New FCC Rules Will Put “Stake in Internet’s Heart”

(By Jon Queally)

Defenders of an open, innovative and fair internet are up in arms Thursday after learning the Federal Communications Commission is about to issue new rule proposals that will kill the online principle known as "net neutrality."

The death of net neutrality—which has governed the equal treatment of content since the internet was created—will create, say critics, a tiered internet that allows major internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to cut special and lucrative deals with content providers who can afford to pay for special "fast lanes." The result will be an internet that will incentivize slower traffic by ISPs and the creation of privatized, corporate-controlled "toll-roads" that will come to dominate a once fair and free environment.

“If it goes forward, this capitulation will represent Washington at its worst.” —Todd O’Boyle, Common Cause

As reported by various outlets, the  new rules have been circulated by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to the other members of the commission and will be officially announced on Thursday.

"With this proposal, the FCC is aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet," said Craig Aaron, president of the media advocacy group Free Press. "Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes."

Chairman Wheeler defended the new proposals and denied the rule changes were an attack on the open internet, but Aaron rejected those claims and said that trying to argue these new rules protect net neutrality is an insult.

"This is not Net Neutrality," he stated. "It's an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise. The FCC had an opportunity to reverse its failures and pursue real Net Neutrality by reclassifying broadband under the law. Instead, in a moment of political cowardice and extreme shortsightedness, it has chosen this convoluted path that won't protect Internet users."

"Everyday users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes." —Craig Aaron, Free Press

Those who have fought hardest to protect the idea of a free and equal digital playing field for all users, however, said Wheeler's claims don't pass the laugh test and rebuked the Chairman's proposals in the strongest possible terms.

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

And speaking with Time magazine, Lauren Weinsten, a veteran tech-policy expert and prominent Net-neutrality advocate, said: “This is a stake in the heart for Internet openness.”

She continued: “The nation’s largest Internet service providers have hit the ultimate jackpot. These companies keep secret all of the information needed to evaluate whether violations of Internet openness have occurred, and because the FCC moves so slowly, by the time it acts, a company that’s been victimized could be out of business.”

And Free Press' Aaron put particular emphasis on the perverse incentives the new rules would create, explaining:

“This is a stake in the heart for Internet openness.” —Lauren Weinsten, tech expert

The FCC apparently doesn't realize the dangerous incentives these rules would create. The routing of data on the Internet is a zero-sum game. Unless there is continual congestion, no website would pay for priority treatment. This means the FCC's proposed rules will actually produce a strong incentive for ISPs to create congestion through artificial scarcity. Not only would this outcome run counter to the FCC's broader goals, it actually undermines the so-called Section 706 legal basis for these rules.

This proposal is short-sighted and should be strenuously opposed by the broader Internet community — including millions of Americans who have urged Chairman Wheeler and his predecessors to safeguard the open Internet. The only parties cheering this idea on will be the largest ISPs who stand to profit from discrimination. We urge Chairman Wheeler's colleagues not to support this item as currently drafted and demand nothing less than real Net Neutrality.

Both Common Cause and Free Press have already posted petitions on their sites where concerned citizens can voice their opposition and join the fight to oppose the FCC's new rules.

The Free Press petition states, in part:

People everywhere understand that the Internet is a crucial driver of free speech, innovation, education, economic growth, creativity and so much more. They demand real Net Neutrality rules that protect Internet users from corporate abuse.

But the Federal Communications Commission is proposing rules that would kill — rather than protect — Net Neutrality and allow rampant discrimination online.

Under these rules, telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would be able to pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications. And no one could do anything about it.

We must stop the FCC from moving forward with these rules, which would give the green light to ISPs eager to crush Net Neutrality.

The agency can preserve Net Neutrality only by designating broadband as a telecommunications service under the law. Anything else is an attack on our rights to connect and communicate.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Related video:

TheLipTV: “FCC Proposal Could Put an End to Net Neutrality”

9 Responses

  1. President Obama has said several times that he supports making net neutrality the law of the land. President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler and Tom Wheeler’s proposal is the exact opposite of net neutrality. So, it’s time for the President to put up or shut up: he needs to fire Tom Wheeler and replace him with an FCC chairman who will reclassify ISP providers and enforce net neutrality. If you agree, please sign this petition:

    link to

  2. “in a moment of political cowardice and extreme shortsightedness”
    That’s not the issue at all. With Wheeler’s history as CEO, etc, of various telecom & high tech corps, this isn’t ‘political cowardice.’ It’s example # 3,395 and counting of our government’s blatant corruption.

  3. If this is the best Obama can do, sacrificing us to corporate greed, then he’d better expect the Republicans to take control of the Congress and begin impeachment proceedings against him. He has no more allies to throw under the bus.

  4. This issue gets less attention than it should…by a long shot…

    There is only so much bandwidth, so if the FCC provides preferencial access to the big guys, that automatically denies access to the little guys. Practically speaking, websites like this one, or the next scrappy little start-up that isn’t towing the conventional marketing wisdom, will be far harder to discover or access.

    The whole leveling power of the internet will be—and this is no overstatement—eliminated. It won’t happen overnight, but as soon as those bills come due. Fundamentally, websites will have to pay big company prices to play.

    To provide equal access to you, the consumer, commercial entrepreneurs will have to pay the same rates as companies like Walmart’s. Similarly, in the marketplace of ideas, websites like this one will be marginalized, and in short order stand to be deflected into oblivion altogether.

    Could it be that’s the point?

    • There is but one strategy the average American can use against this growing threat to our Internet access: learn to live without it. It is only going to be turned into yet another avenue of incessant corporatist propaganda and the advertising of the conspicuous consumer industry. Why fund your own oppression?

      • With all due respect, on a number of levels I hope you rethink this. As an individual you can just quit, blow up your TV and retire to eat a lot of peaches. But the world of your children and grandchildren will not quit just because you gave up. Sure, be realistic and understand your personal limitations. But, at least for the moment, any one person stands to be able to do a great, great deal, due to how the internet has, as they say in Business Schools, lowered the barriers to entry (in this case, to the marketplace of ideas).

        The real danger here is how a price wall is being (consciously?) prepared to once again go up, marginalizing dissenting perspectives and voices. Due to how the internet is now the critical point of dissemination for alternative news as well as ideas, this issue is arguably far more important than any of the other concerns you’ll be reading about here.

  5. @blurkel: What an absurdly defeatist attitude. Are you the reincarnation of President Bush? Encouraging the American public to go shopping while he sends American troops to invade Iraq to serve the interests of Halliburton and the rest of the oil industry?

  6. This thread may be dated and sliding down, but here’s a great new post from Techdirt, that gives a little more insight to motivations and realities of the net neutrality issue:

    link to

    It illustrates how businesses, when their over-riding value is to maximize shareholder wealth, will cling ruthlessly to inefficiency or even create it outright.

    In the case of airlines, they figure that they can make more money pressuring people to upgrade past a degrading boarding experience than by making simple modifications to improve the lot of everyone. Same with broadband access: cable companies see making more money by extorting those with the resources to upgrade. The key to all such tactics is to make sure standard services are sub-standard.

    Now that I think of it, the big pharmaceuticals are going down a similar path. To maximize shareholder wealth they need to focus on high-margin drugs for rich people and countries, such as those for the rarer forms of cancer. Meanwhile, R&D for things like antibiotics and vaccinations are cut or eliminated altogether. From a purely financial perspective, this is only rational. But while there are a limited number of generally aged people who may die from a rare cancer, obsolescent antibiotics and a lack of vaccines stand to kill millions, even in the First World.

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