Why net neutrality won’t be rolled back in Europe and why Trump has blown it

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Jun 7, 2017

via Flickr © Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Net neutrality agitation experiencing a lull before the storm in the US
  • Day of action planned, Amazon now involved
  • Trump's unpopularity in Europe unlikely to see net neutrality roll-back extended here

The net neutrality debate in the US has spent the last seven or more months since the election of Donald Trump, not so much becalmed as overwhelmed by the sheer volume of executive actions, tweets, and general bad Trump behaviour.  

For a US progressive, it must be hard to get splenetic over Trump’s hand-puppet at the FCC, Ajit Pai, making a few dull and obscure (to the general public) rule changes to something nobody really understands, when Trump has gone feral: undoing the post-war (that’s WW2) settlement, scuttling what little progress Obama had made on healthcare; withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement on climate change; and (I would suggest) conclusively revealing himself as a ‘pants on fire’ liar with his attack on the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The fact is, however, that these are all part of an ‘undo Obama’ agenda, including the attack on net neutrality. Any attempt to steer the European net neutrality debate in a similar direction (I’ve heard at least one rumbling to that effect) will fail because there is no merit in the case, beyond Trump’s spite

Of Trump’s manifold sins, that attack on Sadiq Khan may be the most important from a UK and perhaps European perspective. Where other, US-centred controversies were too far away for many of us to understand properly and take a stand one way or the other (perhaps the mainstream press IS biased against him, many thought), all that changed with his ill-informed tweet on the weekend in response to a Khan statement in the wake of the London terrorist attack: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed,” said Khan, referring to the possibility that citizens might take a police deployment as a sign that a terrorist ‘incident’ was unfolding nearby.

Trump promptly took Khan’s second sentence out of context and accused him of being soft/complacent on terrorism. Then, instead of retracting the tweet (Trump never apologises) he accused the mayor of coming up with a pathetic excuse, implying that he, Trump, had caught Khan out. Trump the serial liar was caught in the spotlight.

Sadiq Khan has since accused Donald Trump of “seeking to divide communities in Britain” and has called for his state visit invitation to be withdrawn - now a very real possibility.

But on the positive side (if you can have one from this dire situation) it’s now increasingly understood that undoing net neutrality, exiting the Paris agreement on Climate Change (a move seen in Europe as beyond stupid) and scuttling Obamacare, are all from the same mold. They’re all instances of what’s being called the ‘politics of spite’, there being no logical or even political reason to do these things except that Trump and his political ‘base’ want to undo everything that Obama achieved.

Furthermore, much as some would like the apparent net neutrality reversal to  spread to Europe, it’s not at all clear that it will even succeed in the US.

After what seems like a long period of inaction (so many other things to worry about) a bit of a resistance plan seems to be forming. Amazon, which has traditionally been fairly quiet on the net neutrality front, has come out swinging. This week it signed up to the "Day of Action" set for July 12.

 That will see online players put messages and as yet unspecified actions on their websites in support of the current net neutrality rules, and perhaps stimulate further support from some of the industry’s other heavy hitters.  Whether it will phase Ajit Pai seems unlikely - like Trump he seems to revel in the ‘no holds barred fight’ he’s started. The greater and more vociferous the resistance, the more he can count on the usual ‘anti-liberal’ backlash.

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