Nel's New Day

May 8, 2017

Don’t Mess with Our Internet!

 

John Oliver, comedic satirist on HBO who was once on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, closed down the FCC comment website three years ago when he asked people to fight for net neutrality. The people who fought for an open net won, but a new administration led by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and a new FCC chair (Ajit Pai) appointed by DDT want to reverse the freedom to close the net. Last night, Oliver gave a brilliant description that thoroughly explained the situation. By this afternoon, the FCC had received over 100,000 comments.

People are permitted to comment on impending policies, but government websites have become much more convoluted. To simplify a need to wander the government links, Oliver has set a link that leads to making a comment. It’s www.gofccyourself.com which takes you to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108)). The process is still a bit convoluted. On the screen, press Submit a Filing at the top of the page and then Express Comment. The top box to complete requires the number of the case (17-108). There is also a telephone number to call with comments. (Pai has said that he’s looking at the “quality,” not the “quantity” of comments.)

You can also sign this petition.

Once again, Oliver’s commentary loaded the servers, and the site went down for a while. FCC is rather grumpy about it, blaming the crash on a denial-of-service attack on its website:

“These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.”

The outcry came from people who wanted to preserve internet rights, the same people who persuaded FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to reclassify internet server providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. In that way, companies cannot create “fast lanes” from preferred websites or slow down others because of larger or smaller payments to the ISPs.

Big ISPs have flooded the media with op-ed pieces praising Pai and his intention to get rid of Net Neutrality. Almost every piece came from those who have links to a group getting money from the cable and phone companies trying to bury Net Neutrality. People from these groups provided millions of dollars to these groups whose representatives are trying to persuade the public that they should be controlled by big business ISPs because NTA and CTIA pays them: the Technology Policy Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation, Digital Liberty, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Communications & Technology, wrote an April 28 piece for The Hill attacking the Obama administration’s Net Neutrality rules, and the Free State Foundation.

“Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem,” according to ISP officials who typically claim that blocking has never happened. They say the market would prevent blocking by forcing ISPs to reopen their networks. They’re wrong. Here are a few abusive problems in search of a solution:

Madison River:  In 2005, North Carolina ISP Madison River Communications blocked the voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) service Vonage. The FCC stepped in to sanction Madison River and prevent further blocking after Vonage complained, but it lacks the authority to stop this kind of abuse today.

Comcast: In 2005, the nation’s largest ISP, Comcast, began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network so that users of services like BitTorrent and Gnutella were unable to connect to these services. Investigations in 2007 confirmed the Comcast action that they did not tell their customers.

Telus: In 2005, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications company began blocking access to a server that hosted a website supporting a labor strike against the company as well as another 766 unrelated sites.

AT&T: From 2007–2009, AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services on the iPhone to keep users from any app allowing them to make calls on such “over-the-top” voice services. The same thing happened to the Google Voice app in 2009.

Windstream: In 2010, this DSL provider with more than 1 million customers confessed to illegally seizing copped user-search queries on the Google toolbar within Firefox and redirected them to Windstream’s own search portal and results.

MetroPCS: In 2011, one of the top-five U.S. wireless carriers announced plans to block streaming video over its 4G network from all sources except YouTube and then supported Verizon’s court challenge against the FCC’s 2010 open internet ruling, hoping to continue its anti-consumer practices.

Paxfire: In 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that several small ISPs were redirecting search queries via the vendor Paxfire which would intercept a search at Bing and Yahoo to redirected it to another page. In that way, the ISPs could collect referral fees for delivering users to select websites.

AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon: From 2011–2013, these three companies blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system, for force users into ISIS, a similar system that the companies had participated in developing.

Europe: A 2012 report from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications found that violations of Net Neutrality affected at least one in five users in Europe.

Verizon: In 2012, Verizon Wireless blocked people from using tethering (sharing) applications on their phones that let users circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering fee and turn their smartphones into Wi-Fi hot spots. By blocking those applications, Verizon violated a Net Neutrality pledge it made to the FCC as a condition of the 2008 airwaves auction.

AT&T: In 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.

A court struck down the FCC’s rules in January 2014, and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler opened a public proceeding for a new order in May of that year. Millions of people urged the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, and in February 2015 the agency did just that by voting to regulate high-speed internet service as a utility. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld these net neutrality regulations. Since his appointment in January 2017, FCC Chairman Pai has sought to dismantle the agency’s landmark Net Neutrality rules because cable companies have claimed that they are reliable enough to monitor themselves.

During the court proceedings, Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker freely confessed that the company wanted to prioritize websites and services willing to pay more money and then give them better access. She added that Verizon wants to block online content from companies and individuals not willing to pay enough to her company. Five time she said in court:

“I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

When Judge Laurence Silberman asked if Verizon should be able to block any website or service that doesn’t pay the company’s proposed tolls, Walker said: “I think we should be able to; in the world I’m positing, you would be able to.”

Last month, the GOP Congress took away online privacy protections by overturning FCC’s Title II net neutrality broadband privacy order. ISPs can now sell personal information about their subscribers. Major providers are pledging to protect customers’ data, including browsing data, but they haven’t provided any definition of that they supposedly won’t be selling. And Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T plan to deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified”—which means that they are collecting your browsing data. In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA, representing the major wireless ISPs, argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information'” and that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

To a complaint about the lack of privacy, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), 73, said, “Nobody’s got to use the internet.” GOP politicians are out of touch with the voters in many ways, especially because staffers do most of their work. Even DDT, known for his prolific tweets, refuses to use email most of the time. Assistants print out online articles for him to read from hardcopy. DDT supposedly wants to roll back net neutrality—most likely because he wants to roll back any progress by President Obama—but most likely he has no idea what net neutrality is.

Naysayers claim that protesting will do no good. Pai is using “jobs” as his excuse to give more money to big ISPs although they invested more money with net neutrality than before it. An open meeting on the topic is scheduled for May 18.

AGR Daily News Service

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