Nel's New Day

July 13, 2017

Four Days Remain to Protest No Net Neutrality

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:42 PM
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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.

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.

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