On February 26th, 2015, after an extensive comment period where 3.7 million comments were submitted, the FCC classified internet service providers (ISPs) as telecommunications providers and is subject to Title II of the Communications Act just like phone and cable service. This ensures that all everyone on the internet has equal access to content. There were lawsuits by the corporations who stand to profit from the absence of these net neutrality rules but the decision survived to court challenges.
Under the Trump administration, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai is proposing rules that will overturn the classification subjecting ISPs from Title II and would allow them to enhance access to, slow down access to, or even block specific sites (like their competitors, e.g.) They will be voting on this on December 14th. It’s worth noting that Pai’s proposal would prohibit states and localities from adopting their own broadband consumer protection laws, including laws that protect consumer privacy. It’s also worth noting that Pai is a former Verizon attorney.
Corporate internet providers claim that “lifting the ban on paid prioritization will increase network innovation [because] the ban on paid prioritization agreements has had … a chilling effect on network innovation“. It’s difficult to see how slowing down or restricting access to specific content on the internet could be viewed as “innovation”. Comcast tweeted that they “do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content” despite the fact that they have already been caught doing this. It’s also not the same as pledging not to have “paid prioritization”, so-called “fast lanes” on the internet, something they used to do.
This tweet from @LoresJoberg sums it up nicely, I think:
We never will, but it’s very important that we be able to. But we won’t. So let us do it. Because we won’t do it. Which is why we’re spending so much money to make sure we can. But we won’t. But let us. https://t.co/6f3qJupZRS
— Lore (@loresjoberg) November 23, 2017
It goes without saying that the giant corporate telcoms are spending enormous amounts of money to repeal net neutrality laws. Some of it, it appears, in less than ethical ways. An investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed that hundreds of thousands of fake comments supporting the elimination of net neutrality have been submitted to the FCC this year including many submitted using actual names and contact information of people who are victims of identity theft to support this corporate agenda. Software engineer Jeff Kao who once worked for the FCC as an intern wrote a program to analyze the comments and he believes that the number of fake comments may be over 1.3 million:
Each sentence in the faked comments looks like it was generated by a computer program. A mail merge swapped in a synonym for each term to generate unique-sounding comments. It was like mad-libs, except for astroturf.
Kao believes that 99% of the REAL comments were in favor of maintaining net neutrality, a not particularly surprising statement given the massive public opposition against Pai’s moves and the huge amount of supportive comments submitted during this debate back in 2015.
There is more on this story HERE.
Here’s what YOU can do:
- Send a letter to the FCC. You can do that HERE.
- Call Congress and tell them to act by passing laws that keep the internet free and open. There’s a handy form to help with that HERE.
- Set up or attend a protest including the big on in front of the FCC Building in Washington, DC on Dec. 14th.
- Make a donation to groups like FreePress.net or FightForTheFuture.org that are fighting to maintain net neutrality.