Say Goodbye to “Net Neutrality” – New FCC Proposal Will Permit Discrimination of Web Content

The concept of “net neutrality” is not an easy one to wrap your head around. Particularly if you aren’t an expert in how the internet works and if you don’t work for an ISP (internet service provider). In fact, I think that lobbyists and special interest groups make the concept intentionally difficult and convoluted so that the average person’s eyes glaze over and they move on to the next topic. I am by no means an expert in this area; however, in this post I will try to explain in as simple terms as possible what “net neutrality” means and what is at risk with the latest FCC proposal. I also highlight a wide variety of articles on the subject, so I hope this post can serve as a one-stop-shop on the issue.

The concept of “net neutrality” describes how broadband access across the internet currently works. Essentially, the ISPs are not allowed to discriminate amongst the content being delivered to the consumer. A small site like Liberty Blitzkrieg, will be delivered in the same manner as content from a huge site like CNN that has massive traffic and a major budget. This is precisely why the internet has become such a huge force for free speech. It has allowed the “little guy” with no budget to compete equally in the “market of ideas” with the largest media behemoths on the planet. It has allowed for a quantum leap in the democratization and decentralization in the flow of information like nothing since the invention and proliferation of the printing press itself. It is one of the most powerful tools ever created by humanity, and must be guarded as the treasure it is.

People have been worried about internet censorship in the USA for a long time. What people need to understand is that censorship in so-called “first world” countries cannot be implemented in the same manner as in societies used to authoritarian rule. The status quo in the U.S. understands that the illusion of freedom must be maintained even as civil liberties are eroded to zero. In the UK, the approach to internet censorship has been the creation of “internet filters.” The guise is fighting porn, but in the end you get censorship. This is something I highlighted in my post: How Internet in the UK is “Sleepwalking into Censorship.”

In the U.S., it appears the tactic might take the form of new FCC rules on “net neutrality,” which the Wall Street Journal first broke earlier this week. While the exact rules won’t become public until May 15th, what we know now is that the FCC intends to allow ISPs to create a “fast lane” for internet content, which established content providers with big bucks can pay for in order to gain preferred access to consumers on the other end.

This is truly the American way of censorship. Figure out how those with the deepest pockets can smother the free speech of those with little or no voice on the one medium in which information flow is still treated equally. The nightmare scenario here would be that status quo companies use their funds to price out everyone else. It would kill innovation on the web before it starts. It’s just another example of the status quo attempting to build a moat around itself that we have already seen in so many other areas of the economy. The internet really is the last bastion of freedom and dynamism in the U.S. economy and this proposal could put that at serious risk. Oh, and to make matters worse, the current FCC is filled to the brim with revolving door industry lobbyists. More on this later.

So that’s my two cents. Now I will provide excerpts from some of the many articles that have been written on the topic in recent days.

First, from the article that started it all in the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Regulators are proposing new rules on Internet traffic that would allow broadband providers to charge companies a premium for access to their fastest lanes.

If the rule is adopted, winners would be the major broadband providers that would be able to charge both consumers and content providers for access to their networks. Companies like Google Inc. or Netflix Inc. that offer voice or video services that rely on broadband could take advantage of such arrangements by paying to ensure that their traffic reaches consumers without disruption. Those companies could pay for preferential treatment on the “last mile” of broadband networks that connects directly to consumers’ homes.

Startups and other small companies not capable of paying for preferential treatment are likely to suffer under the proposal, say net neutrality supporters, along with content companies that might have to pay a toll to guarantee optimal service.

In Silicon Valley, there has been a long-standing unease with owners of broadband pipes treating some content as more equal than others. Large companies have been mostly silent about the FCC’s moves regarding broadband service, but some smaller firms or investors in startups have said the FCC needs to tread carefully so Internet policies don’t disadvantage young companies that can’t afford tolls to the Web.

“For technologists and entrepreneurs alike this is a worst-case scenario,” said Eric Klinker, chief executive of BitTorrent Inc., a popular Internet technology for people to swap digital movies or other content. “Creating a fast lane for those that can afford it is by its very definition discrimination.”

Some consumer advocacy groups reacted strongly against the proposal. The American Civil Liberties Union said, “If the FCC embraces this reported reversal in its stance toward net neutrality, barriers to innovation will rise, the marketplace of ideas on the Internet will be constrained, and consumers will ultimately pay the price.” Free Press, a nonpartisan organization that is a frequent critic of the FCC, said, “With this proposal, the FCC is aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet.”

The New York Times also covered the story:

Still, the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.

Consumer groups immediately attacked the proposal, saying that not only would costs rise, but also that big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.

“If it goes forward, this capitulation will represent Washington at its worst,” said Todd O’Boyle, program director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship — corporate or governmental.”

Let’s not forget that Comcast is attempting to take over Time Warner (I wrote my opinion on that here). So this whole thing seems like a gigantic, status quo consolidation cluster fuck.

Also, Comcast is asking for government permission to take over Time Warner Cable, the third-largest broadband provider, and opponents of the merger say that expanding its reach as a broadband company will give Comcast more incentive to favor its own content over that of unaffiliated programmers.

USA! USA!

“The very essence of a ‘commercial reasonableness’ standard is discrimination,” Michael Weinberg, a vice president at Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group, said in a statement. “And the core of net neutrality is nondiscrimination.”

“This standard allows Internet service providers to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet,” he said.

Now from TechCrunch’s article, The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Rules Will Brutalize The Internet:

The FCC will propose new net neutrality rules that at once protect content from discrimination, but also allow content companies to pay for preferential treatment. The news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would in fact create a two-tiered system in which wealthy companies can “better serve the market” at the expense of younger, less well-capitalized firms. 

The above is only “net neutrality” in that it protects all content from having its delivery degraded on a whim. The rubric reported doesn’t actually force neutrality at all, but instead carves out a way for extant potentates to crowd out the next generation of players by leaning on their cash advantage.

In practice this puts new companies and new ideas at a disadvantage, as they come into the market with a larger disadvantage than they otherwise might have. Any cost that we introduce that a large company can afford, and a startup can’t, either makes the startup poorer should it pay or degrades its service by comparison if it doesn’t.

This will slow innovation and enrich the status quo. That’s a shame.

So given the potential disastrous consequences noted above, why is the FCC pushing this through? After all, “net neutrality” was one of candidate Barack Obama’s key campaign promises (just the latest in a series of completely broken promises and lies).

As usual, you can simply follow the money. While FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is hiding behind a recent court decision that seemingly struck down net neutrality, the court gave him the option to declare the internet a public utility, which would have prevented this outcome. Yet, he didn’t go that route. Why? The revolving door of course!

An article by Lee Fang at Vice sheds a great deal of light on the issue:

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal dropped something of a bombshell with leaked news that the Federal Communications Commission is planning to abandon so-called “net neutrality” regulations—rules to ensure that Internet providers are prevented from discriminating based on content. Under the new proposed system, companies such as Comcast or Verizon will be able to create a tiered Internet, in which websites will have to pay more money for faster speeds, a change that observers predict will curb free speech, stifle innovation and increase costs for consumers.

Like so many problems in American government, the policy shift may relate to the pernicious corruption of the revolving door. The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality.

The American way.

Take Daniel Alvarez, an attorney who has long represented Comcast through the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. In 2010, Alvarez wrote a letter to the FCC on behalf of Comcast protesting net neutrality rules, arguing that regulators failed to appreciate “socially beneficial discrimination.” The proposed rules, Alvarez wrote in the letter co-authored with a top Comcast lobbyist named Joe Waz, should be reconsidered.

Today, someone in Comcast’s Philadelphia headquarters is probably smiling. Alvarez is now on the other side, working among a small group of legal advisors hired directly under Tom Wheeler, the new FCC Commissioner who began his job in November.

As soon as Wheeler came into office, he also announced the hiring of former Ambassador Philip Verveer as his senior counselor. A records request reveals that Verveer also worked for Comcast in the last year. In addition, he was retained by two industry groups that have worked to block net neutrality, the Wireless Association (CTIA) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

In February, Matthew DelNero was brought into the agency to work specifically on net neutrality. DelNero has previously worked as an attorney for TDS Telecom, an Internet service provider that has lobbied on net neutrality, according to filings.

In his first term, Obama’s administration proposed net neutrality rules, but in January of this year, a federal court tossed the regulations in a case brought by Verizon. The decision left open the possibility of new rules, but only if the FCC were to reclassify the Internet as a utility. The Wall Street Journal story with details about the FCC’s leaked plans claims the agency will not be reclassifying the web as a utility. The revised rules to be announced by the FCC will allow ISPs to “give preferential treatment to traffic from some content providers, as long as such arrangements are available on ‘commercially reasonable’ terms,” reports journalist Gautham Nagesh.

Well how about chairman Wheeler himself?

Critics have been quick to highlight the fact that chairman Wheeler, the new head of the FCC, is a former lobbyist with close ties to the telecommunications industry. In March, telecom companies—including Comcast, Verizon, and the US Telecom Association—filled the sponsor list for a reception to toast Wheeler and other commissioners. Many of these companies have been furiously lobbying Wheeler and other FCC officials on the expected rule since the Verizon ruling.

But overall, the FCC is one of many agencies that have fallen victim to regulatory capture. Beyond campaign contributions and other more visible aspects of the influence trade in Washington, moneyed special interest groups control the regulatory process by placing their representatives into public office, while dangling lucrative salaries to those in office who are considering retirement. The incentives, with pay often rising to seven and eight figure salaries on K Street, are enough to give large corporations effective control over the rule-making process.

Ars Technica also covered the revolving door angle in its article:

The CTIA Wireless Association today announced that Meredith Attwell Baker—a former FCC Commissioner and former Comcast employee—will become its president and CEO on June 2, replacing Steve Largent, a former member of Congress (and former NFL player). 

Largent himself became the cellular lobby’s leader when he replaced Tom Wheeler—who is now the chairman of the FCC. Wheeler is also the former president and CEO of the NCTA (National Cable & Telecommunications Association), which… wait for it… is now led by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

To sum up, the top cable and wireless lobby groups in the US are led by a former FCC chairman and former FCC commissioner, while the FCC itself is led by a man who formerly led both the cable and wireless lobby groups.

I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.

But wait, it gets worse.

Among current FCC commissioners, Republican Ajit Pai previously served as associate general counsel for Verizon and held numerous government positions before becoming a commissioner in 2012.

It is extraordinarily tragic that the greed of a small group of crony crooks revolving between the corridors of corporate America and Washington D.C. may be about to ruin the open internet as we know it.

Please share this article far and wide and perhaps enough public awareness can make a difference.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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20 Comments

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  1. The Global Elite : We are just going to Kill the Dollar

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRqu3WzE0io

  2. Two powerful, parallel agendas at work here. One is that corporate media made huge investments to get a lock on traditional media primarily TV, radio and newspapers. They wanna make their money back. The second is Operation Mockingbird as exposed by Carl Bernstein back in the 70s in which 3-letter agencies gained control of the propaganda by planting operatives in the MSM.

    Alternative media via the internet is a direct strategic threat to that existing media grip. These attacks on Net Neutrality were predicted and they will not stop of their own accord. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” seems to be the operative quote. This is THE fight. Thanks for recognizing and highlighting this, Mike.

  3. the end result is the death of the internet along with old line media. people won’t go back to cable from netflix, they will just tune out entirely.I surely don’t see myself buying a newspaper or watching tv news if my internet feed goes down or I am limited to say just cnn or the NYT on my computer. I’ll just do without. The big guys will run off the small guys but reap no reward.

  4. i dont see what the problem is. ISPs are private companies, how they want to serve up content is up to them.

  5. In theory, this simply means that bandwidth would be priced based on supply and demand, which is a free market concept last I checked. There will be a rebalancing of who pays the costs, but where there is a market, there will be bandwidth for it. The risk is that cartels and government set the priorities rather than the market.

  6. All trends towards consolidation of power, and therefore towards tyranny, are coming from the top of the United States establishment. The top of the establishment is an organization—with a name. That’s The Pilgrims Society, 122 East 58th Street, second floor, New York. Please watch for my upcoming release this week, “Pilgrims Society—Warmongers And Metals Manipulators” at several sites including Silver Investor—Silver For The People—Silver Market News Online—and Gold Silver Worlds. I do absolutely assure an eye opener.

  7. The same solution beacons: we all must go John Galt. We must create our own community internets, community food, community education, community energy, community products for trade with other communities. We dont need “them,” their politicians, their lobbiests, their psychopaths and their stealing or control. Just walk away;

    • You say we don’t need “them”? You say we should just walk away?
      Fine, but they’ve got all the cities. All large cultural containers are fully subject to centralized psychopathic control. They’ve got the infrastructure… They have The Monopoly.

      If we don’t need “them”, why don’t alternatives already exist? Try running your own dispute resolution company and see what happens when you’re served a court order.

      This is why Galting it is simply not enough. You can’t run off into the forest without planning for it first, which takes time and resources. If your time is being stolen, it will be harder to plan for alternatives. In “the experienced world” people have mouths to feed and kids to yell at. They can’t up and leave everyone behind, but they can only leave at a considerable cost.

      You say “We don’t need ‘them'”. I say this is wishful thinking, and not yet reality. To leave Galt-style is to isolate yourself from most people, a cost too great for most.
      “For most,” you might reply, “..but not us!”
      But we are too few in number, and they have at stake their racket.

      To subvert The Monopoly we need to make the most use of incoercible spaces. One such space is a human mind. Another is tor, and bittorrent,. Yet another may be bitcoin.
      To subvert the Monopoly we must go where it cannot follow, make what it cannot remake in its image. And with all this, we must add value. More value than attainable within The Monopoly.
      We must outcompete The Monopoly in the market of human action. I think we can do this with our newly-grasped incoercible tools.

    • Dear There was not the sli:
      Thank you for your erudite commentary on my terse comment about going Galt.
      Actually what I have in mind and what I am doing is very compatible and comports with challenges you mention about infrastructure and present jobs controlled by the psychopaths that control the cities. Ayn Rand used a crude (and impractical) “walk away” storyline to make her point. In our reality this really means a more complicated build out of self sufficient local communities. This IS possible, examples abound, and can be done slowly.
      Self sufficient communities have many advantages that cut off the psychopath controllers. When we (off grid) make our own energy, our own food, and much of the rest ourselves, the psychopaths class loses control and taxation. When we give/exchange our talents with those of our neighbors without going through their banks, the psychopath class loses the ability to skim off us and build their no-value added pyramids. The big problem is the need to survive in the present by “making” money in the psychopath controlled system, because as you point out, we cant just “walk away,” particularly those of us with dependents and, all of us have to participate in the rigged psychopath controlled game for daily food etc.
      Find a small rural community, preferably on a remote island (my case) and spend as much of your efforts and resources there as possible, while managing the present reality with present job etc. No matter our situation even 1-4 hours a week can be used to create even a tiny bit of self-sufficiency, which by definition almost, is anti psychopath control. Remove resources (paper wealth in particular) from the psychopath controlled system and build up self-made energy, (particularly solar equipment), food (gardens/farms) and other wealth (tools, buildings for building/repair/teaching children) in a preferably remote location while building human relations there.
      I am convinced and have experience that this is real possible in successive baby steps. During the last depression, and in other more recent economic calamities, those with links to the real wealth creators (particularly rural) fared best. Now that we have all technology info for free literally at our fingertips it is even easier to create progressive degrees of self sufficiency most anywhere.
      Regarding internet/communications, it has become real easy to make our own community internets. Get an amateur radio license. These are all baby steps that build value outside of the psychopath-cheater-rigged game we are entangled with. These are all baby steps within the Ayn Rand allegory of “going Galt.”

    • Thank you for fleshing out the implementation details of this idea. I agree that it is possible to start peeling off from The Monopoly starting right now. However, I don’t think you’ve really addressed my concern, though I admit it might’ve gotten lost in my verbiage.

      Basically, _we_ can see the value in going our own way, but the other serfs can’t. As long as this remains true, we cannot win.
      One way to let the others see is to provide value that they could use from _within_ The Monopoly, value that is unheard of from the State paradigm, yet plainly obvious to anyone (“this costs less and does more”). I think bitcoin will help tremendously in that regard.

      I may be wrong. Maybe there are enough of us to reach self-sustaining critical mass. But either way, we are both on the same train, and we’re both headed to the land of no pyramids.

    • Thank you There was not the sli
      I agree overall but am pessimistic about your theme of everyone or most leaving serfdom-hood. I think that humans being what they are, most people INSIST on being slaves and INSIST on following a strong psychopath leader.
      One thing I learned from Chris Duane’s silver shield group is that libertarians that see things the way you and I do generally tend to be rare INTP or INTJ personality types who really do follow reason. The majority of humans however prefer passion-motivation, mysticism and herd living and would rather kill the messenger than actually accept a message of freedom and internalize enough to walk a path of independent thinking and living.
      For example, as a scientist with graduate degrees in molecular biology an nutrition, I have learned to keep my mouth shut about eating and health because all I get is passionate or screaming, angry advertising slogans and even hatred thrown at me if I challenge the mass media propaganda mindset so assiduously learned and religiously followed by everyone: what I am saying is that there is no place left for reasoned dialogue or communication overall in America. Generally the more you know about something the more you are met with prejudiced view that you must be stupid since you learned so much from a biased source (school) about a subject.
      This is the state of America today (it is much different in Asia) and I understand Romans in the age of Rome’s decline were similarly afflicted. In other words, it is useless to beat one’s head against the wall. Forget the mass of self-righteous indignant overconfident excellent people. The world is a big place and it is useless to argue with superior, excellent people about their serfdom.
      A second and compatible view is that the best we can hope for is to keep reasoned civilization alive in small remote communities anyway. When Rome fell the best place to be was far away in Ireland and such places where monasteries of quiet, passionate thinkers and reason-respecting ascetics maintained/lived and reproduced the good parts of civilization. I am convinced that the golden age of America is behind us. you can fight to turn things around and refind or improve on America’s golden age but I think that our progression to a new and better paradigm necessarily requires a long, smoldering collapse first, that extends beyond the remainder of at least my lifetime. It is best to find like minded people and work with them. Life is too short and resources too thin to piss away trying to help those who abjectly refuse all attempts. It is fun and rewarding to find and work with like minded people. I enjoy a small group of like-minded electronics/ham radio guys who are working on infrastructure for private non commercial communications.
      sorry this is so long and somewhat rambling….

    • Mots: I understand, there is no reasoning with most of the tragically conditioned serfs. This is not my proposition. Yes, we must convince them — not with reason, but with products. Products and services that can only be produced or consumed in a nonaggressive context.

  8. Meh, fuck The Internet. The very fabric of reality guarantees that encrypted channels of communication cannot be tampered with. If your shit, use Tor, that incorporeal part of you that interfaces with the network shall be thoroughly and inalienably free. Good luck in meatspace, though, nature keeps coming up with coercive solutions in the physical world…

  9. People in Germany demonstrate for Peace

    • Tom, I’m about half way through your video and want to thank you and invite Mike and all visitors here to check it out. Excellent.

  10. Who is it that voted to give Them that power over Us? Not Me. I suggest a revolution of ideas (not blood) to eliminate such power over Others.

    http://stateofglobe.com/2014/03/07/liberty-and-the-american-way/

    ♥♥♥

    “ALL money systems promote the most psychopathic to the top of the money/power heap – THEY will do ANYTHING to get there.”
    “The love of money is the root of all evil; remove the soil in which the root grows…”
    “If the universe is made of mostly “dark” energy…can We use it to run Our cars?”
    “If You want peace, take the PROFIT out of war.”

  11. These deals are not about preferential access on an unconstrained network. They are about allowing content providers to bypass the data bottlenecks in the current architecture by paying for distributed content hosting.

    The problem is that the bottleneck in the system is in the long-distance fiber backbone. It is not in the local loop. Netflix has reported that some of the worst bottleneck problems are with uVerse – even with their fiber to the home service. That would never happen if local loop capacity were the constraint. It’s not getting the content from AT&T’s local office to your house that is slow. It’s moving the content to that office from the Netflix servers in California to your town where the big problem lies.

    The “fast lane” isn’t some separate, dedicated internet channel. It is simply moving the content closer to the end customer to eliminate the worst bottlenecks. But that requires investment. What we’ve been debating a long time is who will pay for it.

    • Well… What if We could take away the worry about money? I have offered this link before and would like to offer it to You for consideration:

      http://stateofglobe.com/2014/03/07/liberty-and-the-american-way/

      ♥♥♥

      “ALL money systems promote the most psychopathic to the top of the money/power heap – THEY will do ANYTHING to get there.”
      “The love of money is the root of all evil; remove the soil in which the root grows…”
      “If the universe is made of mostly “dark” energy…can We use it to run Our cars?”
      “If You want peace, take the PROFIT out of war.”

  12. Mike said; “It has allowed the “little guy” with no budget to compete equally in the “market of ideas” with the largest media behemoths on the planet. It has allowed for a quantum leap in the democratization and decentralization in the flow of information like nothing since the invention and proliferation of the printing press itself. It is one of the most powerful tools ever created by humanity, and must be guarded as the treasure it is.”

    Mike, you do not compete equally in the “market of ideas” with the largest media behemoths on the planet. You leave out the POWER of voice. Your web site is like the roar of a bacteria compared to the roar of an elephant in terms of speech equality with the six big guys who already populate the brunt of the net. The internet is a powerful tool yes, but it is an underutilized tool in that it has not been consolidated in numbers and focus. Everyone follows the daily corporate drivel allowing them to set and control the battlefield of debate. Few break new ground. Few understand the electronic propagation of the sociopathic disease of Xtrevilism and what they are truly up against.

    Mots and There Was Not The Sli, here is your competition, and your greatest impediment to giving reason to the masses so as to win them over to your more sustainable viewpoints which I agree with.

    http://www.boxthefox.com/articles/Xtrevilism%20pandemic.html

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    • Thanks for your comments. However, I do not want to give “reason to the masses so as to win them over to your more sustainable viewpoints.” I cannot win over anyone and have better things to do than try. The more accurate response is to turn off the computer, roll up one’s sleeves and get to DIY, to build. The builder, the wealth creator shall inherit the earth. Dont have more time for this internet chit chat crap.

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