Nel's New Day

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.

October 17, 2013

Congressional Republicans, Abusers

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:16 PM
Tags: , ,

For over two weeks, an extremist faction of the GOP held the United States hostage. It’s the sixth time since the Tea Party took a large number of seats in January 2011. The bad behavior of the conservatives in Congress’ budget battles over the last three years have cost the U.S. economy $700 billion—more than this year’s deficit. Congressional spending cuts and sequester have cut annual GDP by 0.7 percent and the equivalent of 1.2 million jobs. Uncertainty increased the cost an additional 0.3 percent, bringing the total cost to 1% of GDP annually.

Paul Krugman said that the unemployment rate would be below 6 percent without the current fiscal policy. In 2012, The Economic Policy Institute said that the fiscal cliff wasn’t about debt. It was about tax hikes coupled with spending cuts causing purchasing power to drain out of our economy.

The entire problem is caused by what Julie Driscoll, a domestic violence hotline counselor, describes as the Republicans abusive behavior. For the past 16 days, the media has shown the tea baggers taking over the U.S. House, ordering around House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), shutting down the government, and high-fiving one another like adolescents who have just broken the law.

Like abusers, Republicans always blame someone else for their actions. For abusive people there is no compromise. The abusive person is never wrong; only the abused must change. Abusers use bullying, fear tactics, threats, and intimidation—anything to get their own way. Abusers are also willing to use anyone else for pawns—in a family, the children, and with the GOP, the World War II veterans. 

Like abusers, Republicans do not negotiate in good faith. Boehner promised a clean continuing resolution in exchange for keeping the sequester cuts, the Democrats agreed, and Boehner backed down on his own agreement. Abusers will renege on any deals that they make; they will not uphold their end of the bargain. When Democrats gave in to the Republicans a year ago, Paul Krugman pointed out that the debt ceiling debacle at that time demonstrated that “raw extortion works and carries no political cost” and that “irresponsible brinksmanship” is now “a proven effective negotiating tactic.”

Like abusers, Republicans must win at all costs. Abusers don’t care who is caught in the crossfire because their desire for control and their irrational, desperate need to be the winner at any cost trumps any concern for others. Republicans raised the debt ceiling more than 25 times under Republican presidents and five times, with no difficulty, under George W. Bush. Now, regardless of any harm to others, the GOP vowed to block the president they hate. In a Catch 22, they claim that both defaulting and invoking the 14th Amendment to direct the Treasury to pay bills are impeachable offenses but gleefully push the president into one of these actions. No cost is too great for Republicans to make President Obama look bad.

Like abusers, Republicans have to be in complete control. They lost the 2012 election for president and Senate. The House has a Republican majority only because Republican states gerrymandered districts: House members received over a million more votes from Democrats than from Republicans. Yet Republicans think that they have the right to get whatever they want. To control the country, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) demanded, “Why don’t we open the parts of government that we agree to?” Republicans could then eliminate food stamps, inspections, regulations, etc. as they tried to do with their piecemeal strategy during the shutdown.

Like abusers, Republicans invalidate everyone else. Abusers use derogatory slurs against the victim as Republicans are using against President Obama in increasing occurrence and intensity.

Like abusers, Republicans wear down their victims. Suffering from abusive hopelessness, fear, and despair, victims give in to ridiculous demands that seem almost reasonable because it stops the emotional, mental, and physical pain—if only temporarily. Every rational plan from the Democrats led to upping the ante—repeal or defunding of Obamacare, a “conscience clause” to eliminate contraception, reducing Social Security, putting in the Keystone Pipeline—ad infinitum.

Like abusers, Republicans don’t care who they hurt. They can bully, threaten, and extort because they have a callous disregard for anyone who stands between them and what they want. Just as an abuser will knock a child out of the way in a rage, the Republicans will knock the country out of their way to get to their goal and then blame others for their behavior, never taking responsibility.

Like abusers, Republicans profess love for their victim. The Republicans say that they love their country, that their behavior is justified to save their country from the scourge of liberals and the devil called the Affordable Care Act, as, at the same time, they abuse the people in the country.

This time, however, the Democrats stood up to the abusers. Last night they said, “No more.” Thanks to their action, 260,000 people in Oregon will qualify for fast-track enrollment in the state health plan, the Medicaid expansion at the core of the health care reform. Young people will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 years old, and everyone with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. All the children in the state can have health insurance, and the insurance exchange will lower rates for people because companies have to be competitive.

After the past 16 days, people found out that they want government. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) wants FEMA because her state can’t afford to pay for the cattle lost in the recent blizzard. Both Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Todd Rokita (R-IN) want the National Institutes of Health funded: Rodgers has a child with Down syndrome, and Rokita has a son with a rare neurological disorder. Rokita  believes, however, that the rest of people’s needs could be taken care of by “families, faith communities, associations, and neighbors.” People discovered that they want their national parks and monuments. The salmonella outbreak during the shutdown moved the FDA up to the level of the national parks.

But it’s all personal. Republican control would mean no EPA, Labor Department, IRS, Department of Education, and some other agencies that Texas Gov. Rick Perry can’t remember.

Republicans claim that a government can be run like a family, but their families don’t always pay their bills. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said he tells his creditors: “Listen, we’re going to pay you. We’re just not going to pay you today, but we’re going to pay you with interest and we will pay everybody that’s due money.” He claimed that doing this would show the world that the United States was “finally addressing its problem.” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has a similar slipshod style: “We have in my household some bills that have to be paid and some bills that we can defer or only pay partially.” [Note: you might not want to lend these people money!]

The U.S. government could have funded at least one of the these programs with the more than $24 billion hit to the economy during the past 16 days:

  • Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP): $24 billion
  • Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget: $22.6 billion
  • NASA’s approved budget: $16.6 billion
  • All air transportation programs, including the Federal Aviation Administration, security, research, and other costs: $21.9 billion
  • Child Tax Credit: $22.1 billion
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (formally known as welfare): $17.7 billion
  • The cost of Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Women Infants and Children (WIC) program combined: $25.2 billion

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there won’t be any more threats, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won’t rule out another shutdown, adding that he will still “do anything” to stop Obamacare. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), said, “We’re going to start this all over again.” The Default Caucus—18 GOP senators and 144 GOP House members—will still be in Congress when the next crisis begins in less than three months. These are the people who voted last night to drive the United States into default that threatened to collapse the entire world economy. Several of these Republicans have expressed interest in being the nation’s next president.

At the same time the Senate voted to open, Cruz blocked Tom Wheeler’s confirmation as chair of the FCC because Wheeler wants transparency for political advertising funding. As usual, it’s all about Ted Cruz—and certainly will be the next time that he has a chance to close down the government.

The Default Caucus won’t stop their seditious behavior unless someone stops them. The House GOP leadership’s use of the Hastert Rule and H. Res 368 to shut down the government and threaten the U.S. economy with default is an attempt to extort the United States government into altering or abolishing the Affordable Care Act, and thus, is self-evidently a seditious conspiracy.

You can sign a petition calling on justice for these actions: “I call on the Justice Department of the United States of America to arrest Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and other decision-making House Republican leaders for the crime of seditious conspiracy against the United States of America.”

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