Telecom pendulum, smaller providers have been using the lack of regulations to block access to sites for political reasons, such as Your T1 WIFI. Serving North Idaho and the Spokane Washington area, this provider told users they were blocking Facebook and Twitter because they disagreed with the way Jan. 6 insurrectionists were portrayed on those platforms. They rolled back those measures after customer backlash but still offer a fast-track method to block those sites per request.

The latter example should raise the hackles of arts and culture groups. If internet providers can outright ban access to sites like Facebook and Twitter, then they can use the same control to pour gasoline over existing culture war flames and ban access to nonprofit performing arts org sites if they disagree with programming decisions.

Moving forward, once the Senate confirms the final FCC member, they can begin work on reinstituting protections that prevent Telecom providers from throttling or blocking internet access.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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