Publisher’s note: the national battle over “Net Neutrality” continues. Get involved! Keep the Internet free and open to all. Here’s an around-the-web summary of the arguments surrounding NN from the Benton Foundation.
The backlash is building over the plan to gut net neutrality
The Republican-helmed Federal Communications Commission is expected to pull the plug on net neutrality rules — but tech companies, entrepreneurs and other concerned users are vowing to not go down without a fight. Engine, a nonprofit group representing more than 1,000 start-ups and investors, released an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai detailing how they’re worried they won’t have a fair chance under his proposal. “Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors,” the letter said. “Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice.” The signatories said they’re worried these actions could hinder the ability of new entrepreneurs to start a business and have a global reach — shifting the focus away from the quality of their ventures to whether they have the “cap acity to pay tolls to internet access providers.” Evan Greer of Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group, said the group has helped to connect more than 250,000 calls to Congress since Chairman Pai announced his intention to nix net neutrality rules.
I’m on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality
[Commentary] Net neutrality is the right to go where you want and do what you want on the internet without your broadband provider getting in the way. It means your broadband provider can’t block websites, throttle services or charge you premiums if you want to reach certain online content. Proponents of wiping out these rules think that by allowing broadband providers more control and the ability to charge for premium access, it will spur investment. This is a dubious proposition. Wiping out net neutrality would have big consequences. Without it, your broadband provider could carve internet access into fast and slow lanes, favoring the traffic of online platforms that have made special payments and consigning all others to a bumpy road. Your provider would have the power to choose which voices online to amplify and which to censor. The move could affect everything online, including the connections we make and the communities we create. This is not the internet experi ence we know today. Americans should prevent the plan from becoming the law of the land. If the idea behind the plan is bad, the process for commenting on it has been even worse. Before my fellow FCC members vote to dismantle net neutrality, they need to get out from behind their desks and computers and speak to the public directly. The FCC needs to hold hearings around the country to get a better sense of how the public feels about the proposal. When they do this, they will likely find that, outside of a cadre of high-paid lobbyists and lawyers in Washington, there isn’t a constituency that likes this proposal. In fact, the FCC will probably discover that they have angered the public and caused them to question just whom the agency works for. [FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel]
Commissioner Clyburn Fact Sheet on Net Neutrality
Is it true that Chairman Pai’s proposal would eliminate Net Neutrality? Yes. It eliminates all prohibitions against blocking and throttling (slowing down) applications by broadband providers, and enables them to engage in paid prioritization and unreasonable discrimination at the point of interconnection. It ignores thousands of consumer complaints and millions of individual comments that ask the FCC to save net neutrality and uphold the principles that all traffic should be created equal.
The proposal to do away with net neutrality is worse than you think
[Commentary] In doing away with the 2015 rules that prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against or favoring certain content, applications and services (that is, no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes and a general rule against discrimination), Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has radically departed from bipartisan FCC precedent. This opens the door for companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter to pick winners and losers on the Internet by controlling which online companies get faster and better quality of service and at what price. Sounds bad, right? Believe it or not, the proposed order is worse than that. The proposed order would leave broadband providers largely if not completely free of oversight. The proposed order would prohibit states and localities from protecting their citizens. [Gigi Sohn]
Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality
[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai faces a serious legal problem. Because he is killing net neutrality outright, not merely weakening it, he will have to explain to a court not just the shift from 2015 but also his reasoning for destroying the basic bans on blocking and throttling, which have been in effect since 2005 and have been relied on extensively by the entire internet ecosystem. This will be a difficult task. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the blocking or throttling of competitors not a problem? The evidence points strongly in the opposite direction: There is a long history of anticompetitive throttling and blocking — often concealed — that the FCC has had to stop to preserve the health of the internet economy. Moreover, the FCC is acting contrary to public sentiment, which may embolden the judiciary to oppose Chairman Pai. Telecommunications policy does not always attract public attention, but net neutrality does , and polls indicate that 76 percent of Americans support it. The FCC, in short, is on the wrong side of the democratic majority. In our times, the judiciary has increasingly become a majoritarian force. It alone, it seems, can prevent narrow, self-interested factions from getting the government to serve unseemly and even shameful ends. And so it falls to the judiciary to stop this latest travesty. [Tim Wu]
How the FCC Can Save the Open Internet
[Commentary] I’m proposing today that my colleagues at the Federal Communications Commission repeal President Obama’s heavy-handed internet regulations. Instead the FCC simply would require internet service providers to be transparent so that consumers can buy the plan that’s best for them. And entrepreneurs and other small businesses would have the technical information they need to innovate. The Federal Trade Commission would police ISPs, protect consumers and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Instead of being flyspecked by lawyers and bureaucrats, the internet would once again thrive under engineers and entrepreneurs. The FCC will vote on this proposal on Dec. 14. If it passes, Washington will return to the bipartisan approach that made the internet what it is today. [FCC Chairman Pai]
NHMC Submits Analysis of Open Internet Consumer Complaints into Record
The National Hispanic Media Coalition filed a letter on November 20, 2017 to submit an analysis of open internet consumer complaints and related documents produced in response to its FOIA requests. The report is entitled “Consumer Perspectives on Barriers to Accessing the Open Internet,” was commissioned by NHMC and is based solely on the consumer complaints and related documents that have been released by the Federal Communications Commission to date.
ISPs Renew Pledges Not to Block or Throttle
Internet service providers were renewing their pledges not to block or throttle or otherwise discriminate against legal online content. Under Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan, if ISPs did block or throttle or prioritize, they would have to disclose that to the FCC per transparency rules regarding network management, and Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission could respond accordingly. Comcast senior EVP David Cohen said it was important for consumers to know that, FCC action or no, “we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content – and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies.” Charter echoed that sentiment in its reaction to the Pai proposal. “Charter has had a longstanding commitment to an open internet, which is why we don’t block, throttle or interfere with the lawful activities of our customers,” the company said.
Public Knowledge Responds to FCC Chairman Pai’s Proposal to Gut Net Neutrality Rules
Today’s draft Order shows both an appalling disregard for the record and an astounding disregard for even the basics of administrative law. It would seem more likely, as some have suggested, that Chairman Pai and Congressional Republicans have released this Order to create a crisis atmosphere and push through legislation authored by the cable companies rather than in a serious attempt at policy. For almost 20 years, both Republican and Democratic Chairmen of the FCC have asserted the FCC’s ongoing responsibility and authority to protect consumers and promote competition in the broadband access market. Rather than admit that this draft Order is a radical break from a bipartisan consensus on FCC authority to protect consumers generally and net neutrality specifically, Chairman Pai prefers to surrender this power to broadband providers, enabling them to set their own ‘net neutrality’ standards.
The FCC Has Always Defended Net Neutrality. Why Stop Now?
[Commentary] Despite Internet service providers’ clearly stated threats and attempts to circumvent net neutrality protections, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants to unilaterally disarm the FCC and move broadband providers from light-touch regulation to no regulation. That would be disaster for the Internet ecosystem. The U.S. has always had a free and open Internet precisely because of net neutrality protections. The only danger now is Pai catapulting us into a future without it. [Barbara van Schewick is the director of the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society]
Ajit Pai and the FCC want it to be legal for Comcast to block BitTorrent
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released his proposal to kill net neutrality today, and while there’s a lot to be unhappy with, it’s hard not to be taken with the brazenness of his argument. CHairman Pai thinks it was a mistake for the FCC to try and stop Comcast from blocking BitTorrent in 2008, thinks all of the regulatory actions the FCC took after that to give itself the authority to prevent blocking were wrong, and wants to go back to the legal framework that allowed Comcast to block BitTorrent.
The FCC is unilaterally giving up its net neutrality authority with little to replace it
FCC ignored your net neutrality comment, unless you made a ‘serious’ legal argument
The Federal Communications Commission received a record-breaking 22 million comments chiming in on the net neutrality debate, but from the sound of it, it’s ignoring the vast majority of them. A senior FCC official said that 7.5 million of those comments were the exact same letter, which was submitted using 45,000 fake email addresses. But even ignoring the potential spam, the commission said it didn’t really care about the public’s opinion on net neutrality unless it was phrased in unique legal terms. The vast majority of the 22 million comments were form letters, the official said, and unless those letters introduced new facts into the record or made serious legal arguments, they didn’t have much bearing on the decision. The commission didn’t care about comments that were only stating opinion. The FCC has been clear all year that it’s focused on “quality” over “quantity” when it comes to comments on net neutrality. In fairness to the commission, thi s isn’t an open vote.
FCC explains why public support for net neutrality won’t stop repeal
Net neutrality rules are popular with Americans who use the Internet. It was thus no surprise to see a huge backlash to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to eliminate the rules. While most of the 22 million public comments on the plan were spam and form letters, a study funded by the broadband industry found that 98.5 percent of unique comments supported the current rules. Net neutrality supporters organized an “Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality” in July and plan more protests in the coming days as a final vote draws near. But net neutrality rules have some vocal and influential opponents. The most prominent are Republican politicians and regulators, conservative think tanks, and the Internet service providers that have to follow the rules.