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  • Forrest Woolman 9:16 pm on December 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AT&T, , DC Circuit Court, , freedom of speech, , , Verizon   

    Below is insightful article about the Verizon vs FCC case that is being heard in the DC Circuit Court – the second-most powerful court in the US, behind the Supreme Court. If Verizon wins their lawsuit then we will likely see the end of a free and open internet, as we know it today…

    Net Neutrality: What’s At Stake
    By Marvin Ammori, Wired magazine
    November 18, 2013

    Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn’t set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn’t some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.

    Once upon a time, companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.

    But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. Some will claim the new solution “splits the baby” in a way that somehow doesn’t kill net neutrality and so we should be grateful. But make no mistake: Despite eight years of public and political activism by multitudes fighting for freedom on the internet, a court decision may soon take it away.

    Game of Loopholes and Rules
    How did we get here?

    The CEO of AT&T told an interviewer back in 2005 that he wanted to introduce a new business model to the internet: charging companies like Google and Yahoo! to reliably reach internet users on the AT&T network. Keep in mind that users already pay to access the internet and that Google and Yahoo! already pay other telecom companies — often called backbone providers — to connect to these internet users. [Disclosure: I have done legal work for several companies supporting network neutrality, including Google.]

    But AT&T wanted to add an additional toll, beyond what it already made from the internet. Shortly after that, a Verizon executive voiced agreement, hoping to end what he called tech companies’ “free lunch”. It turns out that around the same time, Comcast had begun secretly trialing services to block some of the web’s most popular applications that could pose a competitive threat to Comcast, such as BitTorrent.

    Yet the phone and cable companies tried to dress up their plans as a false compromise. Counterintuitively, they supported telecommunications legislation in 2006 that would authorize the FCC to stop phone and cable companies from blocking websites.

    There was a catch, however. The bills included an exception that swallowed the rule: the FCC would be unable to stop cable and phone companies from taxing innovators or providing worse service to some sites and better service to others. Since we know internet users tend to quit using a website or application if it loads even just a few seconds slower than a competitor’s version, this no-blocking rule would essentially have enabled the phone and cable companies to discriminate by picking website/app/platform winners and losers. (Congress would merely enact the loophole. Think of it as a safe harbor for discriminating online.)

    Luckily, consumer groups, technology companies, political leaders, and American citizens saw through the nonsense and rallied around a principle to preserve the internet’s openness. They advocated for one simple, necessary rule — a nondiscrimination principle that became known as “network neutrality”. This principle would forbid phone and cable companies not only from blocking — but also from discriminating between or entering in special business deals to the benefit of — some sites over others.

    Unfortunately, the FCC decision that included the nondiscrimination rule still had major loopholes — especially when it came to mobile networks.
    Both sides battled out the issues before Congress, federal agencies, and in several senate and presidential campaigns over the next five years. These fights culminated in the 2010 FCC decision that included the nondiscrimination rule.

    Unfortunately, the rule still had major loopholes — especially when it came to mobile networks. It also was built, to some extent, on a shaky political foundation because the then-FCC chairman repeatedly folded when facing pressure. Still, the adopted rule was better than nothing, and it was a major advance over AT&T’s opening bid in 2005 of a no-blocking rule.

    As a result, Verizon took the FCC to court to void the 2010 FCC rule. Verizon went to court to attack the part of the rule forbidding them from discriminating among websites and applications; from setting up — on what we once called the information superhighway — the equivalents of tollbooths, fast lanes, and dirt roads.

    There and Back Again
    So that’s where we are today — waiting for the second most powerful court in the nation, the DC Circuit, to rule in Verizon’s case. During the case’s oral argument, back in early September, corporate lobbyists, lawyers, financial analysts, and consumer advocates packed into the courtroom: some sitting, some standing, some relegated to an overflow room.

    Since then, everyone interested in internet freedom has been waiting for an opinion — including everyday folks who search the web or share their thoughts in 140 characters; and including me, who argued the first (losing) network neutrality case before the DC Circuit in 2010.

    Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others.
    But, in their questions and statements during oral argument, the judges have made clear how they planned to rule — for the phone and cable companies, not for those who use the internet. While the FCC has the power to impose the toothless “no-blocking” rule (originally proposed by AT&T above), it does not (the court will say) have the power to impose the essential “nondiscrimination” rule.

    It looks like we’ll end up where AT&T initially began: a false compromise.

    The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector, requiring payment for reliable service. In fact, during the oral argument in the current case, Verizon’s lawyer said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

    Wait, it gets even worse. Pricing isn’t even a necessary forcing factor. Once the court voids the nondiscrimination rule, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.

    So what if you’ve got a great new company, an amazing group of founders, a seat in a reputable accelerator program, great investors and mentors. With the permission-based innovation over “our pipes” desired from the likes of Comcast, Verizon and AT&T… there’s no meritocracy here.

    Of course, despite everything the judges suggested during the two-hour argument, it’s possible that they offer net neutrality a reprieve. Given how sticky this morass is, there’s one simple way for you to judge the opinion: If the court throws out the non-discrimination rule, permission-less innovation on the internet as we know it is done. If the nondiscrimination rule miraculously survives, then, for now at least, so too will freedom on the internet.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 11:45 am on September 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , open internet, , , , , , , Tina Dupuy, Verizon   

    Tina Dupuy – Net Neutrality: A Crucial Issue With a Lame Name 

    A funny essay by humorist and journalist Tina Dupuy about Net Neutrality:

    The term “net neutrality” has the magical property of making most people’s eyes glaze over. First, it sounds like a gambling term. “I have a system and net neutrality – I can’t lose!” Second, no one using the Internet calls it “the net” anymore. Just like no one in San Francisco calls it “Frisco.” So the term “net neutrality” either sounds super techie and over-your-head, or more dated than the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie called…The Net.

    The concept of Net Neutrality is simple: all content should be treated equally. The Internet should be, as it has been, on a virtual level playing field.

    Google and Verizon announced at the beginning of August their agreement for an “Open Internet.” In their statement the FCC will continue to lack the power to enforce an open Internet, and it excludes wireless broadband from transparency, citing proprietary concerns. This is worrisome since wireless broadband is the future of the Internet. Plus, in order to ensure “openness,” wireless or not, the Internet should be regulated like any other public utility.

    So as soon as the word “regulation” is uttered, a Frankenstein monster of a faux populist movement arises to dispute and/or cloud the issue. With corporate sponsorship they’ve become a loud lobbying spectacle for business interests. Cleverly they use pro-working people language, and often working people themselves, to sell policies of freedom for corporations. Yes, the Tea Party or the Grand Old Party on caffeine, is (of course) against Net Neutrality.

    The Tea Party and its coalition of “grassroots” think tanks want corporations to be in control of the Internet so it will “stay open.” In a signed letter sent to the FCC and the media the day after the Google/Verizon agreement was announced, the Tea Party groups’ statement added that government regulation, “could also remove the ability for parents and ISPs to prevent inappropriate material from entering the home.”

    Catch that? Let business do what it wants or you won’t be able to protect your children from smut. It’s the most vulgar thing I’ve ever heard. Horribly untrue. And a cynical attempt at fear-mongering. “Your children are at risk!” Deplorable.

    Government regulation is always annoying – unless we can’t swim in the Gulf of Mexico, or eat eggs, spinach, beef or peanut butter. But wait – annoying to whom? Government regulation irks corporations. For those of us who drive the cars, eat the food or take the medications made by corporations, government regulations are in the most basic way – lifesavers.

    Personally, I would like a government bureaucrat between me and Salmonella.

    The Tea Party would have opposed the National Parks system. Sectioning off millions of acres of land which otherwise could be privately developed is a job killer! Letting places like Yosemite Valley just sit there without allowing business to “improve the experience” is an affront to freedom! Uncle Sam’s telling Americans where they can and can’t build is government overreach! The whole scheme will raise your taxes! Taxes – and they’ll take your guns!

    But no, Republican leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt saw how these parks should be nationalized, saved for future generations to have and enjoy. Lincoln did coin the phrase “for the people, by the people,” the perfect slogan for a walk through a government-regulated and, therefore, pristine forest.

    And our more perfect union needs to ensure that the Internet can be open and indifferent to content (even if you disagree with said content). Congress didn’t just sit on their hands and hope that just because no one had yet developed Yellowstone it wasn’t at risk of such a fate. No, they acted. They protected it. Yellowstone is still there for all of us to enjoy. It’s ours.

    What needs to happen? Earlier this year, the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia handed down the Comcast Decision stating under current law, the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate equality of content. This means the law must be changed.

    Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that oversees the FCC, said he is for Net Neutrality. Waxman said any bill about the issue would have to come out of his committee. What’s taking so long? The hold up is that the term “Net Neutrality” sounds like a fishing ordinance instead of what Senator Al Franken describes as “the free speech issue of our time.”

    Reprinted with permission.

     
    • Scott Arboleda 12:14 am on August 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.- Malachi 3:10-12

  • Sylvia Moore 10:53 am on August 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Verizon, ,   

    Will the Public Finally Get Energized About Net Neutrality? 

    Sometimes I wonder what it was going to take to get the public more galvanized on the issue of protecting Net Neutrality. As if the Supreme Court’s enthusiastic approval of oligarchy wasn’t enough, we’re facing another one of the biggest threats to free speech and democracy – corporate control of the Web.

    Basically, the telecommunications industry wants to erect tollbooths on the Internet. They want to make content creators pay top dollar for their web sites to download faster. They want to choose winners and losers, get rid of competition and make consumers cough up more money. Gutting net neutrality is great if you’re a certain cable company, like, say, Comcast, who wants to merge with a certain entertainment company, like, say, NBC Universal, and combined, you wish to crush any troublesome Internet entertainment startup. Gutting net neutrality would also be great news for the giant television news outlets and bad news for any of the myriad of web sites that criticize them.

    Unfortunately, net neutrality was never the sexiest political issue. So maybe the announcement last week that Google and Verizon were proposing to put up the tollbooths on the wireless Internet (your smartphone) would wake people up. Google was initially the premier corporate champion of net neutrality, so the company’s about-face shocked and angered many. Apparently, since Google is now getting into the cell phone business, suddenly net neutrality was no longer good for the bottom line.

    Google and Verizon swear they want to keep the wired Internet (your PC) free and open, but the proverbial camel’s nose is sniffing under that tent. Consumer and media reform groups and some lawmakers have been the most vocal advocates for net neutrality. But greater support for net neutrality has to come from average Joes and Janes who use the Web. Too many people I fear are still apathetic on this issue. If you don’t start bugging your representatives, you may one day find that your favorite web sites are taking five minutes or more to load. Or you may find you have to pay extra for content you once got for free.

    Comedian and now U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, has been at the forefront in fighting for net neutrality in Congress. Today, at 4PM PST (6PM Central), the Federal Communications Commission is holding a hearing in Minneapolis on the issue. The proceedings will be streamed live.

    In the video below, Franken talks on local Minnesota television about the importance of net neutrality.

    Below are some good opinion pieces about net neutrality:

    Google-Verizon Deal: The End of The Internet as We Know It

    Our view on ‘net neutrality’: Don’t erect tollbooths on information superhighway


    To show your support for net neutrality, sign Sen. Franken’s petition and send your comments to the FCC by going to Save the Internet. And also, call, write and fax your congressperson and senators. If you don’t know your representatives, you can look them up by entering your zip code on Congress.org.

     
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