Towards the end of last year, five commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission gathered in the country’s capital to vote on whether or not they should overturn regulations on the Internet called Net Neutrality, which was an effort to support “the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services”.
This topic has been fraught with controversy. Before the FCC’s decision to end Net Neutrality, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai accused Twitter of utilizing its platform to discriminate against those who agreed with Pai’s while his own commissioner accusing him of ignoring investment data that didn’t support his narrative. Not only that, two dozen senators requested that the hearing be postponed until the investigation of reports that over 1 million comments offered to the FCC were created by spam bots and included comments from dead people.
Many people were wary that major providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T would strangle access to content supported by competitors while selling personal data about consumers. For those who are responsible for upgrading cities, concern spread that the change would make it more difficult for citizens to access city information via new smart city tech tools, while these same tools would also become harder to maintain.
For a selection of perspectives on Net Neutrality, take a look at these quotes from knowledgeable figures in the world of smart cities.
Miguel Gamiño Jr.
New York City Chief Technology Officer
“The FCC’s vote to dismantle Net Neutrality handed the keys to the Internet over to a few ISPs,” says Miguel Gamiño, Jr. “This represents a stark, inexplicable, and unwarranted attack on our communities, residents and businesses – on everyone who hopes to have a fair chance to shape and participate in our future.”
Gamiño traveled to Washington D.C. to broadcast updates live as the FCC voted on December 14. Gamiño was a strong advocate for protecting Net Neutrality not just through his position in New York but in other capacities in San Francisco and El Paso.
Chief Information Officer for the City of Palo Alto
“The repeal of net neutrality rules has just happened, so it’s too early to understand the full consequences of this dramatic decision. There will be months of legal challenges ahead until the decision is settled, so we’ll need to watch this space closely. And even then, long term repeal may not withstand future federal administrations,” says Dr. Jonathan Reichental.
Reichental stressed that America should maintain its “focus on technological competitiveness in a world where global market barriers to entry are flatter than ever. Innovation is particularly necessary in the urban space. That work will require an open and blazingly fast Internet infrastructure. Anything that limits this future is bad for innovation and bad for America.”
Chief Architect Albuquerque, New Mexico
“The repeal of Net Neutrality by the FCC is disheartening,” said Peter Ambs, who has spent the last decade as the chief architect of deployments of city smart tech, and has earned multiple awards.
Chief Information Officer of Asheville, NC
“I think that net neutrality is a distraction issue. The real issue, I believe, is a lack of the Federal government’s willingness to enforce existing anti-trust laws. It is clear that there is cronyism and collusion in the broadband world – but that nobody will do anything about it,” he said.
Feldman wanted to see competition built through European-style methods designed to prevent too much unification under one entity.
“This would produce more competition in the last mile, which is really what counts. If there really were lots of choices for broadband the way that there are lots of choices for other things, we wouldn’t be having this debate about net neutrality. Broadband providers that start nonsense like charging people extra for using Netflix would simply find themselves with fewer customers,” he said.