Article 43


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Mother of All Privacy Battles Part 21 - FCC Votes On Net Neutraility


The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time

By Al Franken
Huffington Post
December 20, 2010

This Tuesday is an important day in the fight to save the Internet.

As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.

This principle is called “net neutrality”—and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it.

The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don’t do that at all. They’re worse than nothing.

That’s why Tuesday is such an important day. The FCC will be meeting to discuss those regulations, and we must make sure that its members understand that allowing corporations to control the Internet is simply unacceptable.

Although Chairman Genachowski’s draft Order has not been made public, early reports make clear that it falls far short of protecting net neutrality.

For many Americans—particularly those who live in rural areas—the future of the Internet lies in mobile services. But the draft Order would effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections.

Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason. For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area).

It gets worse. The FCC has never before explicitly allowed discrimination on the Internet—but the draft Order takes a step backwards, merely stating that so-called “paid prioritization” (the creation of a “fast lane” for big corporations who can afford to pay for it) is cause for concern.

It sure is—but that’s exactly why the FCC should ban it. Instead, the draft Order would have the effect of actually relaxing restrictions on this kind of discrimination.

What’s more, even the protections that are established in the draft Order would be weak because it defines “broadband Internet access service” too narrowly, making it easy for powerful corporations to get around the rules.

Here’s what’s most troubling of all. Chairman Genachowski and President Obama—who nominated him—have argued convincingly that they support net neutrality.

But grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we’ve been had. Instead of proposing regulations that would truly protect net neutrality, reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal, which would destroy it.

No chairman should be soliciting sign-off from the corporations that his agency is supposed to regulate—and no true advocate of a free and open Internet should be seeking the permission of large media conglomerates before issuing new rules.

After all, just look at Comcast—this Internet monolith has reportedly imposed a new, recurring fee on Level 3 Communications, the company slated to be the primary online delivery provider for Netflix. That’s the same Netflix that represents Comcast’s biggest competition in video services.

Imagine if Comcast customers couldn’t watch Netflix, but were limited only to Comcast’s Video On Demand service. Imagine if a cable news network could get its website to load faster on your computer than your favorite local political blog. Imagine if big corporations with their own agenda could decide who wins or loses online. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist.

That’s why net neutrality is the most important free speech issue of our time. And that’s why, this Tuesday, when the FCC meets to discuss this badly flawed proposal, I’ll be watching. If they approve it as is, I’ll be outraged. And you should be, too.



Tell FCC Commissioner Copps via our free fax service: Be a hero and save the Internet

December 20, 2010

Big telecom is about to win a huge battle in the fight to destroy our open Internet. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps can be a hero and stop this stealth attack on net neutrality.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, an Obama administration appointee, has announced plans to issue weak, industry-friendly regulations when the FCC meets on Dec. 21st. And in a cynical ploy Genachowski is calling the regulations “net neutrality,” when they’re nothing of the sort. It’s fake net neutrality, and what’s more his proposal has been praised by the telecom industry.

No one at the FCC has been a bigger champion for real net neutrality than Commissioner Michael Copps. When the time comes for a vote on Chairman Genachowski’s fake net neutrality, Copps’ vote will be the deciding one.

Tell FCC Commissioner Copps: Be a hero for the Internet. Vote no on Chairman Genachowski’s fake net neutrality plan.

No acceptable proposal can permit paid prioritization; can exempt wireless broadband from the protections offered for wireline; nor can it move forward without reclassifying broadband, providing the legal footing required by the courts for implementation. Just as importantly, the rule must have clear, inexpensive, and rapid procedures, and meaningful penalties, so that innovators and citizens can effectively seek redress and legal clarity.

However, in his relentless search for the path of least resistance, Chairman Genachowski has proposed a set of rules that, if adopted, would normalize ISPs’ ability to discriminate between sources and types of content. The Chairman’s proposal appears to be a collection of safe-harbors requested by the largest carriers, rather than rule to benefit average citizens. And by eschewing reclassification under Title II, the Chairman all but guarantees the courts will strike down the regulations.

There is a powerful public mandate from organizations and everyday people reflecting all of America’s diversity of race, class, and political opinion who want meaningful, enforceable net neutrality protections.

If Commissioner Copps refuses to support Genachowski’s cynical ploy to placate the telecoms, he can force the Chairman’s hand. Without Copps’ support, the Chairman will not have enough votes to pass his fake net neutrality plan which has been praised by the telecom companies.

There is only one Internet, and consumers should be allowed to access any legal website, service or application on any device of their choosing (whether they’re accessing the Internet wirelessly or not) without interference from big telecom.

Chairman Genachowski won’t stand up for a free and open Internet. But Commissioner Copps can be a hero. Urge him to do what’s right and vote no on December 21.


Posted by Elvis on 12/21/10 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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