If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that the US Federal Communications Commission will be revoking strong rules to protect Net Neutrality on Thursday.
I had the pleasure of discussing this Saturday night at a most appropriate location: Riverwest Radio, a low-power community radio station in Milwaukee. I spoke with Gary Grass and Babette Grunow on “The Grass is Greener.”
Hear the show:
Riverwest Radio reaches its listeners in two ways:
If you happen to live within a few miles of the transmitter on the northeast side, you can listen on WXRW, 104.1 on your FM dial.
If the signal doesn’t reach you, you can stream the station live on the internet, or listen to archived shows on Soundcloud.
If Ajit Pai’s plan to end net neutrality as we know it is implemented, Riverwest Radio will likely be one of the first casualties of Internet “fast lanes.” To continue to focus on its community, it may not be able to serve folks outside it as they do now. They certainly won’t be able to justify paying service providers extra to get into the fast lane.
So, what’s next?
While it’s difficult to see a positive outcome from Thursday’s FCC meeting, the fight doesn’t stop there. Both the FCC and Congress need to continue to hear from the majority of internet users that we won’t back down.
Hey folks, the deadline is looming for submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about their plan to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs), also known as your cable or telephone company, to leverage their pipes by implementing fast lanes for the highest bidders and other attacks on free speech on the Internet.
Submit comments by Wednesday, August 30 to share your thoughts on letting the “free market” decide what information you have access to on the Web, and what megacorp it will come from.
Recognizing that FCC Chair Ajit Pai has a 3-2 majority means that the struggle with the FCC is an uphill one. Whatever the FCC decides on this issue, the final resolution to this battle for the net may well be delivered by Congress. The best defense of net neutrality would be to make it law. Otherwise, every time the White House changes hands, the rules will change.
For this reason, Fight For the Future and other advocates for net neutrality are organizing meetings with Congressfolk while the summer recess continues. Find more information at the Battle for the Net site. You can also submit a comment to the FCC (with a copy to your representatives in Congress) at that link.
In the event you need to be persuaded why net neutrality is important, and why the current rules (not Pai’s alternative) represent real net neutrality, look these over:
You’ve probably heard a lot about “fake news” lately. If net neutrality goes away, it’s the Internet Service Providers (your phone, wireless, cable company) who will get to decide how much it costs for your message to reach readers, listeners and viewers. It’s not hard to imagine that if making money or gaining power is your primary reason for being online, you’ll pay the toll to get your “news” (fake or not) out. Cost of doing business. If you’re sharing your expertise, or just spouting off (it’s your right), you’ll probably find the toll a little too steep, and find some other way to sound off.
Whenever you’re seeing this, do take the time to visit the Battle for the Net site right now, where you’ll get a variety of tools to make an impact:
File a comment with the Federal Communications Commission (copied to your members of Congress)
Share the fight on Facebook and Twitter
Show up at your congressional offices at 6PM on Wednesday to tell your representatives what you think
Make a video to show the FCC you’re a real live human, not a troll or a bot!
Oh yeah, they’ll ask for money too, if you have some to spare
I’m proud that Automattic, the company behind WordPress, will be part of this one-day action. Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Private Internet Access, Mozilla, OK Cupid, Imgur, PornHub, Medium, and hundreds of other major sites are also participating.
Thanks for taking action! Feel free to discuss your actions and responses in the comments.
It’s an important day in the history of the Internet. Despite enormous pressure from the Big Media corporations, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bowed to the democratic pressure of millions of Internet users. These users demanded strong protections against “slow lanes” for their network connections, and to preserve equal protection for all content traveling across the public Internet.
Speaking of confusing, some of the arguments made today against the plan were … interesting. For months, Republican legislators have been denouncing a plan to change the way Internet domain names are allocated around the world as “Obama’s plan to give away the Internet.” Did you notice how today, some opponents of strong net neutrality rules called this “Obama’s secret plan to control the Internet.”
It’s worth spending some time watching the FCC meeting video. The FCC’s two opponents of strong net neutrality spent much of their debate time defending assorted companies that would be hurt by these rules. They also suggested that the public had not been heard on the matter. It was almost a breathtaking attempt to pretend that the 4 million responses to the original (far less neutral) rule presented last May didn’t exist.
That said, I agree with two things Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly said. There should have been more public hearings where ordinary people could speak to the commissioners directly. Like other advocates for net neutrality, I’m pretty confident we would have won that battle too.
I also don’t exactly see why Commission chair Tom Wheeler couldn’t have released the new proposal a few days ago. It’s a new era; people expect transparency. And there’s no doubt few minds would have changed in the process.
Time to Celebrate
I loved this tweet from Anil Dash:
One year ago, every person I know who understands the FCC or internet policy considered net neutrality dead. But the people were heard.
Corporations just don’t lie down when they’ve been defeated. We still have the best Congress money can buy. Courts too. As the founders used to say, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” So connect with the groups above, and we’ll win more victories!
The president has declared himself for the “strongest possible form” of net neutrality rules, drawing rule making authority on Title II of the Communications Act. In response, the telecom companies have stepped up the pressure to keep their ability to create “fast lanes” for well-heeled content providers.
The Federal Communications Commission is a bipartisan affair. Two Republicans, two Democrats, and the chair who usually represents the president’s party (but for the last several years has also represented the communications industry in one fashion or another). In today’s Washington, you’ll not be surprised to learn that the current Republican members think Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first fast-lane proposal didn’t go far enough in removing restrictions on whatever the telecom companies want to do.
Until very recently, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been the most forthright about defending the strongest possible form of net neutrality. Very recently, however, she offered a less explicit defense of net neutrality during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session:
I support a free and open Internet because I want to preserve the openness and innovation that has occurred. I am focused on the consumer and the consumer experience. I want to know what attributes are necessary to keep the Internet free and open. I want to know whether the rules the FCC adopted in 2010, which banned blocking and unreasonable discrimination were the right approach.
Interestingly enough, the Washington Post reported on November 18 that Rev. Jesse Jackson and other traditional civil rights leaders visited the FCC to lobby against Title II regulation. The Post story cites a statement from the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council that buys into the telecom company arguments that “Section 706 regulation would achieve all of the goals of Title II reclassification, but would do so in a way that avoids the uncertainty of forbearance proceedings and without creating disincentives to infrastructure investment. Less investment would translate into less deployment, fewer jobs for our communities, and fewer service options to boost broadband adoption and close the digital divide.”
What the MMTC statement and Clyburn’s AMA comments don’t discuss is that Verizon won its lawsuit against the FCC’s 2010 rules precisely because they relied on Section 706 of the Communications Act, and not Title II. They suggest that telecom companies will stop investing in infrastructure if net neutrality is enforced, yet these companies haven’t exactly been bowling the country over with investment in low-cost, high-speed access.
It’s a shame that advocates for the poor are apparently bowing to the deep pockets that write off contributions to nonprofit organizations, but are not interested in investing in the infrastructure that meet people’s needs. Commissioner Clyburn should get back on the road to real net neutrality.