Rights and freedom are taking a beating this week from all three legs of the government. President Obama is traveling around Asia trying to get them to support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will take away the last vestige of U.S. public control over corporations and move more jobs offshore. A theory for trade agreements is that economic interdependence will stop military conflicts by transferring power from governments to corporations. History shows that it never has.
The latest government move is to put corporations in control of the Internet through buying faster connecting times. Reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service regulated in the public interest would benefit the vast majority of the people in the United State.
New rules in Europe outlaw attempts by telecom or cellphone carriers to charge content providers for better access to their networks, but the new FCC chair and former cable industry lobbyist, Tom Wheeler, wants to do just that.
By allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Time Warner Cable and Verizon to charge extra fees to companies such as Netflix and Google for preferential treatment, the FCC guarantees that those who pay the most reach the end-users first. Instead of Net Neutrality, it starts Net Wars. The payola proposal stops big service providers from any desire to upgrade networks or respond to customers’ needs because they profit from unnecessary congestion.
Startups, nonprofits, independent content creators, and everyday Internet users are the losers while ISPs can favor their own content and control the information passed along the Internet. In addition, companies will raise prices because they have to pay for the privilege of sending their messages faster.
The term “network neutrality” or “net neutrality” means that every bit of data should be treated equally. Common carriage obligations for telephone lines meant that land lines could not discriminate or deny anyone service. When the FCC reclassified broadband in 2005, ISPs became an information provider instead of a telecommunications service which meant that they no longer had the common carriage obligations. At this time, ISPs can slow down service for companies unless they pay more. Netflix is an example. They recently improved download quality for movies by paying blackmail to Comcast.
Cable companies in the U.S. already charge far more than many other places in the world—about $60 for broadband as compared to a service that costs them $5 to provide. Yet they always want more money.
Wheeler denies that he plans new rules to allow “pay for priority” instead of Net Neutrality, yet inside sources confirmed that the new rule gives broadband providers “the ability to enter into individual negotiations with content providers … in a commercially reasonable matter.” If true, this position will remove the possibility of free speech from the Internet and make it unequal for U.S. society.
People opposed to Net Neutrality claim that the disappearance of free speech from the Internet is just a false conspiracy theory. Yet there have been “incidents” that show what could become common if Wheeler gets his way:
- AT&T jammed of a rock star’s political protest during an August 2007 performance. The ISP shut off the sound as lead singer Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sang, “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home.” The supposed reason was “excessive profanity,” but there was no profanity.
- Comcast used deep packet inspection in 2007 to block file transfers from customers using BitTorrent, eDonkey, and Gnutella. AP verified that it was not related to network congestion. throttling of online file-sharing through BitTorrent. Critics noted that Comcast hoped to sell online video itself. After the FCC took action against Comcast, it stopped but then challenged the FCC order in court and won, leading to the current crisis of enforcing network neutrality.
- Verizon Wireless censored NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2007 by cutting off access to a text-messaging program used to send messages to NARAL supporters. Verizon claimed that it would not service programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” It reversed its censorship only after widespread public outrage.
- Telus blocked a striking workers’ web site in 2005; Internet subscribers could not access a website run by the union on strike against Telus.
After the federal court decision earlier this year eliminating FCC’s open Internet rules, Wheeler claimed that his rules “will restore the concepts of Net Neutrality consistent with the court’s ruling in January.” The court actually gave the FCC the right to pursue true Net Neutrality instead of creating greater discrimination. The court specifically stated that Internet users can send and receive information free from ISP interference if the FCC classifies ISPs as telecom carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.
Wheeler needs at least two more votes on the Commission before he can put the rules to the public for its comments, and final rules won’t be issued until late summer at the earliest. The FCC needs to be told that it can have “net neutrality” by designating broadband companies as “common carriers” under the law. Brazil has just passed the first Internet Bill of Rights in the World. The people of the United States deserve no less.
Retired FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said:
“What we’re really seeing here is the transformation of the Internet where the 1 percent get the fast lanes, and the 99 percent get the slow lanes. If we let that happen, we have really undercut the potential of this transformative technology. This has to be stopped.”
Sign a petition.
Write members of the FCC:
- Chairman Tom Wheeler: Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov
- Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov
- Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel: Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov
- Commissioner Ajit Pai: Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov
- Commissioner Michael O’Rielly: Mike.O’Rielly@fcc.gov
Call and contact commissioner’s offices: 1-888-225-5322.
Call your elected representatives: 202-224-3121.
Save your free speech!