21st Century Wire says…
If you don’t know what ‘Net Neutrality’ means, then now is the time learn it. It’s a good thing, but it’s under direct threat. It’s very simple:
“Net Neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication (Wiki)”
Today, The Register reports that a US appeals court has ruled that net neutrality measures put in place by America’s Federal Communications Commission… are ‘invalid’.
“The FCC’s latest attempt to compel ISPs to treat all traffic on an equal basis suffered a significant blow, after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said (PDF)”.
This digression on the part of the US courts reared its ugly head on Tuesday, when a three-panel appeals court essentially rolled over for corporate giant Verizon, claiming that “the FCC had classified broadband service providers in a manner that excludes ISPs from the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination requirements instilled through the Open Internet Order” (see full RT story below).
This is potentially a serious blow to Americans – as well as internet users in Europe, freedom to access information and enjoy the choice they’ve become used to over the last decade and a half, should understand where this counter-revolutionary push is coming from. It’s not so much a government agenda, although the government is making the legal move. It is a corporate drive to extract more profit and exert more control over users.
Wiki continues, “There has been extensive debate about whether net neutrality should be required by law. Since the early 2000’s, advocates of net neutrality and associated rules have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, and protocols), and even block out competitors.”
The corporations along with their legions of lawyers, are planning to throttle the internet in order to bake the pie again, this time securing a bigger monopoly of control. There will be a fast lane and a slow lane, and corporate raiders will make very difficult for anyone in the slow lane, including cutting down bandwidth and access.
That monopoly will be divided up by the cartel comprised of media moguls like Verizon, Google, Microsoft and Apple. Content will plentiful, but predictably bland, unintelligent and politically vacuous. The real power will be in controlling content along that last mile, which means that telecoms and cable providers like AT & T, Comcast and Verizon (and soon Google) will be pivotal in making this corporate counter-revolution a reality.
Another problem is that corporate cartels would like to implement a bigger pay-per-view internet experience. Basic access could be metered by time or by data usage, or degrees of access could be dependent on how much you pay your ISPs. Basic access would probably be a lot of junk like basic cable TV, followed by an ‘extended basic’, or you pay for the gold package and then you get to view all content online. Either scenario will be a major shift away from what you have now.
A Return to the Big Media Feudal System
A return to the good old day when 3 networks and a handful of newspapers had a stranglehold over information and reality. Because of stringent regulation – which is the collusion of state and corporate interests, only large well-funded economies of scale will be able to broadcast from the top tier content portals online, which means that many mid-major independent media outlets will be forced to opt for a private subscription-based model to finance their operations. For non-profit and small independents, they will be relegated to the internet junk yard of random restricted access, slow speeds, disappearing pages, and a jungle of malware.
The disappearance of any meaningful anti-trust regulation (which about the only really useful function of a federal government) is what has enabled ridiculously large monopolies across broadcast media, content distribution and publishing in the US. This happened because media lobbyists in Washington DC were able to bribe and browbeat spineless politicians into line with the great corporate agenda. In the Net Neutrality story, the same players are replicating exactly the same model.
Not only can they take all of your metadata – now they can shut down your access. That might cut into the NSA’s data stocks, but the next faze of the corporate internet will feature much more about keeping dissenting voices from gaining any kind of large, crossover audience.
Congress still has the option to mandate neutrality in some form, but net lovers should rally behind this issue now, or all will be lost – forever.
Key provision of net-neutrality law struck down by court
Should internet service providers be allowed to restrict access to websites and block certain content from customers depending on how much they pay to be connected? On Tuesday, a federal appeals court said yes.
That ruling was handed down early Tuesday by way of a 2-1 decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit in Washington, DC, and those who’ve been following the case closely say this week’s decision could have colossal consequences for the way Americans access the internet.
Appellate judges were tasked with weighing whether or not the US Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, has jurisdiction with regards to regulating how ISPs deliver content to internet customers.
The Open Internet Order adopted by the FCC in 2010 include net-neutrality rules requiring broadband service providers to give consumers equal access to all lawful content on the web, but telecom giant Verizon argued in court that federal regulators erroneously awarded themselves the ability to enforce that law.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the three-panel appeals court agreed with Verizon and said the FCC had classified broadband service providers in a manner that excludes ISPs from the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination requirements instilled through the Open Internet Order.
With the drafting of the Open Internet Order, the FCC imposed restrictions on broadband service providers akin to the rules in place for “common carriers,” such as telephone and transportation companies that provide vital services to the public. Centuries-old law requires common carriers to not discriminate when it comes to critical to the public operations, and although the FCC has imposed these requirements on internet companies it has failed to classify them as such. Instead, the FCC classified such companies as “information-service providers.”
“[E]ven though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates,” the court ruled. “Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.”
More succinctly, Reuters journalists reported on Tuesday that the appellate court’s ruling effectively means that “mobile carriers and other broadband providers may reach agreements for faster access to specific content crossing their networks.”
According to Reuters, attorneys for Verizon argued last September that the net-neutrality rules imposed through the Open Internet Order violated the company’s right to free speech because it stripped control of what data it sends across its network and how.
Following Monday’s ruling, however, Verizon general counsel Randal Milch released a statement suggesting that the company won’t use the court’s decision to censor content to customers.
“Today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the Internet as they do now,” Milch said. “Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. This will not change in light of the court’s decision.”
Meanwhile opponents of the court’s decision say companies like Verizon and other ISPs will now be awarded broad new abilities when it comes to delivering content which could indeed limit who has access to what.
“Its 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,” Craig Aaron, the CEO of consumer advocacy group Free Press, said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Verizon,” Aaron added, “…will race to turn the open and vibrant web into something that looks like cable TV. 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.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to appeal the ruling, and said Tuesday that he’s “committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
READ MORE NET NEUTRALITY NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Net Neutrality Files