Janine Jackson interviewed Tim Karr about the fight for net neutrality for the May 11, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
Janine Jackson: All social justice fights intersect in some way. But net neutrality is the definition of a keystone issue: The policy protects the space in which to discuss and debate and organize all the other fights, the means to talk around the legacy media gatekeepers—the ones who tell you that killing people in other countries to force them to change their elected leadership is reasonable, but providing healthcare for everyone is outrageous.
In a sort of slow-motion trainwreck, the Trump FCC—led by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai—moved to dismantle net neutrality protections only recently won. Millions of people voiced their strong opposition, but were overruled—while Pai and his agency produced a truly bizarre video of him doing a smug victory dance to show off to a bunch of industry lobbyists.
But reports of the death of net neutrality, which listeners will have heard last month, might be exaggerated. In fact, the fight—too important to give up in any event—is still underway. Here to bring us up to speed is Tim Karr. He’s senior director of strategy and communications at Free Press. He joins us now by phone from Hoboken. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tim Karr.
Tim Karr: Hi, Janine.
JJ: These events, we want to be clear, are evolving as we speak. We’re recording this show on May 10; lots of listeners will have seen “Red Alert” banners across the web yesterday, designed to draw attention to the fight. And then just now as I was eating lunch, I read that the FCC has now declared the official death of net neutrality will now be June 11. What is the current state of play here?
TK: Well, it’s easy for people to get confused about the various ins and outs of the net neutrality fight. It’s a battle that we’ve been fighting for 13 years now. We did win, as you mentioned, a huge victory in 2015, when we got the Federal Communications Commision to put strong net neutrality rules in place. And those were then rolled back under the Trump FCC, and their chairman Ajit Pai, in December of 2017, voted to repeal those net neutrality rules. And because of the administrative process in Washington, it actually takes some time for that vote to take effect.