Fight for Your Internet While You Still Can
Heard about net neutrality lately? Maybe we should name it something a little less boring if we really want the public to pay attention but the sad fact is that we are in danger of losing the Internet as we know it today. A recent ruling from an appeals court striking down the FCC net neutrality rules protecting the open Internet was far more disastrous than anyone expected, effectively driving a nail into the coffin of the open and free Internet that we have come to expect and have taken for granted all these years.
This ruling will allow ISPs to play favorites among websites--awarding faster speeds to sites that pay a fee, or slowing or blocking sites and services that compete with them. ISP’s may pick and choose what websites content they want to show. Example if they don’t like the contents of my website blog they could block it or slow it down; yours too. And they already have a long history of throttling Internet traffic on competitors websites. BitTorrent for example, a video service that competed with Comcast own on-demand video was targeted by Comcast in 2007. This is just one example of many instances.
Consumers may expect to pay more to visit specific web sites and streaming video services such as Netflix and emerging IPTV platforms will be doomed if the big cable operators like Verizon and Comcast have their way. If you want the speeds to support your streaming TV service, you will have to pay your provider huge money! So much for trying to save a few bucks, you might as well just stick with cable TV.
This wouldn't be much of a problem if there were genuine competition among providers, but when is the last time you saw an ISP provider outside of a legacy telcom or major cable provider? These big time Internet speeds in most cases require fiber, and only the big time companies can afford the infrastructure.
This decision however is going to cost the economy big time. Abandoning net neutrality would be tantamount to abandoning the small businesses that need the Internet to grow and create jobs, plus it will stifle innovation from new and upcoming competitors to the cable operators, new companies dedicated to giving you more freedom of what to watch.
Who deserves the blame for this wretched combination of monopolization and profiteering by ever-larger cable and phone companies? The FCC, that's who. The agency's dereliction dates back to 2002, when under Chairman Michael Powell it reclassified cable modem services as "information services" rather than "telecommunications services," eliminating its own authority to regulate them broadly. Powell, by the way, is now the chief lobbyist in Washington for the cable TV industry, so the payoff wasn't long in coming.
President Obama's FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, moved to shore up the agency's regulatory defense of net neutrality in 2010. But he stopped short of reclassifying cable modems as telecommunications services which could be a life - saving move for net neutrality.
The following are excerpts from the 2010 order taken verbatim from an e-mail from the FCC to the press:
Rule 1: Transparency
A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.
Rule 2: No Blocking
A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.
A person engaged in the provision of mobile broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management; nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network
Rule 3: No Unreasonable Discrimination
A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer's broadband Internet access service. Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.
These seem like such simple requests don’t they? Too bad they did not fly and special interest groups with the most money prevailed; at least so far anyway.
It is not too late. You can still protect the open Internet and our economy. Fortunately, the rules were struck down on a technicality. To fix it, President Obama just needs to pressure the FCC to re-classify the Internet as the “telecommunications service” that it is. The President can fix this without Congress and without the courts.
Public pressure can overcome industry pressure. That's a tough road, but there's no alternative. If you want your Internet to look like your cable TV service, where you have no control over what comes into your house or what you pay for it, then stay silent. If not, start writing letters and emails to your elected representatives and the FCC now. It's the only hope to save the free, open Internet.