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Democracy Hollowed Out Part 34 - The Day The Internet Died

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in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet.

We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web.

We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy’s future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.
- Al Gore, 2005

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Net Neutrality keeps the internet free and open enabling anyone to share and access information of their choosing without interference.

But on Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC voted along party lines to pass Chairman Pai’s plan to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

Without these rules, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be able to block or slow down any online content including political speech they disagree with. This will disproportionately harm people of color and other marginalized communities who use the internet to fight systemic discrimination and share their stories.

Net Neutrality is essential to education, economic opportunity, innovation, social movements and dissent. Without Net Neutrality there’s no way to organize for justice or power the resistance.
- Save The Internet, December 14,2017

If you think DNS ABUSE, DPI, SNOOPING, PROJECT RIALTO, NEBUAD, SOPA, CISPA, THREE STRIKES, ETC, were CHALLENGES for privacy and freedom on the -nternet - they were. They are.

But last week the biggest nail yet was driven into America’s Internet coffin.

It’s about TITLE II of the TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934.

And GLOBAL censorship of the VOICES of the people.

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Net Neutrality Is Officially Dead

Mashable
December 17, 2017

Companies now control the internet, and there’s no way to stop them.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to eliminate its power to ensure net neutrality, effectively paving the way for internet providers to begin charging companies and consumers for faster internet access.

These kinds of arrangements, commonly called “fast lanes,” will inevitably favor big companies and hurt innovation, net neutrality advocates have warned.

The FCC isn’t just making it so internet providers don’t have to follow the rules. The order voted on Thursday almost entirely removes the FCC from any responsibility when it comes to keeping an eye on how the internet runs. Instead, the Federal Trade Commission will be tasked with going after companies if they are deemed to have made deals that hurt consumers or competition a move that few outside of anti-regulation advocates believe will be good for the internet.

Nothing will change immediately for consumers, but internet providers have already shown signs that they’re ready and willing to begin creating fast lanes - such as Comcast, which has already begun to change its framing on how it will handle internet traffic. That could mean Netflix has to pay Comcast so that its videos stream efficiently, a cost that would almost inevitably be passed on to subscribers. It also means that the next great internet idea might not have the money to pay for that fast lane, effectively killing it before the idea had a chance.

Chairman Ajit Pai led the charge for the proposal, ignoring public outcry and even some Republicans in Congress who advocated for the FCC to keep the rules in place.

“If our rules deter the massive infrastructure investment that we need, eventually we’ll pay the price in terms of less innovation,” Pai said.

“It is not going to end the internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy. It is not going to stifle free expression online,” Pai added.

The FCC voted along its usual 3-2 party line, with the three Republican commissioners voting for the proposal to remove net neutrality regulations. The two Democratic commissioners voted against the proposal.

The meeting was not without its drama. A bomb threat reportedly called into the meeting as Pai spoke forced the chairman to pause the meeting and briefly clear the room.

The vote marks a drastic reversal for net neutrality. Open internet advocates celebrated in 2015 when the FCC, then under Obama-appointee Chairman Tom Wheeler, voted to classify internet providers as “common carriers” a legal term that allowed the regulator to keep a closer watch on internet providers in the same way utilities like electricity are regulated.

At the time, Pai, a Republican commissioner appointed by Obama, had voiced strong opposition to the move. Two years later, President Donald Trump appointed Pai as chairman. Pai then immediately signaled that he would move to reverse the 2015 vote.

On Thursday, he succeeded, and then some.

The two Democratic commissioners issued strong dissents on the ruling, which will inevitably be challenged by lawsuits. Those lawsuits remain one of the few remaining hopes for net neutrality in the near term.

“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules. I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision put the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also dissented.

“I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” she said.

Clyburn closed her statements by reading off part of Pai’s dissent from the 2015 vote.

“As I close my eulogy of our 2015 net neutrality rules, carefully crafted rules that struck an appropriate balance in providing consumer protections and enabling opportunities and investment, I take ironic comfort in the words of then Commissioner Pai from 2015, because I believe this will ring true about this Destroying Internet Freedom Order. ‘I am optimistic, that we will look back on todays vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan path, that has served us so well. I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered,’” Clyburn said. “Amen to that, Mr. Chairman. Amen to that.”

SOURCE

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The FCC just killed net neutrality
Its over

By Jacob Kastrenakes
The Verge
December 14, 2017

Net neutrality is dead - at least for now. In a 3-2 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to remove the tough net neutrality rules it put in place just two years ago. Those rules prevented internet providers from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes. They also classified internet providers as Title II common carriers in order to give the measure strong legal backing.

TodayҒs vote undoes all of that. It removes the Title II designation, preventing the FCC from putting tough net neutrality rules in place even if it wanted to. And, it turns out, the Republicans now in charge of the FCC really don’t want to. The new rules largely don’t prevent internet providers from doing anything. They can block, throttle, and prioritize content if they wish to. The only real rule is that they have to publicly state that they’re going to do it.

Opponents of net neutrality argue that the rules were never needed in the first place, because the internet has been doing just fine. “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We were not living in some digital dystopia,” commission chairman Ajit Pai said today. “The main problem consumers have with the internet is not and has never been that their internet provider is blocking access to content. It’s been that they don’t have access at all.”

While that may broadly be true, it’s false to say that all of the harms these rules were preventing are imagined: even with the rules in place, we saw companies block their customers from accessing competing apps, and we saw companies implement policies that clearly advantage some internet services over others. Without any rules in place, they’ll have free rein to do that to an even greater extent.

Supporters of net neutrality have long argued that, without these rules, internet providers will be able to control traffic in all kinds of anti-competitive ways. Many internet providers now own content companies (see Comcast and NBCUniversal), and they may seek to advantage their own content in order to get more eyes on it, ultimately making it more valuable. Meanwhile, existing behaviors like zero-rating (where certain services don’t count toward your data cap) already encourage usage of some programs over others. If during the early days of Netflix, you were free to stream your phone carrier’s movie service instead, we might not have the transformational TV and movie company its turned into today.

One of the two Democrats on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, called today’s vote a “rash decision that puts the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.” “This vote,” Rosenworcel says, gives internet providers the green light to go ahead and discriminate and MANIPULATE YOUR INTERNET TRAFFIC,” something she says they have a business incentive to do.

“This is not good,” Rosenworcel says. “Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online.”

Commissioner Clyburn, the other Democrat, said the implications of today’s vote are “particularly damning” ... for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate. No one will be able to stop internet providers if they allow the social media services these groups rely on to slow down, blocking the dissemination of information, Clyburn said.

Both Rosenworcel and Clyburn also criticized the FCC’s HANDLINK OF PUBLIC COMMENT period that proceeded this vote, saying that the administration acted inappropriately in ignoring millions of voices in support of net neutrality. It is abundantly clear why we see so much bad process with this item: :because the fix was already in,” Clyburn said. Rosenworcel said the commission showed a “cavalier disregard” for the public and a :contempt” for citizens speaking up.

The vote comes after a contentious and messy public comment period. After opening the proposal up for feedback earlier this year, the commission received a record-breaking 22 million comments. But many of those comments were spam 7.5 million, according to the commission - and the FCC has refused to help REFUSED TO HELP INVESTIGATIONS into what happened. The commission was also quiet about website problems that caused its comment form to crash briefly in May.

Those comments are likely to play a role in whatever lawsuit hits following this vote. Net neutrality supporters are almost certain to sue the commission in an attempt to invalidate this proceeding and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules. While the commission is allowed to change its mind, it isn’t allowed to change rules for “arbitrary and capricious reasons.” In court, the FCC will have to prove that enough has changed since 2015, and that there’s enough evidence in the record of comments, to back up the conclusion that it ought to revoke net neutrality.

Since the beginning of this proceeding, the commission has made it very clear that it isnt really interested in most public comments either, despite a requirement to accept and consider them. The commission has stated time and again that it only values legal arguments, so we may see complaints that millions of consumer comments were ignored. Even if they don’t include the spam, the net neutrality proceeding was still the most commented ever at the commission.

This is the first time in more than a decade that the FCC has actually been opposed to net neutrality. The FCC has been promoting open internet rules since the mid-2000s, though it wasn’t until 2010 that they were turned into formal regulations. In 2014, those were overturned in court after the FCC was sued by Verizon. The court said that the FCC could try again using Title II, and so it did that in 2015. Those rules, which have been in place for two years, are the ones getting overturned today.

The vote ran over over an hour, with extensive speeches from the five commissioners, particularly from the two dissenting Democrats. In a highly unusual moment, the commission’s meeting room was evacuated briefly on advice of security. Cameras that remained on and streaming showed dogs being brought in to search the room.

Now that the vote is over, the commission will take a few weeks to make final adjustments to the rules. Theyll then be filed with the Federal Register and appear there in a few months. At that point, net neutrality will officially be off the books, and these new rules (or really, the absence of any) will take effect.

So what can you expect to change now that net neutrality is over? Not all that much - not overnight, at least. Rather than large swaths of the internet suddenly becoming unavailable or only offered for a fee, internet providers will likely continue to explore subtler methods of advantaging themselves and their partners, like offering data to use certain services for free or speeding up delivery of their own content.

These are things that may initially sound good. But in the long run, they disadvantage upstarts that don’t have the money to pay up. The problem is that, eventually, we may not know what products and services we missed out on because they never made it through the mess.

SOURCE

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Goodbye internet: How regional divides upended the world wide web
Governments have broken the world wide web.

By Mark Scott
Politico Europe
December 15, 2017

So, there you have it: 2017 was the year that finally broke the internet.

From Europes aggressive (some would say fanatical) expansion of digital privacy and hate speech rules to the rollback on December 14 of the United States’ net neutrality provisions, this year marks the end of an era.

Gone is the internet where people from Philadelphia to Paris pretty much had access to the same digital services. That basic tenet (the world in the world wide web) is what made the internet the lifeblood coursing through our daily lives. Its what was making countriesҒ borders increasingly meaningless and connecting people (for good and bad) in ways that seemed like science fiction just a few years ago.

The common global internet is now dead. In its place is something all together different: a “Balkanized splinternet,” where your experience online is determined by local regulation.

In 2018, the forces dividing the internet along regional or national borders are only likely to gain momentum, as governments worldwide reassert their control over digital forces that threatened to turn policymakers and politicians into bit players in a tech-centric world run by the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.

That Balkanization should worry anyone who (like me) believes that when harnessed correctly, the global digital revolution - like previous epochal shifts such as the Industrial Revolution - offers both new economic opportunities and a chance for people to become more engaged in public life.

In part, governments efforts to reclaim control over the internet is only natural. But without better cross-border coordination between policymakers from across the globe җ including China, where draconian internet laws still limit free speech and other fundamental rights this mad dash to regulate could have the opposite effect than whatגs intended.

Instead of reining in the (many) excesses of the online world, while protecting the underlying global structure of the internet, regional digital rule-making threatens to derail the economic, societal and political advances of the internet age.

Take net neutrality the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally, no matter if itגs a Google search, Netflix movie or Twitter rant.

On December 14, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission rolled back such provisions, in essence allowing telecom operators to charge digital companies for improved access to their telecom networks. Supporters of the changes say it wont hamper innovation, even though critics (including Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web) say it’ll end the internet as we know it.

No matter the outcome, its going to alter AmericansҒ internet experience for the good or bad, depending on your view.

By changing its stance on net neutrality, the U.S. is also setting itself apart from Europe, whose own net neutrality regulations still (mostly) insist that all internet traffic should be treated equally.

In the coming months, this diverging approach by arguably the worldגs two largest digital markets (excluding China) about one of the underlying principles of the internet will start to bite.

A new service marketed to U.S. consumers, for example, may fall afoul of EU rules. Or a European could be offered a different version of a product sold to an American, solely because of each regions contrasting approach to net neutrality. The result will be a regionalized internet experience that is fundamentally different to what is currently on offer worldwide.

Such online Balkanization isn’t just limited to changes in Washington, D.C.

In October, Germany passed some of the worlds most onerous online hate speech rules, including fines of up to Ҁ50 million for the likes of Facebook and Twitter if they consistently fail to remove illegal content from their digital platforms within 24 hours.

Other EU countries, notably France and Britain, also are mulling similar changes to force Big Tech to take greater responsibility for harmful or illegal material that appears on their sites.

Many on both sides of the Atlantic (including inside the tech companies) favor such a revamp. But Europe has gone significantly further to limit what can be posted online than in the U.S., where the First Amendments freedom of speech protections makes unilateral takedowns of content an impossibility.

This too is causing the day-to-day online experiences of Europeans and Americans to diverge, as content available in California may fail to make it through to others living in Catalonia. ItҒs hard to see how such digital splintering helps to spread ideas and foster debate between people around the globe.

And its not just the U.S. and EU җ two of the worlds strongest (albeit, somewhat dysfunctional) democratic regions җ that are pushing ahead with greater control of the internet.

Russia, Turkey, the Philippines and a growing list of other authoritarian regimes, as well as China and its existing Great Firewall,Ӕ are similarly demanding their own versions of the internet. That includes forcing tech companies to store data held on local citizens in servers located inside these countries to strong-arming social networks to censor content critical of national leaders.

This is the current state of the digital world at the end of 2017.

Without a significant (and fast) reassessment of how the internet is governed worldwide, the coming year will likely lead to more of the same: greater national controls over an online realm whose global reach is quickly becoming a relic of the past.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/17/17 •
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