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Forum Post: The Internet Is Dead, Long Live the Internet!

Posted 11 months ago on Jan. 16, 2014, 2:57 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The Internet Is Dead, Long Live the Internet!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:24 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21252-the-internet-is-dead-long-live-the-internet

The internet as we know it is dead.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most important court in the country after the Supreme Court, struck down the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the legal framework that protects net neutrality.

This is nothing short of a disaster.

The idea behind net neutrality is pretty simple: big corporate internet service providers, like Verizon, should have to treat all websites and all web users equally and should not be allowed to treat the internet like their own personal toll road.

They should not be allowed, for example, to run your music website at crappy speeds just because that music site could compete with a Verizon-owned music website.

Net neutrality is important because it keeps the internet open for all. If corporate internet providers like Verizon or Comcast are allowed to discriminate between websites, they can make the owners of competitor websites pay them top dollar to run their websites at high speed.

Again, without net neutrality, Verizon could treat the internet like its own privately-owned highway. People who wanted to drive on it would have to pay up beforehand. If those people didn’t pay up, Verizon could slow down the speed of their websites.

This would obviously be great for Verizon, but it could make it near impossible for rival websites to compete with Verizon-owned websites and put a damper on all innovation.

Which is exactly why big corporate internet providers have been trying to gut net neutrality for years, and with Tuesday’s D.C. Circuit Court Ruling, they finally got their wish.

Net neutrality in the U.S. is dead for the moment and big internet service providers are now free to discriminate against web users and websites as much as they want.

The roots of Tuesday’s decision go back almost twenty years ago to when Congress redefined the types of technology services that the FCC could regulate in in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In that act, Congress said that internet companies like Verizon were providing an “information service” as opposed to a “common carrier” service.

If something is an “information service,” the company that provides that service is free to charge you more money for different levels of access.

The best of example of this is cable television, which is considered an “information service” and therefore not a “common carrier.”

For example, your cable company can charge you $25 dollars for the basic package, $25 more dollars so you can get premium sports channels, and $5 more on to that for the big ticket movie channels. It’s up to you what channels you want to buy, but the basic point is that your cable company, as an “information service,” can treat its users differently depending on how they use their TV.

“Common carrier services” are not allowed to do this. As a “common carrier service,” your phone company can’t just charge you more for doing something like using your personal phone line to talk business with a friend.

That’s because as a “common carrier service,” your phone company is providing a public good, a utility.

And utilities, like telephone service and water, are considered part of the commons because they are natural monopolies

Just like you can only have one water line or one power line running into your house, you can only have one telephone line running into your house.

This is true for most American users of the internet today. Just like most Americans only have one water line or one telephone line running into their house, most Americans only have one internet line running into their house, and that’s their cable line.

As a society, we generally define natural monopolies as “common carriers” - as part of the commons - because it’s important for everyone to have open access to them without having to worry about being totally ripped off by their utility company.

That’s why the FCC should designate internet service providers like Verizon as “common carrier services” rather than “information services,” something they could do tomorrow if they chose to.

The FCC should do this because by providing internet service, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other big internet service providers are giving their customers access to one of the most important parts of the modern information commons.

If we want to make sure everyone can use that part of the commons, we need to regulate the internet service providers as “common carriers.”

When the internet was just starting out and people accessed it by dialing in through their telephone lines, there were tens of thousands of companies offering dial-up access.

Back then, you could make an argument that those internet service providers were “information services” rather than “common carriers” because there was so much competition in the marketplace.

But now that we’re nearing a time when almost 75 percent of American households will only have one choice for internet service, access to the internet has become both a natural monopoly, and, in a very real way, close to an oligopoly.

With the rise of cable bundling, the internet marketplace is now dominated by giants like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, and the result is that most people only have a very limited number of ways to get access to the internet.

As such, access to the internet is a natural monopoly and therefore should be regulated by the FCC as a common carrier service.

Unfortunately, the FCC and the U.S. Supreme Court don’t see it that way. In 2002 under George W. Bush, the FCC classified broadband internet access provided by companies like Verizon as an “information service.” In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld its power to make that classification.

And in 2010, when the FCC issued the Open Internet Order to protect net neutrality, it neglected to define internet service providers like Verizon as “common carriers.”

That was a huge mistake.

When the DC Circuit Court struck down net neutrality on Tuesday, it said that because the FCC defines companies like Verizon as information service providers, net neutrality - something mandated for common carriers - wasn’t necessary.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Modern life and the modern economy depend on the internet. Small businesses need to it to grow. Everyday people need it to shop for goods or just learn about the world around them.

All those things will be a lot harder to do if companies like Verizon can discriminate against start-up websites and everyday internet users to pad their profits.

We need to petition the FCC to change its rules so that internet service providers like

Verizon are labeled as common carriers, not information service providers.

That way, net neutrality will be preserved and the internet will remain open to everyone, not just giant corporations.

Go to freepress.net to sign the petition and tell the FCC how you feel!

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Door Closes to Open Internet, But All May Not Be Lost

Thursday, 16 January 2014 10:22 By Michael Winship, Moyers & Company | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21259-door-closes-to-open-internet-but-all-may-not-be-lost

In the words of Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves in the movie Network, “Woe is us! We’re in a lot of trouble!” And, as Beale would shout, we should be mad as hell.

Issuing a decision that triggered dismay and anger among supporters of an Internet open and free to all, a federal appeals court on Tuesday overruled the Federal Communications Commission and set the stage for a near future in which such service providers as Verizon and AT&T could give preferential treatment to websites willing to pay a higher price for access and speed.

The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a potentially lethal blow to net neutrality – the principle that the Internet should be available equally to anyone who wishes to use it as a medium for creativity and information, regardless of who they are and no matter the size of their checkbooks.

The court ruled in a lawsuit filed by Verizon that “the FCC cannot subject companies that provide Internet service to the same type of regulation that the agency imposes on phone companies,” The New York Times reported. “It cited the FCC’s own decision in 2002 that Internet service was not a telecommunications service – like telephone or telegraph – but an information service, a classification that limits the FCC’s authority.”

The entertainment industry news site Variety noted, “The decision has broad implications for Internet businesses of all kinds, including Google, Yahoo, Netflix, Amazon.com, Apple and Facebook — as well as traditional media companies that rely on broadband networks for content distribution. The ruling for now establishes that government regulators can’t dictate how Internet service providers manage their networks and how they choose to prioritize data.”

In an Ask Me Anything discussion on Reddit Tuesday afternoon, telecommunications policy expert Susan Crawford further described the implications of the court decision:

It means that the major providers of high-speed Internet access in the US, who have systematically divided markets and tacitly agreed mostly not to compete with one another, can treat high-speed Internet access like a cable TV service. They can be gatekeepers, charge content providers (any business) for the privilege of reaching us, the subscribers; and, of course, charge us. A lot. For lousy service compared to, say, Stockholm or Seoul.

In an official statement, Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media reform group Free Press added, “[The court’s] ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies — and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will… They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.”

Nonetheless, the court’s decision could be reversed, either on appeal to the Supreme Court or by the FCC backing away from decisions it made during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and taking a stronger stand on behalf of the American people instead of the Verizon’s and AT&T’s. In an article for The Huffington Post, Craig Aaron notes:

New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently stated that the FCC must be able to protect broadband users and preserve the Internet’s fundamental open architecture. Now he has no other choice but to restore and reassert the FCC’s clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure.

… Now the free and open Internet is flat-lining. But Wheeler has the paddles in his hands and the power to resuscitate Net Neutrality. We’ll know soon if he has the political guts to use them.

Wheeler, after the court’s decision was announced, said, “We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”

But there will be congressional opposition. And the FCC has a long, sad track record of spinning pro-industry positions to make them sound good and good for you. It’s too soon to tell on which side Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the mobile phone and cable TV industries, ultimately will come down. Which means that once again, as has been the case so many times since this fight began, people have to stand up and be heard.

You can start by contacting the FCC chairman’s office and demanding that he and his colleagues stand resolute and forthright in favor of net neutrality, an Internet open to all.

Send an e-mail at the FCC’s website. Or tweet @TomWheelerFCC.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Let's Talk About a World Without Net Neutrality

Monday, 20 January 2014 14:08 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21336-lets-talk-about-a-world-without-net-neutrality

Let's talk about a world without net-neutrality.

Last Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC's Open Internet Order, the legal framework that was supposed to protect net-neutrality.

And while net-neutrality sounds complicated, it's really not.

Basically, the idea behind it is that big internet service providers, like Comcast, should have to treat all websites and all internet users equally, and should not be allowed to promote some forms of content over others.

For example, with net-neutrality rules in place, Comcast wouldn't be able to slow down your access or charge more for your access to ESPN.com, just because they wanted you to use a sports news website that they own and operate.

But thanks to the D.C. Circuit Court's ruling, internet service providers like Comcast are well on their way to being able to discriminate between websites, and to make the owners of competitor websites pay more money to run their websites at higher speeds and reach American consumers.

So what will the end of net-neutrality mean for you, the consumer?

Back in 2009, Reddit user Quink created a graphic, detailing what internet prices might look like without net-neutrality.

Since last week's court ruling, the graphic has gone viral, and it does a great job detailing a world without net-neutrality.

The graphic talks about a fictional internet service provider named TELCO.

With TELCO, in a world without net-neutrality, you can get basic internet service for $29.95 per month.

But good luck finding any websites that you can access with that plan.

That's because in a world without net-neutrality, internet service providers will be able to "package" websites, a lot like cable providers do with TV channels.

For example, if you're a search engine user, and love looking up things on Google, Bing or Yahoo, then TELCO would charge you an extra $5 per month for access.

What if you're a real news junkie, and like taking in the news from a global perspective?

TELCO would charge you another $5 per month to access international news websites like the BBC.

But don't think that means TELCO will give you access to U.S.-based news for free.

Nope, it wants you to pay another $5 per month for access to American news websites like CNN, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

Now, say you're done reading the news, and want to watch the latest viral YouTube hit, or an episode of your favorite show on Netflix.

To do either of those things, you're going to have to pay TELCO an extra $10 to$15 per month.

Finally, say you're a big online shopper. You live for those Cyber Monday deals before Christmas each year.

Well, if you want access to sites like Amazon, Ebay, or Overstock.com, you'll have to pay TELCO another $5 per month.

You can easily see how costs add up in a world without net-neutrality.

Suddenly, you're forced to choose between having access to internet search engines and having access to the news.

If net-neutrality rules stay off the books for good, internet service providers like Comcast will be able to turn even the most basic of things that we do and take for granted on the internet into cash cows.

Looking up the weather, reading the news and shopping online will become profit opportunities for Verizon or Comcast.

Right now, it's unclear if the FCC plans to appeal last week's decision.

Let's help make the FCC's decision a lot easier, and stand up for a free and open internet for all.

Go to FreePress.net and sign the petition.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Beyond Net Neutrality: Grassroots Voices Tell Tom Wheeler What's Up

Thursday, 16 January 2014 14:43 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21268-beyond-net-neutrality-grassroots-voices-tell-tom-wheeler-whats-up

As the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler was facing a lot of challenging issues when he sat before 200 people in a packed hall in Oakland, California. Wheeler didn’t know it yet, but a few days later, a federal appeals court would side with Verizon and strike down the FCC's net-neutrality rules that had prevented Internet service providers from discriminating against or downright blocking content on the internet and charging Internet content providers premium rates for faster delivery speeds. Opponents say neutrality stifles innovation, but open networks advocates argue that, without neutrality rules, the Internet eventually will resemble cable television, with the Googles and Facebooks of the world paying premium fees for "fast lane" access to consumers while leaving small websites and start-ups in the dust.

Wheeler also didn't know that the ruling would affirm the FCC's power to set policies that potentially could save net neutrality and impact the internet for years to come, leaving the former industry lobbyist and venture capitalist in a position of considerable political power. Observers have been hanging on Wheeler's every word regarding net neutrality in recent weeks, but on a Thursday in Oakland, the flash-point issue was just one of many on the minds of the activists and advocates who lined up to tell Wheeler how telecommunications policies typically discussed in conference rooms in Washington affect their everyday lives.

A disabled activist told Wheeler that the FCC "has the power to determine wether disabled Americans will have the access they need to learn, earn and thrive." Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, reminded Wheeler that rampant media consolidation allowed under the FCC's watch has helped keep the percentage of television newsrooms under black management as low as 12 percent in recent years. Wheeler took notes as Karen Gonzales, the mother of a 20-year-old man in prison, came to tears explaining that she expects to pay more than $20,800 just to speak to her son during the next 16 years of his sentence. The FCC recently capped prison phone rates to prevent the gouging of prisoners and their families, but prices are still high, and many state jails and immigrant detention centers are exempt, so activists say there is still much Wheeler can do to keep families connected.

On January 9, 2014, Wheeler made a rare appearance at a town hall meeting in Oakland organized by various civil rights and media reform groups. Dozens of activists and advocates working on the front lines to "close the digital divide" had a chance to tell Wheeler how the FCC can stand up for consumers, especially those struggling economically, in the face of massive telecom companies that resist regulation at every turn. For Wheeler, a self-described "typical Washington player," it was a chance to come face to face with the real-world impacts of the telecommunications policies he will be working on at the FCC.

In general, the town hall speakers were asking Wheeler to remember that low-income and under-represented consumers have the right to access networks, so the FCC must stand up to telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon that want nothing more than to gut regulations and leave consumer protections at the whim of market conditions.

Organizers said Oakland, where initial coverage of the 2009 police killing of Oscar Grant highlighted racial inequities in mainstream news coverage, was the perfect venue to confront the real-world impacts of telecom policy. Consider the impacts of one issue Wheeler will surely wade into during his five-year tenure: media consolidation. People of color make up two-thirds of the Bay Area population, but they control just 10 percent of the region's commercial radio and television stations, according to the Center for Media Justice, which sponsored the event.

Nationally, people of color own just 3 percent of full-power television stations and 8 percent of radio stations despite making up about 40 percent of the total population. This inequality, activists told Wheeler, leads to the misrepresentation of minority communities and has left people of color without a voice in the dominant media. As Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Obasi Davis pointed out to Wheeler and the audience, "On the news/ Only two black men exist/ The athlete and the criminal/ Not always separated." (Obasi read from his poem, "The skin the sun gave me.")

Wheeler's FCC must soon preside over major spectrum auctions, and media reformers are hoping the new chairman will do his best to preserve competition among major telecomm companies to protect consumers. At the town hall, activists asked Wheeler to crack down on television firms that have used "covert consolidation" to control more stations in local markets than otherwise allowed under federal law. Activists say The FCC has turned a blind eye to the practice, in which television firms such as Sinclair and Raycom bypass FCC rules by creating "shell companies" that buy local broadcast licenses while remaining under economic and editorial control of the parent company. The companies also use "local marketing agreements" to sell stations content produced in other newsrooms, allowing stations to gut newsrooms to maximize profits. Sinclair and other firms have publicly denied any legal wrongdoing, but reformers continue pushing for a FCC crackdown.

Landline telephone connections remains a key service for many Americans people who need to contact employers, social service providers and emergency services, and advocates asked Wheeler to protect the Lifeline program that provides free phone service to low-income folks and to ensure that everyone stays connected to phone lines as the network transitions from analog to digital under his watch.

Wheeler's FCC also will oversee the expansion of broadband, and advocates pushed him to see the expansion as an opportunity to fight inequality. "Affordable, universal and open broadband internet access is integral to achieving equality in the United States," said Jessica Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "This is particularly important for people of color, who have not only faced media misrepresentation and discrimination from economic opportunities but also lag behind in broadband adoption."

Nearly 26 percent of Latino Americans, for example, live in poverty, compared with 15.9 percent of all Americans, but greater access to broadband could help change that, according to the NHMC. Only 53 percent of all Latinos have broadband at home, and many rely on their mobile phones as their sole means to the access the internet. Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including huge employers such as Wal-Mart, accept job applications only online. In the next decade, 80 percent of jobs will require some digital literacy skills.

Richard Abisla, technology manager at the Mission Economic Development Agency in San Francisco, knows first-hand how internet access can change lives. The agency's colorful office in the heart of the city's Mission district hosts a small business incubator and classrooms with rows of computers where clients, mostly low-income Latino residents, can build basic computer skills, learn how to manage finances and navigate the internet. Working in partnership with the Department of Education, Abisla's nonprofit is working toward the ambitious goal of ensuring that every family with children that attend school in the Mission has a computer and internet access at home.

"You don’t want your kid doing homework on this thing," Abisla told Truthout has he grabbed an iPhone from his pocket. That, however, is the case for many children in the neighborhood. Abisla said that internet access equals economic opportunity, and when local economies grow, it's good for everyone in the neighborhood. "Ultimately, I would want technology access to be woven into all federal poverty alleviation programs," he said. "After that, I would want federal regulation to keep prices down."

That's exactly what Abisla told Wheeler at the town hall. He said the typical family that visits his agency has two children and $28,000 of annual income, making the cost of internet service - about $25 to $70 a month - prohibitively expensive for those who need it most to start climbing up the economic ladder.

Wheeler sat quietly through the testimony, jotting down notes and names. When it was his turn to speak, Wheeler trod with the care of a fresh bureaucrat who has yet to decide exactly how he will tackle the issues piling up on his desk. Wheeler reminded the audience of the progress the FCC has made already, including scrapping a proposal to ease cross-ownership restrictions that prevent rampant consolidation. He declared his support for the Lifeline program and applauded the interim Chair Mignon Clyburn for capping prison phone rates despite legal challenges from prison phone companies. But Wheeler also reminded the audience that the FCC is not the all-powerful regulatory agency that many progressive wish it could be. "I want to sit here and say it's all solved, but I can't do that. And you wouldn't believe me if I did," Wheeler said.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Despite the looming court decision on net neutrality, Wheeler did not address the issue by name, although it was certainly on everyone's mind. Voices for Internet Freedom, a coalition of the groups that organized the town hall, issued a statement this week reminding consumers and the FCC that the open internet rules struck down this week stand for the kind democratic values that advocates in Oakland promote:

In a digital age, Open Internet rules protect dissenting voices. Communities of color, and other groups pushed to the margins of debate, have a long history of creating their own media to express dissent in the struggle for rights and opportunity. Without an Open Internet, these constituencies are denied a vital platform to express opinions and shape debates on critical issues that affect their lives.

Wheeler did, however, give his audience a hint at how he may approach net neutrality in an age where activists say that big Internet service providers would jump at the chance to manipulate the workings of the web in order to maximize profit and crush dissent. "I will turn around to these companies and say, if you want incentives to grow these networks, then your have to uphold the compact," Wheeler said. "Why is anyone going to subscribe to your service if there is ... preferential treatment for someone else?"

The appeals court struck down the FCC's net neutrality rules because the FCC had failed to designate broadband service as a "common carrier" provider like landline telephone service. The court did, however, uphold the FCC's ability to make "rules governing broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic. After the ruling, Wheeler said that the FCC would consider all options, including appeal, to ensure that the Internet remains a free and open platform. But it would be tough for Wheeler to win in court, and veteran GOP commissioners are weary of the legal battles over net neutrality and want Congress to act instead. It remains unclear whether Wheeler would push to reclassify broadband and reinstate net neutrality rules or, as he suggested in Oakland, go after individual Internet service providers if they start making anticompetitive moves that hurt consumers. But Wheeler is now three months into his term as chairman. His true policy aims must soon crystalize, and the grassroots voices of Oakland are hoping to be heard when they do.

Sign this petition to the FCC, Congress, and the White House now: Keep the Internet open. Keep net neutrality. Don't allow censorship and discrimination when it comes to Internet access.

Copyright, Truthout.