Nel's New Day

July 13, 2017

Four Days Remain to Protest No Net Neutrality

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:42 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

In May, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began its process to repeal the 2015 network neutrality rules and Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. These rules guarantee that internet users have the right to access online content and services without interference from ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter. The deadline for commenting on the FCC repeal proposal is July 17. You can still join the over 7 million people who have submitted comments—almost two million in the past month—during the next four days.

A majority of FCC members wants to reverse the classification of broadband internet access services as “telecommunications services. Another of their goals is to eliminate the “general conduct standard” prohibiting ISP practices that “unreasonably interfere or unreasonably disadvantage” the abilities of consumers to access online content and services and of online content and service providers to freely access customers. These members question whether rules regarding blocking, transparency, and other ISP restrictions are even necessary. Their excuse is that these regulations will limit investment—meaning that members want the big companies to make more money.

In describing current problems about investment, the FCC used studies funded by ISPs that cite “only four articulated examples” of harm from their discrimination. The FCC position is that such “isolated examples” are not enough to place regulations on the internet. In addition, the FCC states that the agency has no authority in keeping or replacing net neutrality rules. They want to abandon all overseeing of the broadband market.

Yesterday was a day of protest for the repeal of internet rules. Both large and small tech companies coordinated the online action to remove the regulation that broadband service providers equally treat all internet traffic. Small companies joined big one such as Google and Netflix in the “Day of Action” to publicize the issue to the public and rally people to send comments to GOP FCC Chair Ajit Pai. Major internet companies took part Wednesday in a “Day of Action” to show their support for the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules.

Internet nonprofit Mozilla explains the reasons for keeping current internet rules:

Net neutrality is fundamental to free speech: Without net neutrality, big companies could censor people and perspectives online. Net neutrality has been called the “First Amendment of the Internet.”

Net neutrality protects small businesses and innovators who are just getting started: Without net neutrality, creators and entrepreneurs could struggle to reach new users. Investment in new ideas would dry up and only the big companies would survive, stifling innovation.

Net neutrality allows consumers—not big companies—to choose what they watch & do online: Without net neutrality, ISPs could decide you watched too many videos on Netflix in one day and throttle your Internet speeds, while keeping their own video apps running smooth.

Battle for the Net, a consortium of advocacy groups, announced the need for yesterday’s action:

“The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. On July 12th, the Internet will come together to stop them.”

Ryan Grenoble wrote about possible consequences of the FCC’s repeal:

“Without net neutrality, for instance, Comcast could hypothetically prioritize content produced by NBC, which it owns, while slowing access to Netflix. Similarly, Verizon, which owns HuffPost’s parent company, Oath, could allot extra bandwidth to HuffPost content at the expense of others.”

Mignon Clyburn, the only remaining Democrat on the FCC, described the FCC repeal of internet regulations a being on the wrong side of history. She reiterated her opposition to repeal in her support for the Day of Action:

“Today I stand with those who believe that a free and open internet is a foundational principle of our democracy. That is why I am excited that on this day consumers, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes, including broadband providers and internet startups, are speaking out with a unified voice in favor of strong net neutrality rules grounded in Title II.”

In case the FCC backs down, GOP senators have proposed a bill, Restoring Internet Freedom Act, to prevent the FCC from regulating ISPs actions of blocking, throttling, and favoring websites and apps in exchange for money.  Both Texas senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, co-sponsored the bill. The bill’s title is misleading because removal to the regulations makes the internet less free to consumers. Congress has already passed a resolution allowing ISPs to track and sell an individual’s data to third parties without that person’s permission. ISPs have given $160,000 to Cornyn and $115,000 to Cruz in the past four years.

The Washington Post warned that the disappearance of net neutrality regulations would could have dire consequences: “deep-pocketed corporations will upend how we get our news, watch our favorite shows, use social media or run our businesses.” The GOP internet law would make the internet much less free.

Despite the GOP attempt to eradicate net neutrality, people in the United States support its protections. Only 48 percent of DDT voters and 51 percent of GOP say that they want net neutrality, but 75 percent of the voters and 72 percent of GOP voters think that ISPs should be “prohibited from slowing or blocking websites or video services like Netflix.” Overall 81 percent like the net neutrality protections. Other polls go as high as 88 percent support for net neutrality protections.

What the GOP FCC members don’t consider about net neutrality:

 Growing ISP monopolies make the protections even more important. Verizon owns Yahoo and AOL, and Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC, MSNBC and Universal Pictures. AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner which would give AT&T control of HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros.

Capital investment by publicly-traded ISPs were five percent higher since net neutrality protections were enacted than in the two years earlier, and telecom-company spending on fiber-to-the-home network terminals and terminal ports rose nearly 50 percent during 2016 alone. Not one ISP told investors that the regulations have a negative financial impact.

The FCC has tried to portray net neutrality supporters as members of the “Black Bloc” protest group. If this were accurate, the anarchist group would comprise over four-fifths of people in the nation.

FCC Chair Pai claims that no problem exists without internet protections, but ISPs have tried to violate net neutrality. Comcast blocked access in peer-to-peer technologies (2005), AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services (2007-09), and Verizon Wireless blocked people from putting apps on their phones (2012). Verizon testified in court that ISPs should be able to edit the internet. Before the regulations, the huge ISPs deliberated congested their networks to degrade speeds so that they could require new payments for better connections. Those are only a few attempts to eliminate internet choice.

Net neutrality is not government regulation of the internet: it is a set of safeguards stopping ISPs from selecting priority and speed for online content. Rules regulate companies, not the internet itself, so that carriers don’t interfere with speech.

In “Net Neutrality: In A Corporatist Government, Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship,” Caitlin Johnstone wrote:

Net neutrality is an obstacle for US oligarchs in that it hamstrings their ability to manipulate web traffic away from information which challenges their rule. By dismantling it, [they may] strangle the media revolution which for the first time in history caused America’s unelected power establishment to completely lose control of the narrative on both ends of the political spectrum in 2016.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) gives a shred of hope about keeping net neutrality. He said that he believes the courts will protect the current regulations if the Republicans overturn them. A year ago the DC District Court of Appeals supported net neutrality. It might again.

People need to fight the oligarchy and keep access to information.

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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.

March 4, 2015

Net Neutrality: What Democracy Looks Like

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:06 PM
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A miracle happened last week. After big broadband providers flooded the media threatening huge problems caused by net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Their action will keep broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic on the Internet. The fight isn’t over because the same providers will pour millions into lobbying Congress for laws to eliminate equal access to the Internet. At this time, they may not be successful, considering the dysfunctional nature of a Congress that almost sent the DHS into shutdown. The Fox network made its usual outrageously false comments. Read at your own risk.

What big business broadband providers wanted was the right to collect payment from Web businesses for delivering content with higher speed and quality. Open Internet advocates said that the providers shouldn’t be able to manipulate traffic in a way that smacks of blackmail. New rules reclassify broadband Internet services from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” The change holds companies such as Comcast and AT&T to the higher and necessary standard of operating in the public interest.

As a fact sheet from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler states, “For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary” if it finds that interconnection deals between internet service providers and content providers fail to meet Title II’s “just and reasonable” standard. Under the new FCC definition of high-speed broadband, 82 percent of consumers in the nation have one or fewer options of high speed internet providers. No competition meets no free market advantage for the consumer who is charged unreasonable rates, receives bad service, or suffers from “fast lane” deals that make some parts of the internet more accessible than others. Free online speech is another advantage of the FCC ruling: everyone’s voice can be heard regardless of economic status.

The potential of the FCC change is amazing. State regulations can no longer limit local internet services; for example, cities that petition the FCC can provide high speed internet to their residents. As such, the FCC overturned laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevent local governments from expanding services in Chattanooga and Wilson (NC). Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) have already filed legislation to overturn the FCC’s municipal broadband ruling.

The rules ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down services such as Netflix and from speeding up traffic even in exchange for money. Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, which provide Internet service to tens of millions of smartphones and tablets are included in the regulation. Sprint, one of the four major wireless providers, “commends the FCC for its hard work in arriving at a thoughtful, measured approach on this important issue.” Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper wrote, “It is important to draw the distinction between regulation of the Internet, and regulation of carriers. The FCC’s order will disallow carriers from discriminating against sources of traffic that their customers choose to access via the Internet. This is common carriage at its core, and as a carrier, I am supportive of being regulated as a common carrier by the FCC.”

On the other hand, Verizon is so furious about the FCC decision that the company issued its protest in Morse code, guaranteeing that almost no one could read its statement without going to a PDF of its arguments against net neutrality.

Verizon_Morse_Code (1)

Verizon is partly to blame for the FCC ruling because it sued to overturn much weaker rules passed in 2010, leading to today’s ruling. Other providers are blaming Verizon for its action.

The FCC made no changes to consumer services or any additional fees. That is the reason for the FCC ruling–to keep the Internet functioning as it is now. The FCC was very cautious in its ruling—no regulation of “unbundling, tariffs, or other forms of rate regulation.” That means people in the United States will continue to pay far more than most other countries for their Internet access.

Net neutrality doesn’t stop big business from making big money. If the FCC approves Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast will control over half the U.S. cable and Internet market with 63 percent of U.S. consumers having only one choice of broadband provider. Generating $68 billion in 2014, Comcast owns NBC and Universal pictures, has consolidated internet, cable television and phone services, and made huge profits from investing in fiber optic cables and buy smaller providers. In that way, the company has successfully increased consumer monthly charges, including jacked-up prices for faster speeds, as shown in “Time Warner Cable’s 97 Percent Profit Margin on High-Speed Internet Service Exposed.”

Because FCC has not issue exact language about the change, specifics won’t be made public for weeks. That’s when providers will begin taking legal action against the FCC rules and lobby sympathetic conservative legislators for votes to supersede the regulations. House and Senate Republicans have already invited providers for a meeting in their plan to remove broadband from classification as a utility service.

Marvin Ammori wrote about the victory of the people in the FCC decision:

“The vote is already touted as among the biggest public interest victories in history and arguably the biggest Internet freedom victory ever. ‘Ever’ means: this victory is even bigger than the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012, a copyright bill that could have censored our favorite websites but went down in flames when Wikipedia, reddit, Google and others joined in an Internet-wide blackout for one day.”

Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality. This miracle came from a grassroots effort in opposition to big money from big business. People camped out in front of the FCC and picketed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s home. Almost 4 million people left comments on the FCC website, at one point crashing it. In return, providers donated heavily to civil rights organizations to bring them in line with big business. With Comcast and Verizon trustees on its board and $2 million in donations during 2012 and 2013, the Urban League widely publicized Comcast’s arguments against net neutrality. The response was a coalition of almost 100 other civil rights organizations such as Color of Change and Hispanic Media Coalition calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband.

As Craig Aaron wrote, “This is what democracy looks like.”

February 4, 2015

Net Neutrality off Life Support

I have two questions for you:

  1. Do you use the Internet?
  2. Do you ever get impatient?

If you answer yes to both these questions, you may think the following news is wonderful.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has asked for authority to enforce open Internet protections. For years, there has been a threat to equal access to the Internet, made worse by the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court ruling against fair access to the Internet. If Wheeler’s proposal succeeds, Title II of the Communications Act will stop service providers from charging some content providers, for example Netflix, more money than others for access. The plan includes equal rules for both mobile and fixed networks. FCC commissioners will vote on the plan later this month. The four other commissioners are equally split between Republicans and Democrats.

Another part of the plan is to give the FCC authority over points of interconnection between an Internet service provider and the rest of the Internet. The agency will also be able to investigate complaints about unfair interconnection activities.

Wheeler appeared to waffle about the concept of “net neutrality,” blocking charges for faster service, until President Obama supported the plan in November. A FCC official said that reactions from financial analysts and ISPs such as Sprint showed that the plan could work without harming investments. The question is whether the final plan will have loopholes for these companies.

Telecom and cable companies fighting the plan are upset. Doug Brake, telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, stated that the decision is an “unjustified, overblown response to what has in actuality been a by-and-large hypothetical concern.” (Netflix has already been charged more to get speed equal to other companies.) These corporations are hoping that congressional Republicans will strip FCC of the authority to require strong Internet protections.

In a piece published in Wired, Wheeler wrote about his past experience as the president of a startup, NABU: The Home Computer Network. Its delivery time was hundreds of times faster than Steve Case’s AOL, he said, but NABU went broke because it had to depend on cable television operators to grant access to its systems. Case had access to unlimited customers because they used the telephone network rather than cable. Wheeler explained his change from using “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act as the basis for his decision: “I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.”

Wheeler added, “My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

Verizon had “won” the lawsuit that stopped the FCC from giving fair access to Internet providers. After the corporation sued to block the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality order, the court threw out FCC rules against blocking and discrimination. The ruling stated that the FCC was wrong by imposing per se common carrier rules applied to the former telephone network onto broadband without first classifying broadband providers as common carriers. It left the door open for the FCC to do exactly that, making the outcome worse for Verizon and fellow ISPs. The proposed rules stop speeding up, slowing down, or blocking broadband Internet traffic just like regulations dating back to the early days of the telephone business.

The FCC vote on February 26 will lead to lawsuits, no matter which side comes out on top. The broadband industry—telecom, mobile, and cable providers—has deep pockets and argue that these rules would stifle network investment and strangle innovation. Michael Powell, a former chairman of the FCC and now CEO of lobbyist trade group National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said that any attempt to reclassify broadband under Title II would amount to “World War III.”

Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of the CTIA wireless trade group, claims concern “that the FCC’s proposed approach could jeopardize our world-leading mobile broadband market.” She hasn’t read any of the thousands of articles on the Internet showing that people in the United States pay more and get less from their web connection. In Europe, the Internet speed makes the speed in the U.S. seem sluggish, and the cost there can be about $56 a month for broadband—Internet, television, and telephone combined. One study ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in speed and cost of broadband connections.

Internet in the UK comparable to the U.S. is $6 per month. The government paid nothing to develop the Internet, but government regulations force more competition in the market. America’s AT&T and Verizon are members of a consortium that is pushing for faster broadband service in the UK. They want more competition but say that the policies they support in Europe would be a big mistake for the United States.

About a year ago, BBC published an article on how the United States compares to other countries in the world. As it points out, many people in the U.S. even have to rent the modem (we do!). One user said, “That’s like a rental car company charging customers an extra $7 fee per month to include the steering wheel.” Yup.

Under Wheeler’s proposal, the FCC cannot set rates for ISPs or tariffs. It also cannot require ISPs to share lines to customers with rivals offering a competitive Internet service. Wheeler pointed out that mobile service is governed in the same manner as his proposal. “Over the last 21 years, the wireless industry has invested almost $300 billion under similar rules, proving that modernized Title II regulation can encourage investment and competition,” he said. His justification for putting the Internet on an equal basis with wireless networks is that over half the people in the United States access the Internet on mobile devices. “Wireless can’t carry 55 percent of the Internet’s traffic and expect to be exempt from Open Internet requirements,” he said.

Wheeler’s draft rules have even more provisions to irritate big broadband corporations. The proposal enforces consumer privacy rules; charges Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators, and the poor; and ensures that services such as Google Fiber can more easily build new broadband pipes. Providers would not be required to contribute to the subsidy fund initially, but the proposal makes this possible later if the FCC thinks the fund is necessary. The existing Universal Service Fund helps schools and libraries buy Internet service, reduces the cost of telephone service for low-income Americans, and subsidizes connectivity for rural areas.

The impetus last summer was lagging until John Oliver, late-night comedian of Last Week Tonight who started on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, gave a 13-minute rant about the lack of net neutrality. The resulting millions of comments demanding net neutrality briefly shut down the FCC website. That success was followed by Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox browser, suggesting that the FCC split the Internet in two. Wheeler explored the hybrid plan, but President Obama’s urging may have led Wheeler to drop the idea in favor of the current proposal.

Net neutrality, which seemed to be on life support just a year ago, may become law of the land. If it does, it will make a fortune for the lawyers from the broadband industry.

November 19, 2014

Net Neutrality Decision Postponed–Again

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:31 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

“Obama for the Internet.” Preserving net neutrality will “stifle freedom, entrepreneurship and creativity online.” That’s Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) take on the debate that’s coming to a head, like a giant boil ready to burst.

For the uninitiated, net neutrality requires the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to treat all content equal in speed and delivery. Charging extra for higher speeds or slowing down parts of the Internet content affects everyone who uses is.

The FCC can continue net neutrality by classifying the Internet as a common carrier utility. President Obama supports net neutrality, but FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, a former telecoms lobbyist, isn’t convinced. As the swing voter between two Democrats and two Republicans, he’s the Decider. Big telecommunication companies such as Comcast and Verizon are fighting net neutrality not only because they can’t make as much money but also because they would be more highly regulated.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who just won his seat by over 10 points, responded to Cruz on CNN’s State of the Union. The Internet has been “neutral” since its inception so there’s no change. As for quashing entrepreneurship, three guys in a pizzeria sold “YouTube” to Google for $1.65 billion because Google decided it was a better system than “Google Video.” Big businesses such as Ford, Visa, UPS, and Bank of America like net neutrality so much that they’ve lobbied the FCC to keep the rules by reclassifying broadband as an essential service. Their position is the same as most of the people in the United States:

“Every retailer with an online catalogue, every manufacturer with online product specifications, every insurance company with online claims processing, every bank offering online account management, every company with a website—every business in America interacting with its customers online is dependent upon an open Internet.”

After one big communication corporations failed to bribe the government to dump net neutrality, it tried extortion. AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, said that the company won’t extend new high-speed Internet connections in 100 U.S. cities if the FCC imposes net neutrality regulations. The FCC wrote back, asking for “all documents” related to that decision. AT&T may have trouble finding those documents because there have been no details published about these plans. The company should have hedged its bets because the FCC hasn’t yet signed off on its request to buy DirecTV for $48 billion. FCC also wants to know if AT&T’s financial model “demonstrates that fiber deployment is now unprofitable” and whether laying fiber to more than two million homes after the DirecTV acquisition “would be unprofitable.”

The FCC decision has great implications for almost all United States residents. If Wheeler decides in favor of the big companies, they can decide not only the speed of content on the Internet, but also the content itself. With net neutrality, an ISP cannot block a legal website or service. The decision also affects mobile devices which increasingly receive information from the Internet. Regulations require that customers of one phone company aren’t penalized when receiving calls from other company’s customers. The same philosophy should apply to information from the Internet. As the president said:

“The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known. The FCC was chartered to promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks. In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet. I thank the Commissioners for having served this cause with distinction and integrity, and I respectfully ask them to adopt the policies I have outlined here, to preserve this technology’s promise for today, and future generations to come.”

The first thing that Wheeler did after the president announced his support for net neutrality was to say that the FCC needs more time. Today was the deadline for publishing revised rules for a December vote, but that didn’t happen. Wheeler postponed the decision until sometime in 2015 when the GOP can apply more pressure and big telecom companies have more time to lobby politicians.

In speaking about a different issue, House Speaker John Boehner stressed that the president should follow the mandate of the people. If Republicans truly believed that (ha!), they would support net neutrality.

A new survey from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication found strong support for neutrality regardless of gender, age, race and level of education. About 81 percent of people in the United States oppose “Internet fast lanes” that would charge more for websites and services to get content to customers more quickly. Republicans are even more likely to support net neutrality than Democrats although their elected legislators don’t support their preference.

A problem with accurate poll numbers is that people have been slow to understand what net neutrality. Just six months ago, 63 percent of the respondents said they’d never heard the term “net neutrality.” Even now, 54 percent still say they haven’t heard the term. Yet a few weeks ago, 77 percent agreed that all Internet information should be treated the same and that ISPs should not be able to restrict the speed on content.

Cruz’s twitter that “ ‘net neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet” made him a few enemies. These are some of the nearly 3,000 responses on Cruz’s Facebook page:

Ed Piper: As a Republican who works in the tech industry I can say that this statement shows you either have no idea what you are talking about or you are bought and paid for by the American Cable monopoly.

Keith French: Ted, I am as conservative as they come…. I want government out of just about everything… and I hate to say it, really hate to say it, but Obama is right on this one. I do not want my access and internet speed controlled by my ISP. It will be.

Joey Camp: As a Republican whom also works in IT like Ed… You have no clue what you are talking about or you are company bought and paid for.

A Jinnie McManus: Goddammit, stop making my party look like morons and look up net neutrality. It doesn’t mean what you and your speechwriters think it means.

Adam Huzzey: Go find whatever rock you crawled out from under Ted and stay under it! Proud republican here, but not so proud to be blind like the good senator. Look how “great” our free market Internet is!!! I pay $100 a month for 15mbs / 100gb p/m capped Internet. Yep, those “free” markets really make it better lmao.

Jimmy Lee: Wow. I am embarassed that I supported you Ted. Face palm. I think it’s time that I “unlike” your FB page.

Cruz only doubled down after Franken refuted his claims. In response to Franken’s comment that we have always had net neutrality, he brought out a rotary phone and said, “What happens when government starts regulating something as a public utility? It calcifies everything, it freezes it in place.” Holding up the rotary phone, he said, “This is regulated.” Then he lifted his iPhone and said, “This is not.” The FCC hasn’t mandated rental rotary phones for 30 years, but iPhones, used as phones, are still regulated.

Big business, including ISPs, cannot be trusted. Anecdotal evidence shows that some of them block users’ email service through crippling encryptions, thus serving as gatekeepers to the Internet. Postal services such as FedEx or USPS cannot legally modify the contents of communications if they don’t approve of language or references to competing businesses. Postal carriers cannot edit letters.

Many people don’t even have choices about ISPs. I live in a small community that is controlled by Charter. Without net neutrality, the company could do anything it wants. That’s the opposite of freedom.

September 11, 2012

GOP Takes Our Freedom

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:53 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eleven years ago, a tragedy in New York City gave the government a green light to limit freedom for the people in the country. Since that time, the GOP has used fear and hatred like bludgeons; they have started two wars and allowed huge corporations to increase their burgeoning control over the people of the United States. Although the GOP talks about wanting small government and giving people more freedom, they have slashed away at the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” described by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, hammering at freedom from religion and freedom to control one’s body. There are also many other ways we have lost our freedoms—our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Employment: Businesses have rights; workers don’t. More and more, businesses hire on a temporary or part-time basis so that they don’t have to provide rights and benefits. Employers can read employees’ correspondence on company computers and track employees’ movements on the company cell phones. Businesses have the right to fire anyone for expressing political views online even when employees write these when they’re not at work. States legislate against organizing and forming unions, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Lawmakers use tax abuses to break union contracts. Businesses even control bathroom breaks: Mary Williams Walsh reported in the New York Times, “Employees at lower rungs of the economic ladder can be timed with stopwatches in the bathroom; stonewalled when they ask to go; given disciplinary points for frequent urination; even hunted down by supervisors with walkie-talkies if they tarry in the stalls.”

A healthy lifestyle: The United States ranks 49th in infant mortality; lower-income families suffer much greater infant mortality in this country than those in higher income brackets. The average life expectancy for an African American in New Orleans is roughly the same as that of a North Korean and shorter than that of people in Colombia, Venezuela, of Vietnam. Life expectancy for poor white males in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley is roughly the same as that of males in Mexico and Panama. Mortality among Americans aged 65 and older decreased by 13 percent after Medicare was created, and seniors spent 13 percent fewer days in the hospital. The GOP plans to reverse this trend through their proposed Medicare voucher system and increased eligibility age.

Health care: Millions of people in this country are forced to beg for health care, even when they pay for insurance, and then argue over a complex system of denied payments with arcane explanations. Without the ability to fight this, people then are subject to medical debt collectors and possibly end up in jail. Most people in the United States lack affordable dental care.

Social mobility: The recession allowed businesses to demand wage concessions from workers and increase huge salaries and bonuses to senior executives. The push toward tax cuts for the wealthy resulted in a decline of government jobs. The share of middle-income jobs in this country has fallen from 52 percent to 42 percent since 1980, while the share of low-income jobs rose from 30 percent t0 41 percent. The cost of higher education has shifted from taxpayers to students and their families in the past 30 years. During this time inflation has increased median family income by 147% while college tuition and fees rose 439%. That’s a tripling of education costs, in real dollar terms. According to the New York Times, “Among families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent, the net cost of a year at a public university is 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost is 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.”

Personal time: The U.S. is one of the few developed nations that don’t require employers to offer paid vacation time to their employees. Even if employees have vacation time, they have trouble using it because staff cutbacks keep them from being covered. Others can’t afford it, and employers pressure them not to take off any time. Michael Janati also noted in the Washington Times, “Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% (when adjusting for inflation).” More people are literally “working themselves to death.”

Information: Because of weak regulations and lax enforcement of laws, corporations can keep people from access to vital information for business transactions. Banks hide balloon payments and other key loan provisions in complex and unreadable documents while bankers misrepresent the terms of the loan. The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) hides the names of mortgage holders and their terms from people and courts. Banks control FICO and other credit-scoring agencies. Corporations walk away from bad loan deals with their banks, but individuals have almost no recourse if they fail to live up to agreements. In fact, individuals pay for the corporations faulting on their loans. If people refuse to accept “arbitration clauses” weighted in favor of corporations, they will be denied critical services. Corporations such as cable television operators and health insurers act as monopolies or near-monopolies. These actions deny freedom of choice.

Bill Moyers said, “In 1984 the number of companies owning a controlling interest in America’s media was 50; today that number is six.” Corporate media still shapes our perception of current events. When tens of thousands of demonstrators protested at George W. Bush’s first inauguration of George W. Bush, almost all the media refused to show them. The same thing happened when an estimated one million demonstrators protested the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. News outlets such as the Washington Post, which has outsourced much of its financial reporting to an organization run by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, use labels such as “extreme” and “fringe” to describe politicians and organizations who advocate for policies which are supported by 75 or 80 percent of all Americans.

Housing and travel: The 16 million underwater homes in the United States house are occupied by approximately 40 million people who owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in “underwater” real estate value. This value disappeared when the housing bubble burst. The mortgage deception often included forgeries, lies about the loan’s terms, and filing of false information. Stuck with these debts, many homeowners lose the ability to move to another area even if they need to find jobs lost after the bank-created financial crisis. If they have a job, they pay taxes that prop up the banks.

Privacy: Internet companies sell personal data for profit, often by using cookies on personal computers to track activities. Facebook sold users’ video rental records. Google pulled Americans’ personal information via WiFi when it created Street View. Apple iPhones track and store their owners’ movements. The government is already using corporate data, sometimes without subpoenas. Corporations voluntarily permit the government to use their technology to spy on citizens, included one reported case where the government placed a spy server at an ATT location to track the activities of its subscribers. There’s a lot more that we don’t know.

Representative democracy: Lawmakers ignore the wishes of people in the country. While 75 percent of most Americans and 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security cuts to balance the budget, political leaders negotiate these cuts. Lawmakers refuse to legislate tighter control on banks, but the majority of people in the United States want this to happen. The majority of people want higher taxes on millionaires, another issue that Republicans will not consider.

The GOP is right: we need more freedom. It’s just that the GOP version of freedom shackles the people in the United States.

Asides: Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he plans to spend $100 million this year to get Mitt Romney elected president. It would be money well invested if Romney is elected. Romney’s tax cuts would net Adelson $2.3 billion over the four years of Romney’s administration, making him a profit of $2.2 billion.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to require local television stations to put detailed information about political advertising including the cost of specific commercials on their websites.

Veteran GOP strategist Mary Matalin describes Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, as living a real middle-class mother life. Married to one of the most powerful Washington lawmakers, she also has a cousin in the House and an uncle who used to be an Oklahoma governor and senator. Janna Ryan has also worked as a Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist who knows “probably more than any of the spouses that, with all due respect, didn’t come from that background, whether it’s Michelle [Obama] or Ann [Romney] or Jill [Biden],” according to Matalin. Sounds like an ordinary soccer mom to me. 

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