Tag Archives: Net neutrality

The One Telecom Group That Does Support Net Neutrality

The battle lines over net neutrality are firmly drawn. On one side are internet advocacy groups, large tech companies, and most Democrats. On the other are free-market adherents, telecom companies, and most Republicans.

Then there’s Charles "Chip" Pickering, a conservative Republican former member of Congress and CEO of a telecommunications-industry group called Incompas. He supports net neutrality.

"I don't think there's anyone who understands tech and telecommunications as well as he does," says US representative Anna Eshoo (D-California). "He can give a presentation to a complete neophyte and get them to join the parade because he makes it so compelling."

Pickering isn't new to the fight over net neutrality. He introduced one of the first net neutrality bills in Congress during his stint as a representative from Mississippi from 1997 until 2009. At that point, net neutrality wasn't on the agenda of many politicians on either side of the aisle.

Under Pickering's leadership, Incompas has been a steadfast defender of rules adopted by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission that ban broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or discriminating against lawful content. That’s placed it at odds with other industry groups working to undermine efforts to mandate net neutrality.

Incompas itself is something of a paradox. Historically, it's been a voice in Washington for smaller telecommunications companies. But in recent years it also welcomed tech companies as members. And not just companies that have dabbled in offering broadband services themselves, such as Facebook and Google's parent company, Alphabet. Its ranks also include Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter.

What these companies have in common, Pickering explains, is opposition to the policy preferences of incumbent broadband companies like AT&T. "The idea is to 'unite the tribes,' if I were to use a Braveheart analogy," Pickering says. "I wanted to bring all of us who wanted competition and innovation into one alliance."

Lessons From the Soviet Bloc

While other Republicans, such as FCC chair Ajit Pai, see net neutrality regulations as government interference in the free market, Pickering sees such rules as necessary to preserve competition on the internet. He notes that most people have access to only one or two broadband providers, according to FCC reports.

Pickering traces his reverence for markets and competition to his time working with a church group in communist Hungary in the 1980s after graduating from the University of Mississippi. "Having grown up in a small town in Mississippi, going to Europe and living in the so-called Soviet Bloc was very much an awakening in trying to understand how the world works," he says.

'I don't think there's anyone who understands tech and telecommunications as well as he does.'

US representative Anna Eshoo, on Charles Pickering

After returning to the US, Pickering received an MBA from Baylor University, where he served as a graduate assistant to a comparative economics professor who studied Western and Soviet-bloc economies. Pickering concluded that the differences in standards of living and individual freedom he saw between the US and Hungary stemmed largely from the different economic systems.

"I hate to see the consequences of monopolies, and I love what happens when you unleash free-market competition," he says. "It really gives individuals maximum freedom and opportunity."

After business school, Pickering worked in President George H. W. Bush's administration, then landed a job as a staffer for US senator Trent Lott of Mississippi in 1992. Pickering was soon immersed in telecommunications issues such as cable-television competition and wireless spectrum auctions.

It was topical work for a senator from Mississippi, which was something of a hotbed of telco activity. American Cable Systems, the company that became Comcast, started in Tupelo, Mississippi. WorldCom, which changed its name to MCI after acquiring MCI in 1997, was founded in Jackson, Mississippi. And SkyTel, which pioneered two-way texting, was founded in Clinton, Mississippi.

"We're not only the birthplace of blues, but the birthplace of texting," Pickering says.

His stint for Lott culminated in his work on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the first and last major update to telecommunications law since 1934. The act deregulated large swaths of the industry and relaxed media ownership rules. It's been criticized for paving the way for more consolidation in media and telecommunications. At the time, Pickering saw it as a chance to promote competition by removing legal barriers that kept companies out of the pay-TV, local telephone, and long-distance markets.

Pickering was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1996 and eventually landed on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles telecommunications issues. In 2006, he cosponsored a bill that would have made it easier for telephone companies to offer paid TV services and authorized the FCC to enforce a few basic net neutrality protections. The bill wasn't welcomed by net neutrality advocates, who wanted stricter net neutrality provisions and more rule-making authority for the FCC. But it passed the House, 321 to 101, with bipartisan support before dying in the Senate. Pickering tried to pass net neutrality legislation again in 2008 when he teamed up with representative Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), who had co-sponsored a separate failed net neutrality bill with Eshoo and others; but that bill never made it out of committee.

Pickering retired from Congress that year. The Democrats had just gained a majority in the House, and Pickering thought he'd be less effective. He also wanted to spend more time with his five sons. "After 20 years of public service, I wanted to make a little bit better of a living and provide more presence and be a part of their lives," he says.

Baby Bells Grow Up

Pickering landed a job at Incompas, then known as Comptel, in 2014, at a critical juncture for the group.

The organization started out as the Association of Long Distance Telephone Companies, or Altel, in 1981, then changed its name to Comptel in 1985 after merging with the American Council of Competitive Telecommunications. The group played an important role in the telecommunications industry after the government broke AT&T into seven regional carriers, known as the Baby Bells.

"There was a series of litigations about what the restrictions mean, what the Bell companies could do, what the Bell companies could not do," says Jeff Blumenfeld, co-chair of the law firm Lowenstein Sandler's antitrust and trade regulation practice, who worked at the Department of Justice during the breakup.

Comptel helped make the case for a competitive market. It played a similar role in the wake of the 1996 act, as regulators implemented its policies.

LEARN MORE

The WIRED Guide to Net Neutrality

By the time Pickering took over the organization, Ma Bell's progeny weren't babies anymore. They'd merged their way into three telecommunications giants: AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon. Meanwhile, Comcast had evolved from small-town cable provider to the largest cable television and home broadband provider in the country. Verizon had swallowed up MCI. Pickering saw the influence that companies like AT&T and Comcast wielded in Washington and realized that their smaller rivals needed partners that opposed the incumbents’ agenda. The tech industry, ever worried about the control that carriers have over how customers access their content, fit the bill perfectly. Bringing in the internet giants infused the group with both the cash and cachet that it would need to fight the next series of battles. The organization changed its name in 2015 to reflect the fact that it now encompassed more industries.

The Trump Era

Even with the new members, life has been rough for the organization in the Trump era. One of Pai's first actions as FCC chair was to ditch an Obama-era proposal to lower price caps on "business data services"—which provide connectivity to ATMs, for example—and instead eliminate caps for much of the market. And, of course, the agency voted in December to jettison the hard-won net neutrality regulations.

Pickering and company did land a big win last week, when the FCC approved rules that will make it easier for smaller companies to string their wires along existing utility poles. It sounds boring but could spur more competition and lower broadband prices.

But even as the group celebrates that victory, a bigger problem looms, as the FCC considers a petition filed by rival telecom group USTelecom that could cut off access to much of the infrastructure that Incompas' member companies rely on today. Dane Jasper, CEO of broadband provider and Incompas member Sonic, calls the petition “a knife at the throat of the entire competitive industry.”

And consolidation could thin the organization’s ranks. In 2016, Verizon snapped up XO Communications and CenturyLink bought Level 3. Such deals can make for strange bedfellows within the group. Verizon has long been a “carrier member,” which enables it to participate in Incompas’s trade shows, but bylaws forbid the former Baby Bells from having policy voting rights within the organization.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile agreed to buy Sprint, one of Incompas’ earliest members. The deal is pending. Pickering says Incompas does not have a position the acquisition. (edited)

When it comes to net neutrality, public opinion appears to be on Incompas' side. Earlier this year, a Morning Consult poll found that 60 percent of registered voters, including 63 percent of Republicans, support the idea. Republican voters were more likely to support net neutrality than Democrats or independents in the poll.

That may be pushing more of Pickering's fellow Republicans to his side of the issue. In May, three Senate Republicans broke ranks to support legislation that would restore the FCC's rules, and last month Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) became the first GOP House member to do so, at an event cohosted by Incompas.

Pickering still has a long way to go to win over enough Republicans to restore net neutrality protections. “If anyone can get everyone to the table, it’s Chip,” Eshoo says.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-one-telecom-group-that-does-support-net-neutrality/

Ajit Pai’s Shell Game

I’ve got bad news for everyone who is working overtime to protest Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s campaign to eliminate net neutrality: You are being tricked. Pai is running a kind of shell game, overreaching (“go ahead and run all the paid prioritization services you want, Comcast!”) so that we will focus our energies on the hard-to-pin-down concept of net neutrality—the principle of internet access fairness that he has vowed to eliminate.

Susan Crawford is a columnist for Backchannel and a professor at Harvard Law School. She is also the author of The Responsive City and Captive Audience.

———

Sign up to get Backchannel's weekly newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pai is hoping to use outrage over net neutrality to drive everyone into the mosh pit of special interests that is lobbying on Capitol Hill. There will be strident calls from every side for reworking the existing Telecommunications Act to ensure that net neutrality continues. Just watch: The incumbents will piously say, “We like net neutrality too! We just need a different statute.” That’s a trap. We have a perfectly good statute already, and the Obama-era FCC’s interpretation of that statute so as to ensure an open internet—including its labeling of these giant companies as common carriers, which was necessary in order for open internet rules to be enforceable—has already been found reasonable. On the Hill, the public will be out-lobbied at every turn by the essentially unlimited resources of Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Verizon, and AT&T.

The real problem is a complete absence of leadership and policy aimed at making sure that low-priced, ubiquitous, world-class fiber optic services reach every home and business. Left to their own devices, the giant US companies Pai is determined to protect have every incentive to divide markets, avoid capital investments in upgrades to fiber that reach everyone, charge as much as they can get away with, and leave out poorer and rural people. That is in fact what has happened here.

The differences between the way the unrestrained, profit-at-all-costs-driven operators run things and the way a public interest-driven operator acts are obvious. For a clear illustration, take a look at Wilson, North Carolina.

I recently traveled to Wilson, a town in the eastern part of the state that is known to most as an exit ramp on Interstate 95. I found it to be a scrappy place with a tradition of taking the long view—most notably by successfully deploying a low-priced fiber optic service. Earlier this decade, the citizens of Wilson weren’t happy with the low-capacity connections and poor customer service offered by Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum). Wilson already had a public electric utility, so it was familiar with the benefits of operating a utility in the public interest. It built its own fiber optic network, and today offers 50 Mbps service (equal uploads and downloads) for $40 a month.

Here’s just a single example of the difference between Wilson’s system and one owned by an unregulated member of the connectivity cabal: the ease with which you can access the service, particularly if you have limited funds. In Wilson, you can sign up for prepaid service (with the same 50 Mbps capacity) for $1.15 a day. It’s a highly automated customer experience: You call up customer service, say you want access—you can set up your account with as little as $10—and you’re done. No credit check, no deposit, nothing. You can switch from a post-paid $40/month service to prepaid daily service with a phone call. (Try that with Verizon, Comcast, or AT&T.) When you’re about to use up your days, you can have a text, email, or call go out to you; after that, if you haven’t refilled your account, the service automatically shuts itself off. All you have to do to turn it back on is call again or go online and refill your account.

Wilson did this to make life easier for new customers, or for customers who want to avoid signing up for a full month of service. “It removes barriers to access and puts the customer in control,” says Will Aycock, the manager of Wilson’s Greenlight fiber service. The $1.15 is the prorated, per-day amount for Wilson’s regular monthly service—$39.95 for internet access alone. No data caps. When I asked Aycock why other internet access companies don’t provide an equivalent product, he was stumped. “I have no idea,” he said.

Wilson’s prepay program isn’t the only step Wilson has taken to reach more of its citizens with fiber. Though the city’s Greenlight fiber service is already connected to about 40 percent of the units in the town, it hasn’t—like the unregulated private fiber providers in the US—decided to deny fiber to some parts of the city. If you move to a place in Wilson that doesn’t have fiber, all you have to do is call and ask for service. Greenlight will install it for you for free.

Even more dramatically, if you’re in public housing or an apartment building in Wilson, in exchange for $10 per month added to your rent check you can get 50 Mbps symmetrical fiber internet access service. Wilson does this because it is in the city’s interest to provide service to the most people it can at the most reasonable cost. And about 50 percent of public housing residents are signing up.

True, Comcast has a prepaid program and a $10 “Internet Essentials” scheme. But both are much more limited than what Wilson offers. Xfinity Prepaid is an asymmetrical and slower service: 20 Mbps down and just 3 Mbps up, below the FCC’s definition of high-speed access. You can’t sign up for a prepaid Comcast service if you have an active Comcast account: You can’t switch.

And Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, launched several years ago in order to give the FCC something to talk about when it approved the against-the-public-interest Comcast/NBCU merger, is, by percentage, much less popular than Wilson’s 50 percent. As of 2015, Comcast’s program had reached only about 17 percent of its eligible population.

Why is Comcast’s program so unpopular? Because it’s a second-rate, low-capacity service (15 Mbps down, 2 up); it isn’t available to people who have owed money to Comcast within the past year; it comes with a data cap; it isn’t available to anyone who has had a Comcast account in the last 90 days; it isn’t available to people who also want to subscribe to pay TV channels; and it requires that you re-up each year with documentation proving your eligibility. So if you’re currently a Comcast internet access subscriber, you’d have to cancel, wait 90 days (tough for families with school-age kids; tough for anyone, really), and then apply. And re-apply next year.

It’s no mystery why Comcast’s offerings are so unattractive and hard to access: It is not in Comcast’s interest to cannibalize its full-priced customer base. Remember, where Comcast provides service it is usually the only high-capacity option. According to recent estimates by Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett, Comcast faces competition from fiber in at most a third of its footprint. There is no reason for the company to provide a respectable, equivalent prepay program to which subscribers can switch at any time if they need to. There is no reason for the company to make an equivalent service available to poorer people at a lower cost. That’s completely rational from Comcast’s perspective.

In contrast, Wilson makes it easy for anyone to get fiber, whether they’re low-income or not. It’s providing the same symmetrical, high-capacity service to everyone, rich and poor. And it has every incentive to keep subscription prices as low as possible.

Finally, you might wonder why, if Wilson’s service is so successful, its neighbors in North Carolina haven’t noticed and started building similar systems of their own. The answer is that it’s illegal. Time Warner Cable (later Charter, later Spectrum) succeeded in getting the state legislature to pass legislation in 2011 aimed at never letting another city in the state follow Wilson’s lead.

What Wilson is doing is offering fiber optic, high-speed internet access in the public interest. The differences between Wilson’s utility approach—getting as many people online as possible, from every walk of life, with the highest quality service and at reasonable prices—and what most Americans experience is dramatic. (In many places in America, this kind of great service doesn’t have to be provided by the government itself; it can, instead, be provided when private companies compete to serve you over a neutral, passive dark fiber network operated in the public interest, as San Francisco plans to do.)

These comparisons neatly illustrate the difference between a system that accounts for the public interest and one that eschews regulation and leaves citizens at the mercy of quasi-monopolistic, unrestrained corporate giants. Every American should have the opportunity to get this kind of utility fiber service at competitive prices. Yes, I said utility—how can you be sentient in 2017 and not realize that internet access is as vital a utility as phone service and radio were in the last century? Recognizing this basic fact means that we’ll need to burden private basic telecommunications companies with public obligations—the way we have as a country for 100 years.

The utility, common carriage,“Title II” label, in a nutshell, is the legal categorization that all of Ajit Pai’s net-neutrality handwaving is aimed at destroying. He’s being outrageous so that we’ll all meet in the middle on Capitol Hill. Stay focused, internet access fans. Don’t be driven into a frenzy by net neutrality. It’s a diversion. It is the FCC’s continuing legal authority, and our absence of informed leadership, that is the real issue. The statute is just fine.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/net-neutrality-fiber-optic-internet/

Here’s How the End of Net Neutrality Will Change the Internet

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon may soon be free to block content, slow video-streaming services from rivals, and offer “fast lanes” to preferred partners. For a glimpse of how the internet experience may change, look at what broadband providers are doing under the existing “net neutrality” rules.

When AT&T customers access its DirecTV Now video-streaming service, the data doesn’t count against their plan’s data limits. Verizon, likewise, exempts its Go90 service from its customers’ data plans. T-Mobile allows multiple video and music streaming services to bypass its data limits, essentially allowing it to pick winners and losers in those categories.

Consumers will likely see more arrangements like these, granting or blocking access to specific content, if the Federal Communications Commission next month repeals Obama-era net neutrality rules that ban broadband providers from discriminating against lawful content providers. The commission outlined its proposed changes on Tuesday, and published them Wednesday. The proposal would also ban states from passing their own versions of the old rules. Because Republicans have a majority in the agency, the proposal will likely pass and take effect early next year.

Because many internet services for mobile devices include limits on data use, the changes will be visible there first. In one dramatic scenario, internet services would begin to resemble cable-TV packages, where subscriptions could be limited to a few dozen sites and services. Or, for big spenders, a few hundred. Fortunately, that’s not a likely scenario. Instead, expect a gradual shift towards subscriptions that provide unlimited access to certain preferred providers while charging extra for everything else.

Net neutrality advocates have long worried that these sorts of preferential offerings harm competition, and by extension, consumers, by making it harder for smaller providers to compete. A company like Netflix or Amazon can likely shell out to sponsor data, but smaller companies don't necessarily have the budget.

"Net neutrality is incredibly important for small startups like Discord because all internet traffic needs to be treated as equal for us all to have access to the same resources as the big companies," says Jason Citron, co-founder and CEO of the videogame-centric chat and video-conferencing app Discord. Citron's company is well funded and boasts 45 million users. But it competes with larger players like Microsoft's Skype, Google's Hangouts, and Facebook's WhatsApp. Even if Discord can offer a better experience for gamers, bigger companies might be able to gain an advantage by partnering with broadband providers to prioritize or subsidize their apps.

For even smaller video providers, the end of net neutrality could be dire. "We believe this would affect more than just our voice and video equipment, but our entire ability to host folks interacting across our services," says Nolan T. Jones, managing partner and co-creator of Roll20, a video-conferencing and community platform for tabletop role-playing gamers.

It can be hard for smaller companies to even get a meeting with large broadband providers. In 2014, when T-Mobile launched a program that exempted music streaming services from its users’ data caps, the founder of streaming service SomaFM complained that his company had been left out. T-Mobile added SomaFM to the program a year later, but it’s not clear how many customers SomaFM may have lost in the interim.

The FCC ruled earlier this year that these data exemptions, known as "zero rating," are permissible under the current net-neutrality rules. Once those rules go away, the companies will be free to experiment with more drastic measures, like slowing connections to data-hungry apps.

Even Verizon's "unlimited" plans impose limits. The company's cheapest unlimited mobile plan limits video streaming quality to 480p resolution, which is DVD quality, on phones and 720p resolution, the lower tier of HD quality, on tablets. Customers can upgrade to a more expensive plan that enables 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets, but the higher quality 4K video standard is effectively forbidden.

Meanwhile, Comcast customers in 28 states face 1 terabyte data caps. Going over that limit costs subscribers as much as an additional $50 a month. As 4K televisions become more common, more households may hit the limit. That could prompt some to stick with a traditional pay-TV package from Comcast.

It's not hard to see how companies could push these ideas further. Comcast could take a page from Verizon and stop customers from accessing any 4K content unless they pay for an unlimited account. And it could charge companies to sponsor data for their customers.

For now, Comcast says that’s off the table. “Comcast does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast Cable president and CEO Dave Watson wrote in a blog post Tuesday. AT&T and Verizon did not answer questions about future plans, but spokespeople pointed to blog posts saying the companies support the open internet.

But even without a dramatic departure from current practices, the future internet, then, could look a more extreme version of today's mobile plans, with different pricing tiers for different levels of video quality for different apps. That means more customer choice, but perhaps not in the way anyone actually wants.

Republican FCC Chair Ajit Pai argues that Federal Trade Commission will be able to protect consumers and small business from abuses by internet providers once the agency's current rules are off the books. But that’s not clear.

Democratic FTC commissioner Terrell McSweeny tells WIRED that the FTC is only an enforcement agency. It doesn't have the authority to issue industry-wide rules, such as a ban on blocking lawful content. In many cases, she says, the agency might not be able to use antitrust law against broadband providers that give preferential treatment to their own content or to that of partners.

"The FTC stands ready to protect broadband subscribers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts and practices,” acting FTC Chair Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a statement Tuesday.

The good news is the internet won't change overnight, if it all. Blake Reid, a clinical professor at Colorado Law, says the big broadband providers will wait to see how the inevitable legal challenges to the new FCC order shakeout. They'll probably keep an eye on 2018 and even 2020 elections as well. The courts could shoot down the FCC’s order, or, given enough public pressure, Congress even could pass new net neutrality laws.

UPDATED, 1:10 PM: This article was updated after the FCC published its proposal to eliminate net-neutrality rules.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/heres-how-the-end-of-net-neutrality-will-change-the-internet/

Pro-Trump Media May Be the Big Loser With Trumps New Internet Rules

Citing an unprecedented power grab of the Obama-era FCC that is a trojan horse for censorship, pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Reddits r/The_Donald applauded the Republican-controlled FCC for its plans to strip Net Neutrality protections on Tuesday.

Experts say, however, sites like InfoWars and fringe communities like 4chan would likely be the first to have their websites slowed down by telecoms in the new plan, unveiled by Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on Tuesday.

Tim Karr, the senior director of strategy at the internet rights nonprofit Free Press, said Pais plan would allow telecom giants like Comcast to prioritize their own websites and properties, like Comcast-owned NBC sites.

In turn, this would slow traffic to fringe or non-mainstream political sites like InfoWars and 4chanunless users paid more for a higher tier internet, which currently doesnt exist.

The thing about the internet that is truly revolutionary is that it took out the middleman, by virtue of the actual way the internet was originally engineered. The middleman model is the one that mainstream media, television, radio, and newspapers is built upon, Karr told The Daily Beast.

What this proposed rule change effectively does is it reinserts the middleman in the form of these internet access providers. In so doing, it deprioritizes the kind of content that political organizers rely upon.

Still, those political organizers on websites like Reddits r/The_Donald, the webs most active pro-Trump community, backed the FCCs new proposal that would stall or maybe halt traffic to their own sites, in part because of a common enemy with the Trump administration.

Just look at the four companies in FAVOR of net neutrality: Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, reads the title of one popular on the subreddit Tuesday. Anything that pisses them off is what I want.

InfoWars ran several stories endorsing Pais plan this week, including one titled FCC to Free Internet from Obamas Net Neutrality Rules. The story claimed opposition to the plan was pushed primarily by (liberal billionaire George) Soros pro-censorship coalition.

Since these 2015 regulations passed, Internet giant portals like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have moved to become the judge, jury, and executioner of the contact we read on the Internet, under the guise of eliminating fake news, InfoWars writer Jerome Corsi wrote.

But Karr said the new bill would make telecoms like Comcast actual juries of content, forcing users to pay more for speedier access to some website.

Its largely a mystery how this has become a bipartisan issue, said Karr. Anyone who sees the internet as a tool to organize and get their message beyond the mainstream media, protecting an open internet is vital.

Internet consumer advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have lobbied against the changes for years, saying the changes would create a caste system on the web that allows people with more money to access some parts of the web faster than other users.

Opposition came in the form of lobbying money from companies like Verizon and Comcast, which used social media to launch a months-long ad campaign in favor of stripping Obama-era net neutrality protections.

Usually when we see that sort of saber-rattling activism on the far right, there is some money behind it, said Karr. The phone and cable lobby very actively funds some of the net neutrality activism.

Earlier this year, 27 Americans filed a complaint to the FCC when their identities were stolen and attached to public comments to the FCC, asking for the end of Net Neutrality.

Polls by real Republicans show that they support Net Neutrality protections. A GOP polling firm found that 75 percent of Republicans said that internet service providers should be prohibited from slowing or blocking websites or video services like Netflix in July.

It imposes the gatekeeper media model on the internet by giving power to prioritize content to phone and cable companies, said Karr. There are economic incentives for them to prioritize, but also political incentives for these companies to want these rules.

In other words, the new net neutrality rules would re-fill the mainstream media swamp that a lot of the fringe websites claim theyre trying to drain.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/to-spite-obama-pro-trump-media-lobbies-fcc-to-slow-down-their-websites

‘Pretty ridiculous’: thousands of names stolen to attack net neutrality rules

Letter states nearly 500, 000 comments on FCC website might have been junk e-mail, setup by internet neutralitys opponents to push for deregulation

Last Tuesday, Joel Mullaney, an application engineer from Watertwin, Massachusetts, was browsing Reddit as he spotted a thread about people whose names and postal addresses have been falsely accustomed to publish comments on the government website attacking Obama-era open internet regulation.

Mullaney, 43, sprang his address in to the search bar around the Federal Communications Commissions website and located his name mounted on a remark that began: The unparalleled regulatory power the Federal government enforced on the web is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation.

It had been pretty absurd, stated Mullaney. Thats virtually the precise complete opposite of things i think.

On Thursday, Mullaney added his name to some letter sent by 14 from the thousands, otherwise thousands and thousands, of individuals to possess left similar frequently identical comments around the FCCs website because the regulator moves to unwind the strict rules controlling the web introduced within Obama.

Ajit Pai, Jesse Trumps recently hired mind from the FCC, has stated he really wants to have a weed-whacker towards the 2015 rules that regulate access to the internet inside a manner like the regulating other utilities like water or electricity.

Following a massive campaign brought by internet activists and supported by Obama, the FCC decided to regulate isps (ISPs) under title II from the telecommunications act. The ruling implies that just like everybody will get exactly the same electricity, ISPs can’t create tiered systems of access and slow, or throttle, a web-based service or provide a high-speed lane to corporations capable of paying more.

Critics charge that such lanes allows ISPs to choose winners and losers online, favour their very own services and potentially harm freedom of expression. Pai and also the cable companies argue the internet neutrality rules that have been unsuccessfully challenged in the court stifle corporate innovation and investment.

The two sides are in loggerheads again. The FCC has gotten over 2.7m comments on restoring internet freedom to date, and it is systems crashed after comedian John Oliver lambasted the move ahead his Cinemax show, A Week Ago Tonight.

Mullaneys letter, coordinated by internet activists Fight for future years, calculates that as much as 450,000 from the comments on FCCs website might be junk e-mail produced by opponents of internet neutrality.

Whomever is behind this stole our addresses and names, uncovered our personal data inside a public docket without our permission, and used our identities to file for a political statement we didn’t sign up to, the letter reads. The letter also warns that thousands and thousands of other Americans might have been victimized too, they write.

Mullaney, whose supposed comment continues to be around the FCCs site, stated he was embarrassed to become connected using the comment and worried it could delay potential employers. It appears harmful to me it is not what individuals within my industry believe whatsoever, he stated.

Requested by what, contrary, the FCC intends related to all of this junk e-mail, a spokesman directed the Protector to comments from Pais newest press conference: I encourage broad participation within this rule-making as with any FCC rule-making, and just what matters the majority are the caliber of your comments ought to, and not the quantity, stated Pai.

We’ll make our decision in line with the details which are within the record as well as on the appropriate law that’s presented and clearly fake comments like the ones posted a week ago through the Flash, Batman, Question Lady, Aquaman and Superman will not dramatically impact our deliberations about this issue.

Pai stated countless comments have been posted under their own name. Obviously, this isn’t new: fake comments were filed within the 2014-15 proceeding under names like Jesse Duck, Donald Duck, and Stalin, simply to name a couple of. Now, I believe the end result is I urge everybody whos thinking about this problem to have fun playing the process within an honest and forthright way, and that’s, I believe, the easiest method to make certain your voice is heard, he stated.

Find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/26/fcc-net-neutrality-open-internet

Net neutrality regulations under threat by Trump’s new FCC appointments

Appointees Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison have openly opposed legislation that assures equal access to high-performance internet

Legislation that assures equal access to high-performance internet one of the signature achievements of Obamas administration could be reversed under President-elect Trump after he appointed two opponents of net neutrality to the US communications regulator team.

Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison have been vocal in their opposition to the policy of net neutrality, which prevents large internet companies from creating fast lanes for high-paying customers. They are both associated with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank based in Washington DC which has previously campaigned against net neutrality.

While Trump himself hasnt said a lot about net neutrality, Eisenach testified before the judiciary committee of the US Senate in 2014, saying the policy used government regulation to unnecessarily advantage small companies and had little to do with protecting consumers.

Net neutrality regulation cannot be justified on grounds of enhancing consumer welfare or protecting the public interest, he said. The potential costs of net neutrality regulation are both sweeping and severe, and extend far beyond a simple transfer of wealth from one group to another. Legitimate policy concerns about the potential use of market power to disadvantage rivals or harm consumers can best be addressed through existing antitrust and consumer protection laws and regulations.

Mark Jamison took the argument one step further. In an October 2016 opinion piece for Tech Policy Daily, he asked provocatively whether or not the FCC is needed any more.

Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away. Telecommunications network providers and ISPs are rarely, if ever, monopolies, he wrote. If there are instances where there are monopolies, it would seem overkill to have an entire federal agency dedicated to ex ante regulation of their services. A well-functioning Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in conjunction with state authorities, can handle consumer protection and anticompetitive conduct issues.

Milton Mueller, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy, and a principal of the Internet Governance Project, suggests that the kinds of sweeping changes that Trumps advisers seem to be encouraging could not happen quickly or without public comment.

If the new FCC makes significant changes in regulations there will be an opportunity for public comment, as there always is as per the Administrative Procedures Act, he said. In principle, the public has the same type of input it had before, its just that the current commissioners will be less likely to lend a sympathetic ear to net neutrality advocates than before.

Mueller also suggests that even if the current net neutrality rules are scrapped or overhauled, its impact might not be that dramatic. I dont see the curbing or elimination of current net neutrality rules as affecting broad access to reliable high-speed internet that much, he said. Its pricing and competition that matter the most. I dont think the major ISPs are all that keen to engage in major acts of discrimination against specific content, applications and services.

But Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, whose founding director is web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is not so sure. She warns that her organization will be keeping a close eye on the new administrations actions around net neutrality.

Todays appointments certainly dont look like good news for net neutrality, she said. But President-elect Trump has promised to be a president for all Americans. If hes serious about this promise, we trust the transition team will pay heed to the over three million comments submitted just last year by Americans of all political stripes calling for strong net neutrality, and will respect the recent decision by a federal appeals court to uphold the FCCs Open Internet order.

Jellema said that strong net neutrality rules help to secure budding entrepreneurs the same opportunities as Amazon or Facebook, as well as making sure internet providers had the same incentive to serve people in rural areas, and not just more lucrative audiences in cities.

The open internet has played an important role in driving economic progress in the US, and can continue to do so in the years ahead but only if fairness is hardwired into the rules of the game, she added. The new administration has a key role in setting an equitable internet policy for all Americans and signaling that they will continue the USs role as a global guardian of an open and free web.

Campaigns for and against net neutrality regulations have been waged since 2005. Regulationwas finally adopted last year after the FCC ruled that broadband internet access (both at home and wirelessly) would be classified as a common carrier under specific sections of the 1934 Communications Act and the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Obama wrote of the 2015 FCC decision: Todays FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs, he said, thanking the four million people who wrote to the FCC in support of net neutrality.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/22/obama-net-neutrality-regulations-under-threat-trump-fcc-appointments