“Net Neutrality” On The Ropes


    UPDATE: Amy Schatz on 5 May in The Wall Street Journal says

    “Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has decided to reregulate Internet lines to protect net neutrality, siding with consumer groups and Internet companies worried that Internet providers have too much power.”

    According to what I made of an article by Cecilia Kang in the 3 May Washington Post, we are probably on the verge of losing “net neutrality.” (i.e., uncensored use of the Internet, everybody pays the same).  She reports that Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, according to sources, has indicated he wants to keep broadband services deregulated. This is no doubt because of the April decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which said the FCC “exceeded its authority” when it sanctioned Comcast, and to which the Chairman is about to respond.  The ruling brought into question the Commission’s ability even to force Internet service providers to treat all services on the Web equally. It looks as though Genachowski will announce that “reclassifying” broadband to allow for more regulation would be “overly burdensome on carriers and would deter investment,” and would undoubtedly lead to extended lawsuits every time he attempted to institute a broadband policy. Art Brodsky, spokesman for Public Knowlege, a media public interest group, said:

    The telephone and cable companies will object to any path the chairman takes. He might as well take the one that best protects consumers and is most legally sound.

    What could this mean to the consumer, and especially to bloggers?  Marvin Ammori on Huffington Post, pointed out such a decision by the FCC Chairman would break Obama’s most important pledge about the Internet, and proceeded to list a sample of 10 “horribles,” quoted at length here because of their importance and Mr. Ammori’s impeccable prose (my emphasis added):

    1) Block your tweets, if you criticize Comcast’s service or its merger, especially if you use the #ComcastSucks hashtag.

    2) Block your vote to the consumerist.com, when you vote Comcast the worst company in the nation. No need for traffic to get through.

    3) Force every candidate for election to register their campaign-donations webpage and abide by the same weird rules that apply to donations by text message.

    4) Comcast could even require a “processing fee,” becoming the Ticketmaster of campaign contributions.

    5) Comcast could reserve the right to approve of every campaign online and every mass email to a political party’s or advocacy group’s list (as they do with text message short codes).

    6) If you create a small online business and hit it big, threaten to block your business unless you share 1/3 or more of all your revenues with them (apps on the iPhone app stores often are forced to give up a 1/3 or more; so are cable channels on cable TV).

    7) Block all peer to peer technologies, even those used for software developers to share software, distribute patches (world of warcraft), distribute open source software (Linus). In fact, Comcast has shown it would love to do this.

    8) Block Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Moreon.org (and its emails), because of an “exclusive: deal with other blogs. Or alternatively, block FoxNews.com because of a deal with NBC and MSNBC.

    9) Monitor everything you do online and sell it to advertisers, something else that some phone and cable have done, with the help of a shady spyware company.

    10) Lie to you about they’re blocking and what they’re monitoring. Hell, the FCC wouldn’t have any authority to make them honest. The FCC couldn’t punish them.

    While the final decision has not been made (to break Obama’s campaign promise), Mr. Ammori is not too hopeful. Given the proven clout of major corporations in the halls of power in Washington, I am not too hopeful, either. Should we write to the FCC Chair? To Obama? To our Congresspersons? Heh.


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