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Monday, 19 May 2014

Net Neutrality on the Ropes

Interest was high on this page last week when we discussed net neutrality in the lead-up to release of a proposal for new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

That proposal was released by FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler on Thursday and it was as net neutrality supporters had feared. Here's how Reuters explained the proposed rule change:

"[It] would ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to websites but may let them charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users.”

Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth: no websites may be slowed down but sites that pay more to their ISPs (internet service providers) can be speeded up. More on the proposal from the Washington Post:

”The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

“Smaller companies that can't afford to pay for faster delivery would likely face additional obstacles against bigger rivals. And consumers could see a trickle-down effect of higher prices as Web sites try to pass along new costs of doing business with Internet service providers.”

That, at least, is approaching what I worry about that no one in media is explaining directly: if these new regulations are enacted, it won't be long until additional, new charges for speedy delivery will trickle down to the rest of us - small business trying to get some traction, non-profit charities and partisan political sites, personal websites like mine and yours, for example.

I mean, it's not like Comcast, Verizon and Time-Warner ever left behind a single dime they could gouge out of anyone.

The proposal was approved by the FCC on Thursday in a 3-2 vote, the three being the commissioner and his two fellow Democrats. Just so you know, Commissioner Tom Wheeler spent many years of his career as a lobbyist for the cell phone and and cable companies before being appointed to the FCC six months by President Barack Obama. And as Gothamist pointed out:

”...Wheeler managed to drum up about $700,000 in campaign contributions to both of Obama's presidential runs.”

So even though the president campaigned in 2007 for an open internet, nowadays it's probably not a good idea to look to him for support. After the FCC vote last week, presidential spokesperson, Jay Carney said,

“We will be watching closely as the process moves forward in hopes that the final rule stays true to the spirit of net neutrality. The President is looking at every way to protect a free and open Internet, and will consider any option that might make sense.”

In hopes? Hardly a ringing endorsement for a free and open internet.

The text of the FCC net neutrality rules proposal is here. They are not in effect yet – the purpose of the vote was to open the period of public comment which runs until 15 July 2014.

You can do that at the website of the FCC. This page gives you many choices on how to contact the Commission in general or individual commissioners.

There will undoubtedly be many petitions around the web – please sign them. And I'll be back here to remind you to write or phone the FCC between now and mid-July.

If you have any questions about how the speed up/slow down would work if the proposal is approved, this short, little explanation from The New York Times makes it easy to understand.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Who Wants to be a Scammed Millionaire?


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I started using the internet somewhere around 1993. It was a wild and woolly place back then where everything was "free" and most everything you clicked on came with pop-up ads galore. You might remember a company called Net-zero that offered free internet. The only problem was that the screen was so cluttered with adds and tool bars that the actual viewing area was reduced to about 3 inches.
The point is, nothing is truly free. If there is a way to make a buck out of something they will find a way. There used to be gambling cruises that left from Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn and traveled out to the 10 mile limit where the gaming tables opened up. The City of NY was furious that they were not getting a cut of the action and imposed an exorbitant docking fee. The gambling cruises went out of business. As long as MY connection speed doesn't slow up, I have no problem with having those who want faster speeds paying extra for it.

My husband I, too, started using the internet as it existed sometime in the early 1990s. We absolutely support net neutrality and have already signed petitions saying so.

Many for-profit companies, as well as wealthy families and individuals, can pay for speed. However, what about the rest of us who won't be able to afford all-the-traffic-will-bear rates that ISPs will undoubtedly end up charging?

We who are far from the ultra-rich 1%--or even the top 25%--will be effectively shut out of vital channels of information, communication and entertainment at a time when other alternatives (i.e., newspapers, magazines and movie theaters) are losing ground. Another source of inequality--just what our already-stratified society needs!

I'm really bummed out right now by the information about the FCC commissioner. So tired of pay-to-play everywhere and in everything.

I'm really bummed out right now by the information about the FCC commissioner. So tired of pay-to-play everywhere and in everything.

Where there's money to be made, the public be damned. If the telcoms don't get it done this time, they'll be back again and again until they do.

I've registered my comment with the FCC and signed a petition to Pres. Obama but I have a bad feeling about this.

So do we! Wherever there's gazillions of dollars to be made and big corporations and billionaires for whom "enough" is a dirty word when it comes to money, you can bet that the rest of us are going to be on the losing end. That is, unless public outrage is so widespread and insistent that they can't get away with it--this time anyway.

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