THDP28 Net Neutrality, Part 2

FCC Chairman Tom WheelerNet neutrality is the principle that data packets on the Internet should be moved impartially, without regard to content, destination or source. Net neutrality is sometimes referred to as the “First Amendment of the Internet.”

Let’s see, we should be able to describe this a little clearer.  “Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet service providers should treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means companies like Comcast Corp or Verizon Communications Inc. should not block or slow down access to any website or content on the Web – for instance, to benefit their own services over those of competitors.”“What is Net Neutrality?  Here’s a simple explanation”, by Reuters, June 16, 2014

Let’s start this out by sharing the fact that in April, Brazil finally approved the Marco Civil, a landmark bill that enshrines net neutrality and other key Internet principles into law. Earlier in the month, the European Parliament voted in favor of a strong set of net neutrality rules for the continent, bolstered at the last moment in response to pressure from pro-consumer advocates.

This is a very complicated issue that is slowly unravelling in front of us.  On the one hand you have a group of people, entrepreneurs actually that are trying to carve out their own little piece of the American Dream on the Internet.  These people want the FCC to reclassify ISPs as “telecommunications services’’ under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which would allow FCC regulation of ISPs as a “common carrier” like the landline telephone company of years past.

Without net neutrality, the large cable companies and other ISPs would be free to provide multiple levels of service, and there is a concern that new ventures and up and coming entrepreneurs would be faced with a barrier to entry that they simply couldn’t afford to clear.


On the other hand you have big business like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner (who we will refer to as the ISP’s from now on) that want to set up a two tier system of charges for the use of their networks.  They want to charge the “edge” companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google a premium price for what they call “priority placement and faster speed across their networks.”  So what does that mean?  If they pay the premium then they can enjoy the speeds that will ensure that they can go on streaming their video.  Not profitably, but what does Comcast care?

Comcast does after all offer services just like Netflix.  I guess they couldn’t put Netflix out of business the honest way so they play the monopoly card. Let’s start this out by defining what we are going to talk about:  Net Neutrality.

Supporters of the two-tiered model point out that a tiered business model already exists: consumers have a choice of using a slower dial-up service or paying a premium price for faster speed over cable or DSL and Internet service providers already prioritize traffic for quality of service (QoS). They maintain that legislating the Internet would be an unnecessary barrier to innovation and economic growth.

Critics of the two-tiered model believe that the extra costs incurred for premium service will be passed down to the consumer and that some type of legislation should be in place to protect the interests of the public. They point out that in a Net-neutral environment, small, independent sites are on an even playing field with large, corporately-owned sites and that is what has sparked innovation and economic growth.

If you think we have choices in this broadband market then dig this from Entrepreneur, written by Peter Page on June 10, 2014, in an article entitled, “The Broadband Cartel and America’s Entrepreneurs”.  There are only 13 providers that have more than 80% of the market.  Of those 13, only two:  Comcast and Time Warner have more customers than the other 11 combined.  And Comcast is in the process of buying out Time Warner.  Also keep in mind these 13 companies enjoy local monopolies as it is.  You get the picture.  They want to charge edge companies with a tiered system.

In 2010, the FCC extended carrier network rules to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), requiring them to offer fair and equal access to the Internet for all content, as long as the content is legal. These rules held broadband providers to the same standards as telecom carriers, which have to offer equal-access telephone lines.  Then, early in 2014 a Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to extend carrier network rules to ISPs.

The FCC has promised to make a final decision on all of this by the end of this year.  The initial round of public comment has just ended last week.  (Thus the reason for this podcast subject).  So as Richi Jennings has said:  “Now, we wait. He goes on, the window for the public to weigh in…is closed, after over 647,000 comments arrived at the FCC.

I must be honest here I have done a whole load of research preparing for this podcast and estimates of the size of the public outcry go anywhere from 647,000 to 3.5M.  The only thing that seems consistent is that in fact, the deluge of public opinion concerning this subject has even left Janet Jackson’s “nip slip” during a super bowl halftime entertainment some years back in the dust.

Now, you just have to hope and wonder whether or not the weight of popular opinion can overcome the tremendous lobbying effort of the [ISPs]. Verizon alone spent $100 million to lobby Congress on net neutrality since 2009.”

I’m going to finish up here with this thought I found in The Verge.  The author is T.C. Sottek and on September 17, 2014 he wrote an article called “Republicans in Congress don’t know what Internet freedom means.” The article is largely about how the Republicans in Congress are lining up for this issue and he singles out Sen. Ted Cruz (R TX).

He said, “I believe we should protect the freedom of the internet,” Senator Cruz said today. “Those who are fatally strangled so often by these regulations are the little guys.” What Cruz doesn’t get, and what many of his colleagues either fail to understand or are being dishonest about in service of corporate interests, is that the only winners in a world without net neutrality are the big guys. That’s why 50 leading tech investors who know how the internet startup game works told the FCC that ending net neutrality would cripple young companies.

He went on, “Title II is definitely not just (so-called) heavy handed regulation for utilities or monopolies,” Free Press policy director Matt Wood told The Verge following today’s hearing. “The core of Title II are the common carrier principles that keep networks open. Those principles prevent discrimination. They keep the ISPs from telling you what websites you can go to, which apps you can use, or what you can watch and say online.”

I am going to paraphrase his closing statement and make it my own by saying, the little guys that Sen. Cruz says he wants to protect have already spoken.  Now it is up to the FCC and the rest of our government to listen.

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