This is yet another blatant broken promise by Obama. He promised that he would be a champion of net neutrality, yet picked a Commissioner who sold out consumers and innovators in order to enrich telecoms. Tim Wu explains at the New Yorker:
The new rule gives broadband providers what they’ve wanted for about a decade now: the right to speed up some traffic and degrade others. (With broadband, there is no such thing as accelerating some traffic without degrading other traffic.) We take it for granted that bloggers, start-ups, or nonprofits on an open Internet reach their audiences roughly the same way as everyone else. Now they won’t. They’ll be behind in the queue, watching as companies that can pay tolls to the cable companies speed ahead. The motivation is not complicated. The broadband carriers want to make more money for doing what they already do. Never mind that American carriers already charge some of the world’s highest prices, around sixty dollars or more per month for broadband, a service that costs less than five dollars to provide. To put it mildly, the cable and telephone companies don’t need more money.
At Public Citizen, Andrew D. Selbst explains the importance of Net Neutrality:
Common carrier regulations are a century-old concept that has been applied to telecom services from its early days. The concept originates from travel: If you are a bus operator, you must allow anyone with a ticket to board and ride. Applied to telephones, common carrier obligations are the reason that your phone company cannot first listen to your conversations, and then when you discuss switching carriers or call a competitor to sign up, kill your connection or make it so full of static that you cannot hear. If the idea of a telephone company doing that seem preposterous, it is only because common carrier obligations on telephones are so ingrained into our expectations. In terms of the internet, net neutrality simply requires that the ISPs treat each bit of data identically, and send it where it needs to go at the same rate of speed, regardless of its source (subject to legitimate network management concerns). Net neutrality merely regulates the “paved road,” and not the “cars,” in the old metaphor of the “information superhighway.” We would not expect the operators of the road to choose speeds that a car can travel, depending on where it comes from or who is in it.
Without net neutrality rules there is nothing stopping ISPs from simply blocking websites and media they don’t like because the websites and media compete with their offerings or haven’t specifically paid them off. This is not just a scary hypothetical. AT&T recently released a plan called “Sponsored Data” that works as follows: AT&T has already set an artificial data cap on its consumers (itself a policy design solely to extract the most profit out of them). Now, AT&T will allow a provider, like Netflix, pay them for the privilege to reach the user without affecting the user’s cap. Thus, other competing sites become comparatively more expensive since they will run through the user’s data limit. To take another example, Comcast and Time Warner both have online TV services, which allow customers to watch cable programming on their computers or mobile devices. The cable companies’ online TV services don’t count as data under their artificial caps either, so that the home-grown online TV service is preferable to Netflix, a competitor. Then as cable prices get ever higher, the ISPs can point to all the “free” new online TV services they’re offering as justification for higher prices.
Word is that Murdoch now covets the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune — the bankrupt-but-still-dominant newspapers (and websites) in the second- and third-largest media markets, where Murdoch already owns TV stations.
Under current media ownership limits, he can’t buy them. It’s illegal … unless the Federal Communications Commission changes the rules. But according to numerous reports, that’s exactly what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to do. He’s circulating an order at the FCC to lift the longstanding ban on one company owning both daily newspapers and TV stations in any of the 20 largest media markets. And he wants to wrap up this massive giveaway just in time for the holidays.
If these changes go through, Murdoch could own the Los Angeles Times, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in L.A. alone. And he’s not the only potential beneficiary: These changes could mean more channels for Comcast-NBC, more deals for Disney and more stations for Sinclair. For anyone who actually cares about media diversity and democracy, the gutting of media ownership limits will be a complete disaster.
As indicated in this article, we’ve been through all of this before. The idea that we need increased media concentration was battered down from many angles because it was a terrible idea. Now the charge is being led by an Obama appointee, Julius Genachowski. Here is more information regarding the over-concentrated media ownership in the United States. Here is yet more detailed information from Free Press.
What are the current positions of Obama and Romney on net neutrality? Ars Technica reports:
Last November, the Obama Administrations issued a veto threat on a Senate resolution that would overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules. At the time, the White House said, “the open Internet enables entrepreneurs to create new services without fear of undue discrimination by network providers.” The presidential statement expressed concern that overturning the FCC rule would “cast uncertainty over those innovative new businesses that are a critical part of the Nation’s economic recovery.” These comments indicate a strong commitment to the FCC rule, but since then the president has remained nearly mum on the subject.
For his part, Romney has criticized open Internet protections in his economic platform, saying that the FCC “imposed network neutrality regulations (defying both the legislature and judiciary) that restrict how Internet service providers manage the digital transmissions flowing through their networks.”
His answer to a question posed at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last December offered one blunt hint about his policy preferences. Asked what role he thought the government needed to play in regulating the Internet, he responded, “Almost none.”
Verizon has just filed an appellate brief arguing that they have the right to tell you how to use the Internet. They are couching their thirst for power and control in Orwellian terms–they are claiming that the GOVERNMENT is trying to regulate the Internet. Don’t be fooled.
This is a great development on the topic of net neutrality, reported by Free Press:
[T]he Senate rejected a motion to proceed on its “resolution of disapproval” of the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality rules. The resolution failed by a margin of 52–46. The measure was an effort by Senate Republicans to reverse the FCC’s December 2010 rules intended to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against content and applications on the Web.
If the Fourth is such a happy time, shouldn’t we now be equally furious that the government has been rigged to ignore the needs and wants of the People? Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of educated middle class Americans admit that Congress has ben bought―federal corruption at the highest levels is now accepted as unquestionable truth.
More recently, I’ve run into more than a few people who have become frustrated with the Occupy movement. For instance, last week I heard this from an acquaintance, who was speaking of the protesters:
Acquaintance: “They should get a job. What the hell are they expecting to accomplish out there?”
Me: Isn’t it a huge problem that all three branches of our federal government make decisions to accommodate large corporations, often ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that worth protesting.
Acquaintance: “Still, the protesters are stupid.”
Me: What is your solution? Ordinary people are barred from participating in a government that is supposedly to be run by ordinary people. Further, the news media is largely under the control of these same interests―they are too often serving as stenographers for the corporations that pull the strings of the federal Government.
[Fourth of July flag photo]
Along the same lines, here’s an excerpt from an email I recently received from a DI reader:
About your note regarding ways to support the Occupy movement… yes, you are right to encourage people to talk about what is going on, but don’t you think that it is time for those who are actually doing the “occupying” to go home and do their homework. It seems pretty apparent that it is mostly the late teen to early 20 year olds that are involved and that they don’t seem to have any really intelligent, well thought out ideas or goals. The media and general public are already bored with the story, and the whole thing will have been an exercise in futility unless they move on in a dignified way. Their goal should be to have an effect on the 2012 election which is a full year away. They should go home and get organized and become better informed in order to form a voting block that will further their agenda (that is if they can come to a consensus as to what that agenda is).
In short, this reader wants the Occupiers to return home to do the same thing that millions of people have been doing for the past decade, i.e., doing nothing likely to invoke change.
[More . . . ]
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on one of the most important issues that most folks aren’t well tuned into: Net Neutrality. If this vote goes badly, or if Barack Obama fails to veto the result, that will be the end of the Internet as we know it, because the Internet will become much more like cable television, with corporate controlled options regarding permitted websites and acceptable software and devices.
Free Press is offering a basic Q & A on net neutrality here.