Apr 25 2014

The End of the Internet As We Know It

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealt a blow to net neutrality when it struck down the government’s latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content. The Federal Communication Commission new proposal would allow Internet providers like Verizon or Comcast to charge media companies like Netflix or Amazon extra fees in order to receive preferential treatment, such as faster speeds for their content. This will translate not only to higher fees from you internet service provider (ISP) but from Netflix, Amazon, etc. According the FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler, former venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, is insisting nothing will change.

According to Mike Massick at Techdirt that’s just flat out not true

The problem is that this is absolutely misleading — and either the FCC doesn’t realize this or it’s not being honest. And, I’m not sure which one is more bizarre. Wheeler is, indeed, correct in saying that under the court ruling from earlier this year, in order to be able to do anything under Section 706 of the Telecom Act, they had to shift from talking about “unreasonable discrimination” (which they can’t regulate under 706) to “commercially reasonable” activities (which they can regulate). So, in effect, Wheeler is trying to argue that by basically shifting the basis for the rules and substituting in the “commercially reasonable” standard as opposed to blocking “unreasonable discrimination” (which can be done under common carrier rules, but since the FCC reclassified broadband service as not being a telco service, that’s not available), they’re now back in proper legal territory under the law.

Perhaps Wheeler and his friends at the FCC think that this subtle shift in phrases to abide by the blueprint the court set out really does leave the existing rules in place. But, it’s not that simple. As Stacy Higginbotham points out, even if the FCC doesn’t want to destroy net neutrality, this subtle shift will do so anyway. To understand why, the best article to read is the one by Marvin Ammori, who has been fighting this fight for years. He argues that, unlike the CNET article above that says to “calm down,” we should actually be even more worried. Because even if the FCC thinks it can stop net neutrality violations, companies are still going to get screwed. Basically, the FCC can only act after the fact, and then it’s going to come down to a fight between a big telcos’ lawyers… and a tiny startups’ lawyers. Guess who wins?

Retired FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, told Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González that this “transformation of the Internet where the 1 percent get the fast lanes, and the 99 percent get the slow lanes,” and “If we let that happen, we have really undercut the potential of this transformative technology. This has to be stopped.”

They were joined by Astra Taylor, author of the new book, “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age.”

The transcript can be read here

We need to stop the FCC from ending the internet as we know it and preserve net neutrality.

People everywhere understand that the Internet is a crucial driver of free speech, innovation, education, economic growth, creativity and so much more. They demand real Net Neutrality rules that protect Internet users from corporate abuse.

But the Federal Communications Commission is proposing rules that would kill – rather than protect – Net Neutrality and allow rampant discrimination online.

Under these rules, telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would be able to pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications. And no one would be able to do anything about it.

We must stop the FCC from moving forward with these rules, which would give the green light to ISPs eager to crush Net Neutrality.

The agency can preserve Net Neutrality only by designating broadband as a telecommunications service under the law. Anything else is an attack on our rights to connect and communicate.

Tell FCC Chairman Wheeler to throw out his proposed rules. Demand nothing less than real Net Neutrality.

Please sigh The Free Press petition Stop the FCC from Breaking the Internet

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