“But the reality is neither of these are true. What the net neutrality rules really demonstrate – and a little sooner that we are all comfortable with – is that a new status quo is emerging. And that status quo is Google, Netflix, Facebook et al.“
Before the 60 day comment period on these new rules began on May 15, the FCC had already received more than 3 million pleas from the public NOT to end network neutrality, the technical name for the principle that all content from every provider should be freely available to all comers over the internet. This should have stopped the FCC and the Obama administration in its tracks. But the White House and the FCC are not listening.
It will take a vigorous and sustained public outcry to stop the FCC from turning the internet, originally designed and built by government employees with billions of your tax dollars, into a privatized corporate plantation, much like cable TV.
This is so important, and it’s sad that no one is paying attention. People are blindly going through life while things continue to happen that impact the way they live on the daily, and they only take notice after the change has been made. Here is an opportunity to act before the change is made. Do something. Stand for something. Share this information just like you share those Kermit or DaQuan memes, or soon you won’t be able to share even those.
Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated fairly by broadband providers. In May, the FCC approved a plan that would ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites, but allow them to make deals with content companies for preferential treatment, such as faster speed. Critics fear that legislation could create a two-tiered system, where companies that can pay more get faster sites, essentially limiting those with lower budgets or new startups. The FCC is currently taking comment on the proposal until June 27.
At the end of the 13-minute segment, Mr. Oliver flashed the FCC website for public comment and passionately encouraged viewers to go to the site, calling on anyone who had ever snarkily commented on a YouTube video to hone their skills for good.
How many times a day do you check your Facebook page? Are you active on Twitter? Do you have a favorite blog you like to read?
What would you do if you suddenly found yourself unable to do these things without paying significant additional fees, fees on top of what you already pay for Internet access, to do so?
Essentially, this is what the end of net neutrality could mean. There are many people who don’t understand the concept or the issues involved, so here is a primer.What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is a buzz phrase that refers to the open Internet. Currently, all Internet sites are able to be accessed equally. You can get to thejournalista.com as quickly as you can get to Facebook or Amazon. There is no deterrent to surfing the web outside of any firewalls that may be put up by your employer or school. Net neutrality means things would stay this way. You will always be able to access any website you want at any time you want so long as your Internet access point allows it.
Why should you care?
Remember how it was announced recently that Netflix would be increasing its service cost for new subscribers to its streaming service? Just prior to that announcement, Netflix had been involved in a battle with ISPs including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon in which it was alleged that the ISPs were slowing down service when users (that’s you and me) were viewing content via their Netflix streaming video accounts. The ISPs felt Netflix should pay to deliver instant video content via the ISPs direct connection. Netflix felt this was the responsibility of the ISPs, but they agreed to a deal anyway and ponied up the money. Netflix then passed that cost along to their customers via higher prices for new subscribers. See how that works?So what if Netflix paid. What does that mean to me?
Netflix is a big company. They turn a huge profit each year, and they have the funds and the resources to continue to throw money at these types of problems as they pop up, but what about your favorite Etsy seller? What about small nonprofits that offer social services to the needy? What about my friend Stephen and his family-run photography business? Smaller companies do not have the money and the resources to pay off communications giants in order to have their sites seen at the same speed as others, and if net neutrality ends, so could those sites. Think of it the way you think of Walmart building their huge mega-stores in your neighborhood and shutting down all the little mom and pop businesses. The end of net neutrality means that very same thing, except on the Internet. Instead of being able to read thejournalista.com, you will be forced to only get news and information from big sites that can afford to pay off Internet Service Providers for top speed access.
That isn’t fair to anyone.
How the other side feels
On the other side of the fence, there are those who make the argument that net neutrality is dumb. Gene Marks wrote this in a Forbes.com article recently:
Wouldn’t it be great if a two bedroom, 2,000 square foot apartment on Park Avenue cost the same as one in Queens? Or if a front row ticket to a Broadway show cost the same as one in the mezzanine? Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a new BMW for the same amount as a new Hyundai? Or if the price of a Harvard education were equal to one from your local community college? These things are priced differently. They are not neutral. Nothing is neutral in a free market economy.
I take issue with Gene comparing net neutrality to the cost of housing in different areas or the cost of education at different educational institutions. That is oversimplifying the issue and comparing apples to oranges. As my friend Pete put it, a better analogy would have been to compare it to redlining. Essentially, if net neutrality dies, so does the free marketplace of ideas. It will instead be replaced by an Internet where big corporations get to control what you can and cannot see when you log on to the Internet whether it be on your mobile device or your computer.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the freedom of choice.
Do you want to be able to choose which websites you see when, or do you want your Internet Service Provider to be able to make that choice for you?
This was the wording on the petition presented to the White House to urge President Obama to direct the FCC to classify ISPs as “common carriers” so that net neutrality could be maintained.
On January 14, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s open internet rules, commonly known as “Net Neutrality” because ISPs are not classified as “common carriers”. This ruling allows ISPs to charge companies for access to its users and charge users for access to certain services. Fewer companies will be able to afford access for innovative ideas and products.
We urge the President to direct the FCC to classify ISPs as “common carriers” so that the words of the FCC chairman may be fulfilled: “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
The White House responded as follows (emphasis mine):
Thank you to everyone who has signed on to this petition in support of a free and open Internet. Since his days as a United States Senator, President Obama has embraced the principle of net neutrality. As the President recently noted, his campaign for the White House was empowered by an open Internet; it allowed millions of supporters to interact with the President and each other in unprecedented fashion. That experience helped give rise to the creation of this very platform — the We The People website — where Americans can express their opinions on any topic and receive a response from the White House. Rights of free speech, and the free flow of information, are central to our society and economy — and the principle of net neutrality gives every American an equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in both. Indeed, an open Internet is an engine for freedom around the world.
Preserving an open Internet is vital not just to the free flow of information, but also to promoting innovation and economic productivity. Because of its openness, the Internet has allowed entrepreneurs — with just a small amount of seed money or a modest grant — to take their innovative ideas from the garage or the dorm room to every corner of the Earth, building companies, creating jobs, improving vital services, and fostering even more innovation along the way.
Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries. The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide.
A wide spectrum of stakeholders and policymakers recognize the importance of these principles. In the wake of last month’s court decision, it was encouraging to hear major broadband providers assert their commitment to an open Internet.
It was also encouraging to see Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom the President appointed to that post last year, reaffirm his commitment to a free and open Internet and pledge to use the authority granted by Congress to maintain a free and open Internet. The White House strongly supports the FCC and Chairman Wheeler in this effort.
The petition asked that the President direct the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as “common carriers” which, if upheld, would give the FCC a distinct set of regulatory tools to promote net neutrality. The FCC is an independent agency. Chairman Wheeler has publicly pledged to use the full authority granted by Congress to maintain a robust, free and open Internet — a principle that this White House vigorously supports.
Gene Sperling is Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Todd Park is the United States Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President.
Notice the vague language and double-talk? Also notice how the FCC is identified as an independent agency as if the President has no power to direct what it does, yet the president appoints the head of said “independent” agency? So which is it? Does the President have a say in it or doesn’t he?
We need to be raising a stink.