Last week, conservative lawmakers celebrated the novel sensation of not shooting the American people in the foot for once—by withdrawing support for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposed healthcare plan—by going ahead and shooting the American people in the foot, with the Senate voting to get rid of rules that would allow the FCC to force internet service providers to ask users’ permission before selling private information like browsing histories to companies. Today the House joined in on the fun, which means the new laws are just one expected presidential signature away from going into effect.
To the House’s credit, it was at least a close vote, with 15 Republican reps breaking ranks to vote against. It’s still depressing to learn, though, that one of the major reasons for the decision—besides money, obviously—is that most lawmakers don’t know the difference between search engines and ISPs. That’s according to The Verge, which notes that at least some Republicans argued that, because Google is allowed to sell histories of what you type into its sites, Comcast or Verizon should similarly be allowed to sell the information they collects about every single thing you do—barring material related to children, banking, or medical history, which are separately protected—while connected to the internet through their services.
The FCC rules were put into place by the Obama administration, after the 2015 net neutrality decision established that internet access was a public utility, not a luxury resource. The new bill not only strikes down the current rules, but forces the FCC to never attempt this kind of regulation again. The decision has already been met with protests from online activists, with groups like Fight For The Future pledging to launch a billboard campaign naming and shaming legislators who supported the bill.