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Tomorrow, December 13th, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a measure that would completely gut regulations to internet providers and open the door for net neutrality to be destroyed.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast & Verizon should not control what we see and do online. In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The rules prohibit Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—”fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else.
Essentially, “net neutrality” refers to adhering to the policy of no Internet service provider (ISP) giving preferential treatment of any kind, either in terms of slowing down or speeding up transmission of any specific Internet traffic. This is a simple idea that appears to be in the best interests of Internet users. Obviously, when a user clicks on a link – any link – he doesn’t want to be subject to his ISP deciding how slowly or quickly he will be connected.
Boiling “net neutrality” down to its essence the argument is about whether the people who own the connections to the customer, the broadband and mobile airtime providers, can treat different internet traffic differently. Should we force them to be neutral (thus the “neutrality” part) and treat all traffic exactly the same? Or should they be allowed to speed up some traffic, slow down other, in order to prioritize certain services over others?
Learn more and act NOW https://www.battleforthenet.com/
This vote will likely make it easier for companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to start divvying up the internet and turn it into something more akin to cable TV: i.e. something more expensive, fragmented, and more focused on making as much money as possible. The vote will likely ensure no regulator can do anything to stop these companies.
The battle over the FCC’s rules comes amid a period of increasing consolidation among telecommunications and content companies. Comcast owns NBC Universal. AT&T is in a fight to buy Time Warner. Verizon owns AOL and Yahoo. Those companies already had immense power over how you connect to the internet. But they now also have a big stake in what you see and do online.
The repeal of net neutrality will give these giant companies free rein to favor their own sites, services, and content, and discriminate against those of rivals. As long as they tell you what they’re doing, the government won’t stand in their way.
I don’t think this discrimination will come in the form of blocking or throttling access to rival sites, as some net neutrality supporters fear. Instead, I think the telecommunications companies will basically start charging new fees and tolls.
Instead, the FCC’s new proposal merely requires ISPs to be transparent and publicly disclose how they manage their networks, so that customers can choose to take their business elsewhere if they are put off by their ISP’s practices. Sounds okay, except for the fact that other than Comcast in our area, the only other option for internet access is AT&T – which runs at about 1/10th the speeds of Comcast.
Don’t worry, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said, because the Federal Trade Commission will step in to protect consumers from any bad acts that Internet providers might commit in the future. That may sound like a reasonable plan. After all, the FTC is a consumer protection agency that polices the marketplace for fraud and false advertising.
Pai’s plan would switch responsibility for policing ISPs to the Federal Trade Commission, which focuses on consumer protection and anti-trust issues. But the FTC can’t impose rules like net neutrality across the board; it can tackle complaints only on a case-by-case basis. And few innovators will have the time or the money to launch legal battles.
Putting aside the question of whether the FTC has the resources and rulemaking powers to adequately address this important issue (it doesn’t), there’s the more fundamental question of whether the FTC even has legal authority over Internet providers.
Buried in the FTC’s founding statute is something called the “common carrier exemption,” which excludes from the FTC’s authority any company engaged in “common carriage” (think telephones, railroads, etc.). When the law was passed, these companies essentially did one thing — such as provide phone service — and the idea was that other federal agencies with industry-specific expertise, such as the FCC, would monitor this specialized activity.
Big companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon say they’re committed to protecting net neutrality. But they’re opposed to the FCC’s reclassification, in 2015, of broadband as a public utility, which allows the agency to regulate their broadband networks like the telephone network.
And yet, they have already attempted such blocking and limiting practices in the past, when the FCC stepped up to protect consumers.
In a 2016 FCC case, Comcast had charged customers for services and devices they never subscribed to. http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/11/news/companies/comcast-fine-fcc/index.html
In 2015, AT&T began offering “unlimited” access and then throttling customers data. https://www.fcc.gov/document/att-mobility-faces-100m-fine-misleading-consumers
A 2010 case against Comcast discussed them interfering with their use of peer-to-peer networking applications.
In 2009, AT&T was blocking access to Skype on the iPhone https://www.wired.com/2009/10/iphone-att-skype/
And there are more than a handful of these cases, crazy.
In my opinion, the internet has become the most important resource and necessary utility in our lives today, like water and electricity. Our well being relies on the internet every single day for our careers, our health, social interaction and entertainment.
The internet should NOT be throttled, segmented, limited, or “taxed” in any such fashion.
If you want to keep this anti-blocking anti-discrimination in place, here is what you need to do:
1. Head over to http://gofccyourself.com
(the shortcut John Oliver made to the hard-to-find FCC comment page)
2. Next to the 17-108 link (Restoring Internet Freedom), click on “Express”
3. Be sure to hit “ENTER” after you put in your name & info so it registers.
4. In the comment section write, “I strongly support net neutrality backed by Title 2 oversight of ISPs.”
5. Click to submit, done. – Make sure you hit submit at the end!
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