Saturday, March 07, 2015

194.1 - Good News: FCC acts on net neutrality

Good News: FCC acts on net neutrality

Starting with some Good News, as I try always to do, the FCC has voted to make net neutrality a legal as well as a philosophical reality. On Thurs, Feb 26, the agency voted to reclassify broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

So, no fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet. No favoritism for websites that forked over extra bucks to the telecomms. No throttling - that is, no deliberately slowing transmission - of data. All information, all data, is to be treated equally. In other words, net neutrality. The same open, you could call it small-d democratic, nature under which the Internet has grown and flourished to the point of being a routine part of many of our lives.

And of course the telecomms such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, which had been drooling over the prospect of the profits to be had from squeezing websites for fees for increased speeds over competing websites, hated the idea and still do.

In a truly lame attempt at mockery, Verizon issued its response to the FCC's move in Morse code then offered a "translation" that looked like it had been done on a 1980s IBM manual typewriter using worn carbon paper. The statement itself was just another rehash of corporate PR bs, with the same moldy claims that the regulation will stifle innovation, harm consumers, and generally bring utter ruin and devastation to the technological world as we know it - without actually being able to specify a reason why.

Which is perhaps not surprising when you consider that Sprint and Cablevision have publicly acknowledged that the reclassification will not harm their investment in their networks, and when pressed, other top telecomm executives have denied they will stop investing in their networks even as their PR departments and their lobbyists screech that such investment will come to a crashing halt.

By the way and as a quick aside, these claims about some impact on investment become downright offensive in light of the fact that we in the US don't have much to celebrate on that front.

Each of the last three years, the Open Technology Institute has issued a report called "The Cost of Connectivity" and in each of those years has found that
the majority of US cities surveyed lag behind their international peers, paying more money for slower Internet access.
But for the moment, just be glad that if you want to read an online magazine or listen to some music or download that vacation picture Aunt Gracie sent you that your speed will not drop to dial-up levels because some other magazine or music site or email account ponied up extra bucks that your choices wouldn't or couldn't pay.

Be aware, though, that the fight is not over. Outfits like Verizon and the rest have really, really deep pockets. And they are already cranking up the deception machine with its loudspeakers aimed directly at the public as they try to pressure Congress to overturn the rule.

For one example, Michael Powell just wrote a piece for the online tech magazine c|net. Who is Michael Powell? He is the former chair of the FCC who was known to be almost embarrassingly pro-business and who, when he left the agency, became president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the telecomms' trade association. In other words, he's a shill for the industry he used to supposedly but actually didn't regulate.

In this bit of baloney, Powell repeated all the claims of all the dire consequences of not letting the telecomms do pretty much what they want with, again, no real reasons given, just claims.

But here's the thing I wanted to bring out: In this ad-accountant-approved advertorial, Powell starts by saying "I support Net neutrality" and then says "there is little disagreement over the substance of open Internet principles." He then adds this, quoting:
The cable industry has lived by the Four Freedoms that I laid out as FCC chairman roughly a decade ago - freedom to access content, to run applications, to attach devices and to obtain service plan information.
Leave aside the utter absurdity of the list - oh wow, you have the "freedom" to know how much your cable company will charge you - to consider something else. Listen to his list of "open Internet principles" again: freedom to access content, freedom to run applications, freedom to attach devices, freedom to obtain service plan information.

Do you notice anything missing?

How about the freedom to access sites on an equal basis? How about the freedom to have your data treated equally with all other data? How about the "freedom" that is the central focus of the entire issue of net neutrality? That freedom does not exist in Powell's carefully-crafted pro-corporate list.

When the telecomms and their paid-off stooges in an out of Congress tell you they support net neutrality, they are lying to you. Don't you ever forget it.

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