Tag Archives: FCC

Today is the big day (UPDATE: It Happened!)

UPDATE: It has happened, as we hoped. The FCC has adopted what it refers to as “Strong, Sustainable Rules to Support the Open Internet.” The vote was along party lines as we all knew it would be, and it forbids paid prioritization while classifying Internet providers as common casrriers, meaning they are now utilities like power and water and subject to severe regulations. You can read the statement from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler here, from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel here, and the formal announcement about the new rules here.

So what does it all mean? ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, Cox, and Time-Warner will not be allowed to throttle speeds to legal data, block access to legal sites, charge certain services more to use their lanes (paid prioritization), and they also have to let the FCC know about their network management practices ensuring everything they are doing is on the level. Unlike the previous rules passed in 2010 and shot down by the Supreme Court,these new rules apply to wireless carriers as well. VoIP (Voice Over IP) was less affected.

Go Tom Wheeler!

WARNING: This post is pop-culture heavy.

Did you by any chance read the (re)post I made recently about net neutrality and why it is so very, very important? Did you at least watch John Oliver’s video about it all? One of the huge complaints about it all is that Tom Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, was appointed as head of the FCC, the very commission whose task it is to oversee the regulation of the Internet and its providers. How could we ever hope to keep providers like Comcast and Verizon and Time-Warner Cable in check, preventing them from charging us higher prices for inferior service with him there? More importantly, how could we achieve Net Neutrality, in which all bits are treated equally, or especially Title II classification in which the Internet is considered a utility, like power or water and regulated as such, with a person like that in charge of it all?

Very Important: Today is the great internet slowdown

(Before I get to the post proper, I implore you to at the very least watch the video at the end of this post.)

Did you wonder what that hovering-loading-pop-up-thing was on top of the site today? Did you fill it out? Submit it? You should have. If not, visit the site in a new browser (it only appears once per visit so you’ll have to use a new browser), fill out your info, and send it in.

That thing popped up because today is the National Internet Slowdown Day. Many sites are participating including Reddit, Vimeo, Twitter, WordPress.com, Netflix, Wikia, Digg, Imgur, Dropbox, Mozilla.com, Foursquare, Meetup, and Etsy to name only a few.

But why?

As you may or may not know, the Internet as we know it is under attack. Never mind the almost religious fervor with which the international community has attempted to wrest control of the Internet (inasmuch as it can be called ‘control’) from the U.S. based, but not U.S. controlled, ICANN organization. Or the fact that Russia has mandated that all bloggers with over 3,500 unique monthly visitors register with the state, or their offering of rewards for people who can crack the secretive TOR network and identify its users. Never mind our own attempts at regulation such as PIPA or SOPA, or the constant hacking attacks that happen all the time.

No, we’re talking about the equal treatment of data on the Internet, more properly known as Net Neutrality. Essentially it means all Internet traffic is treated the same, no data is prioritized over other data. Your email to your parents gets the same priority as someone buying from Amazon or watching Netflix or accessing Canvas. But cable companies don’t want that.

battle3You see, cable companies want to charge big content providers to deliver their content more quickly and reliably than other content. For example, Comcast wants to charge Netflix and everyone else to give them higher-priority lines to their customers. They would also de-prioritize traffic from companies that couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. This would have sever negative effects; Netflix would have to pass the cost of that prioritized traffic on to you, the customer, and it would stifle small companies that may be innovative and offer innovative products and innovative services, but because they can’t pay for the bandwidth they need they would effectively be shut out of any type of success.

Not only that, your quality of service will go down, your Internet speeds will go down, and your costs not just for Internet service but the services that use it (like Netflix) will go up.

It's true, you know

It’s true, you know

Not only that, say Comcast invested in a streaming service like, oh, say Hulu. They could prioritize Hulu traffic and stifle Netflix traffic. They have been directed not to do that, but they are so blatant about their anti-competitive practices it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see them do it anyway.

Or they could simply charge you extra if you wanted to visit certain sites like Amazon or Netflix or CNN or whoever. Perhaps they could bundle pricing like they do with cable channels: If you want good access to news sites like CNN and Fox News and NBC then you pay a fee for that group of sites, and if you want access to retail sites like Zappos or Macy’s or Barnes and Noble you’d pay for that too. Or if you’re a gamer, there’d be a bundle there as well. Something like this, perhaps:

This could be possible

This could be possible

Of course cable companies, ISPs, and hardware providers are doing all they can to make the Internet, your Internet, one big command-and-control that they lord over like dictators, and if something isn’t done the entire Internet and on-line experience will change, and not for the better.

Reclassifying them as common-carriers, which is being considered as what’s known as a ‘nuclear option,’ would mean they were considered a utility like power and water and therefore could be heavily regulated. Needles to say, they absolutely and steadfastly do not want that, because it would force them to be fair, ending idiotic statements like this.

There are opposing views, by the way, and some are able to make well-written, compelling arguments against the common-carrier idea. Of course, that link is actually to the National Cable and Telecommunications association website, so their position should be of absolutely no surprise. After all, below is what pops up if you visit their homepage – are you surprised?

If you *are* suprised, you shouldn't be.

If you *are* suprised, you shouldn’t be.

And the whole thing can be eerily convoluted.

Net neutrality is something people should be enraged about. They should be rioting in the streets, it will impact every single one of us and further cement the monopolies that the cable industry already enjoys. People’s passivity about the whole thing is baffling.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who used to be a cable-industry lobbyist, didn’t seem to care in the past for pretty obvious reasons – he was still well-aligned with his previous industry.

But then something happened. Something very important. Something we didn’t expect, and didn’t see coming, but that we desperately needed. After witnessing it, suddenly the whole thing shifted tide.

John Oliver.

It turns out that you, yes YOU dear reader, can actually go to the FCC’s website and leave your thoughts about Net Neutrality, but many people don’t know that (I only linked to the main page so you can see all the issues open for comment. You want 14-28, but look at what’s number 1!). But once John Oliver laid out the importance of this fight in very clear language, the FCC’s servers crashed under the weight of the response. And that’s what we need! It’s what you need. It even miraculously appears to have swayed Tom Wheeler himself!

I posted this video last semester, and I am doing it again here because it is so important. If you do nothing else, please watch this video, and leave a comment with the FCC before September 15th. You’d better do it now, because very soon it will be too late.

You, YES YOU, can still comment on net neutrality

Remember the post I made about Net Neutrality, the one with John Oliver ripping on the whole idea of mergers and the loss of Internet freedom? Well guess what? Proving that the Internet works exactly as intended when left to the whims of the unwashed masses, his plea to leave comments about maintaining Net Neutrality crashed the FCCs servers! Democracy works!

Last night in class the comment was made that the time for comments had been extended until Friday because of the overwhelming response, and just today I saw on Cnet that not only had Netflix filed a comment of its own regarding Net Neutrality and interconnection (connecting directly to the major network carriers) and how did it ultimately explain its situation? that’s right, it just told regulators to watch the John Oliver video. It’s so important I’ve included it again below.

But don’t just watch the video! You – YES YOU – can leave a comment of your own of the FCC’s website that is still seeking comments. Say something, this is a very big deal. If Net Neutrality falls through, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it; higher prices for worse service, being nickel-and-dimed for everything you want to do (for example additional charges to use Facebook or Twitter), only having access to the services your cable company wants you to have access to, slower speeds, it will be a disaster. I mean really, since when did gigantic mergers ever result in better service? Will Time-Warner ever learn?

You can leave your comments for the FCC on this and a number of related issues here. Do it!

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