When I started this site my goal was to write only positive posts. I wanted to inspire and connect with people and avoid personal rants, which are easy to write but alienate audiences. That being said, when it comes to voicing dissent, sometimes I can’t help but yell and scream and thump my chest like an ink-slinging penmonkey.
The telecommunications industry is a foul joke in this country. Their greed and corruption sits them comfortably next to big oil and big finance in the fight against classical competitive capitalism, and they continue to grow increasingly more rotund feeding off their monopolistic control of our nation’s communications infrastructure. Unsatisfied by their dominance of overpriced cell phone and internet service, they now seek tyrannical control over the content to which their pocket-draining services provide access. In essence, private corporations like Comcast and AT&T want dominion over the last remaining realm of free expression, making the transition from democracy to plutocracy even more apparent. What happened to our great nation and its foundation of free expression?
In case you aren’t familiar with Net Neutrality, reddit user “nsqe” posted a good, succinct summary about the current state of things:
Without going into too much history (because there’s a lot of history, and it predates the internet, and it’s mostly AT&T’s fault, and it’s actually way more interesting than you’d think): the Telecommunications Act of 1996 governs the internet. That’s a simplification, but bear with me. The Telecommunications Act is broken down into a few sections, but the important ones for our purposes are Title I and Title II. Title I regulates “information services” (like email and web pages: the stuff that runs over the tubes) and Title II regulates “telecommunications services.”
But this was 1996, and nobody really knew what “the internet” was going to be, so they didn’t really specify where the internet fit. So Congress decided that the FCC would get to choose depending on where technology and competition needed it to be. In 2002, the FCC decided it would go under Title I, because Title I had the least regulations and would allow the internet to grow and flourish unrestricted. This is important: Title II offered the FCC a lot more regulatory power, but the FCC chose not to use it.
Well, the free market happened, and the big players ate up all the small players pretty quickly. Soon, the FCC started proposing some guidelines for ISP conduct, and those guidelines would be the first Net Neutrality / Open Internet rules. But really, nobody followed them, because they were just guidelines, really.
So in early 2009, the FCC started to draft actual rules instead of guidelines. Around this same time, in 2009-ish, Comcast got busted throttling peer-to-peer traffic. The FCC smacked them and told them to stop. Comcast sued the FCC, and in 2010, the DC Circuit Court told the FCC, look, you can’t regulate internet traffic because you classified it as an “information service,” as Title I, not a “telecommunications service.” You did it wrong, used the wrong magic words, and Title I doesn’t give you the kind of regulatory power you need. But you totally have the power to reclassify it, and then you can regulate it all you want, because Title II does exactly what you want it to.
The FCC decided it wasn’t going to do that, because it was very skittish about imposing Title II regulation on the internet (and because Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon freaked out and begged them not to, and probably even said “please” a few times). Now, I’ll note: yes, Title II has some very stringent rules, but the FCC has the power of forbearance: it’s allowed to choose which rules it wants to impose and which rules it doesn’t. So if it reclassifies, it doesn’t have to impose all the rules. Just the ones that are in the public interest. But, you know, they said “please.”
So the FCC finished writing its Open Internet rules (except now everybody in the world knew that the court had already said they weren’t going to work), and as soon as it did, Verizon sued. The court case dragged on for three years, because lawyers, and then in February the DC Circuit told the FCC, look, you can’t regulate internet traffic because you classified it as an “information service,” not a “telecommunications service.” You used the wrong magic words. But you totally have the power to reclassify it, and then you can regulate it all you want, because Title II does exactly what you want it to.
And now the FCC is, again, refusing to reclassify, and instead, they’re letting the service providers charge extra for access and use. This will harm small business owners, even further wreck competition and innovation, raise barriers to entry for new start-ups, and drain money from users both individual and corporate. But I bet the ISPs said “please” again.
For an extended explanation, see his blog post “Net Neutrality: A History.”
If you want to do something in the fight for Net Neutrality, you can start by contacting your Senators and Representatives and asking them to have the FCC classify broadband access as a “Title II telecommunications service,” which would define it alongside phone calls – meaning the content of their service transmissions is private and not something the corporations themselves can get involved with.
You can also contact the FCC commissioners directly. Here are their email addresses: Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov; Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov; Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov; Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov;
At the very least, tell your friends about what’s going on. This isn’t politics, it’s an assault on free domain that shouldn’t be regulated by politicians or plutocrats. Fight for you freedom. Make your voice heard before it’s bandwidth is reduced to a buffering whisper.