FCC begins restoring Corporate Privilege to the Internet

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

This web site amounted to anything because of net neutrality, which I prefer to call internet liberty. That liberty is now going or gone.

The internet was originally based on the principle that everyone’s web site is as easily reached by users as everyone else’s. All nodes are equidistant from all other nodes.

So when George W. Bush and his cronies invaded and occupied Iraq, whispering a lot of sweet nothings in the ears of the US public, my daily reports of events in Iraq as conveyed in Arabic news sites were immediately accessible to anyone who cared to read me.

Public spirited people could reach my site as easily as they could reach corporate sites like that of MSNBC, then a collaboration of NBC Universal and the Microsoft corporation. MSNBC prepared for the coming Iraq war by firing liberal anchor Phil Donohue, because they knew he would be critical of the war, and the big corporations either wanted the war or were afraid of crossing Bush and his vindictive gang.

In April of 2004, when the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr staged an uprising against the US military, took over all the police stations in Baghdad and the Shiite south, and kicked the Ukrainian military off their base, I could report on all this from Iraqi (and Iranian) news sources and the speeches of their leaders and politicians, translating the Arabic and Persian into English.

I got a million page views that month, and even some pundits who did not like my views very much said things like that my coverage was better than that of the New York Times. (I don’t say that myself, but others did.)

My web site at that time was being run on blogger.com, which cost nothing. I had to pay for my internet address registration. But I really had almost no costs. I did not at that time take or want advertising. I considered the blog an extension of my teaching at a public institution, the University of Michigan, which had hired me to tell people about the Middle East. (I now do have costs, and am turning this site into a magazine, but that was a different time. If you like this site, please consider donating to it. Also given the way things are going, you probably should subscribe by email if you like getting the articles).

So in 2004 you could not get more grass roots or humble than this operation. And people could read my site as easily as they could read the news at the site of the pro-war Fox Cable News (the owner of which, Rupert Murdoch, promised everyone $14 a barrel petroleum if the US took over Iraq. The price went on up to $110 a barrel before falling to $40-50 a barrel more recently.)

But the internet service providers– corporations such as Verizon and Comcast, were deeply unhappy about the neutrality, the liberty of the internet. They would like to charge MSNBC millions of dollars a year to deliver their news site to the public. What they have in mind is to create lanes on the internet– fast lanes and slow lanes.

It has been demonstrated that if a web site takes a little longer than usual to download, readers simply close the page and go on to another site. So the sites slotted into the slow lane over time will lose all their readers.

And you get slotted in the slow lane because you cannot pay the millions for delivery of your site that MSNBC or Fox can.

In other words, fast lanes and slow lanes wipe out the diversity of the internet and deliver it into the hands of a few billionaires and of governments such as the Russian Federation, who can pay for a fast lane.

It would be as though all highways in the US cost $1,000 to get on each day, and if you couldn’t pay that, you’d have to use surface roads, service roads and dirt roads to get where you are going. Billionaires could get on the highway because for a billionaire $1000 is chump change.

So this sort of system, toward which the Federal Communications Commission under former Verizon employee Ajit Pai has just taken a big step, turns the internet into old style antenna television where you just had three or four networks and they broadcast popular shows to 60 mn people at a shot. Those networks back in the 1960s gave their writers strict instructions never to mention labor unions and in general began the process of turning the United States into a fascist plutocracy, a reality on the brink of which we are now teetering.

Back in Iraq War days, people would write me from small towns to thank me for my reporting on Iraq. Without it, they said, they would have no idea what was going on. They said that they had no NPR radio station because local officials had connived to prevent one operating in their area. Network news had only 22 minutes a day of national and international news and at least initially it was enthusiastically pro-war. Their local newspaper (that was when there were newspapers) was owned by a Republican and carried no independent news about Iraq, just whatever the White House or Pentagon briefing said that day. (They typically said that they were making enormous progress. On those days when 500 people were killed by a bomb, they scaled it back to “slow progress.” But it was always progress, in Panglossian Bushworld.)

What the big corporations who have Ajit Pai and the FCC in their back pockets want to do is close off those dissident voices and just have a handful of voices, the ones they can make money from and who say the sorts of things that millionaire CEOs and billionaire media moguls like Rupert Murdoch want to hear.

That way we can have more Iraq Wars, and this time they will be huge successes just because the 2 or 3 media outlets will report them as huge successes.

The tragedy is that the internet was working just fine before Ajit Pai got his corrupt mits on it. It didn’t have to be corporatized. Last I knew, Verizon is making a shitload of money. They don’t need more. The providers are already giving slower service and charging higher prices than in less feudal countries than the US.

Pai thinks we are so dumb that he made a propaganda video denying all these points and featuring a Pizzagate conspiracy nut who thought Hillary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring out of a Washington DC pizzeria. In the world Pai is making, we may not even have the means to challenge the Pizzagate narrative.

The first thing the providers will do is play favorite. AT&T already has a sweetheart deal with DirectTV. If you are with AT&T and don’t want DirectTV, you might face data caps.

Klint Finley at Wired writes:

“AT&T, for example, already allows its DirecTV Now video-streaming service to bypass mobile subscribers’ data limits. Verizon does much the same with its Go90 video service. Sling TV and Netflix, on the other hand, still count towards customers’ data caps. The end of the FCC’s current rules will allow companies to expand the ways they prioritize certain services over others.”

The FCC decision can be fought. Some 17 states are filing lawsuits against it.

Your congressional representative and your senators can craft legislation restoring internet liberty. They won’t bother unless they think you are so upset about this issue that you might not vote for them or give money to their campaign, though.

Some states, such as Washington, are announcing that they will penalize corporations who try to interfere with net neutrality.

My guess is that the European Union will also have things to say about all this. The internet is global and it would be easy for AT&T to run afoul of European Union antitrust laws.

But, the corporations destroyed radio as a democratic medium and made it a part of monopoly capital (and even now restrictions are being lifted that will aid further monopolization, by rightwing corporations such as Sinclair). They can do the same thing to the internet if people don’t stop them.

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Related video:

The Majority Report with Sam Seder: “FCC Chairman Stars In DISGUSTING Anti-Net Neutrality Propaganda Video”

12 Responses

  1. This isn’t about money. This is the beginning of censorship as we have not know it in the U.S.A. A fascist, in my opinion, is the President of the U.S.A. and he is implementing his agenda. Here is another step.

  2. Happy to say Canada is four-square behind maintaining net freedom. I found you when you were on blogger Mr. Cole, I am eternally grateful for your daily dose of truth.

  3. I wonder whether the FCC net neutrality killing is really relevant, as long as some countries (or rather their national or regional legislation) keeps the FCC rule’s span within domestic boundaries.
    Of course, I am not sure what the words ‘national’, ‘regional’, ‘domestic’ now mean in this field …

    • More than half the battle Jean-Ollivier is keeping just Americans ignorant. One wealthy nation of 326 million is enough to both fund and man the plutocracy’s wars.

      The end of net neutrality could be the last nail in the coffin of democracy. The press is already a bought out cheerleading section. One can count the number of real journalists left with a solid MSM platform on the fingers of one hand. There used to be hundreds, just thirty years ago.

      On the other hand, what the Russians have anything to do with this, I don’t understand.

      deliver it into the hands of a few billionaires and of governments such as the Russian Federation, who can pay for a fast lane.

      The American government is working very hard to make sure that Russia based media cannot reach Americans at all. The truth hurts. It’s amazing that twenty five years after the end of the cold war that American media offer all the variety of opinion of Pravda and Western news organisations fear hard hitting, fearless Russian reporters.

      • My Parents were researchers in an American University for 2-3 years during the late 60s
        They told me that keeping the American people ignorant is a policy. You can drive ignorant the way you choose.
        Little that they know that the western liberalisation wave that taken over the MENA region since the end of 19th century used the same policy ….. that went into stages and we are harvesting the results of ignorance with so much suffering

  4. Elon Musk might be a game changer with his 4,425 satellites enabling phone calls and data to the whole World…
    “In November, SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to launch 4,425 satellites into orbits between 690 and 825 miles above the Earth. “Once fully deployed, the SpaceX System will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,” SpaceX said in its application. “Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.”
    SpaceX will first deploy 1,600 satellites to offer Internet access in the U.S., and the rest to expand coverage around the world. It’s not clear whether SpaceX will offer access directly or through other companies like Google, which in 2015 participated in a $1 billion investment in SpaceX to help it build satellites.” link to fortune.com

  5. I’m sure there are many like me for whom the advantages of net neutrality/internet freedom were not obvious, until now.

    Thanks, Juan, for this clear explanation of how replacing net neutrality with corporate privilege will stifle free expression of dissenting opinions.

  6. Providers can now parcel out discreet functions selected by users to bill separately and in addition to on-going usage fees.

    Likely targets are extemporaneous actions such as SEARCH, email and TEXT. Social media will get fee portals to access. Censorship is likely since it has been set into motion at the Cabinet level of the Trump administration.

    Forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

    link to washingtonpost.com

  7. There will be many distinct forces urging moves like this. We see the ones that touch us most closely and that’s natural but they are trees in a wood. There appears today to be a nisus urging us away from the bigger picture; tasks are broken down and operatives can function without knowing what final product they are engaged in making, science studies particles too small for the human eye or even mind, historians concentrate on elements so specialist only another specialist could read them; when these works began to dominate a well known University Publisher’s list I imagined one day a vastly expensive study of Gender Ambiguity in Third Century Dacia. It seems somewhat less fanciful today. If we consider the three best known dystopian novels, Zamyatin’s We, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Orwell’s 1984, which are all set in futures when dystopia is firmly established, it may be salutary to think what it must have been like to live in the periods when it was still evolving, when enveloping darkness might still be dismissed as just a passing cloud.

  8. Anyone who is not following these developments closely, as elites endeavor to consolidate their control over individuals, should be monitoring techdirt.com for as long as they and other websites IC are able to continue.

    The empowerment of fascism in its variety of forms, is what techdirt tracks with depressing professionalism and thoroughness. There are lessons IC might take from them in its current re-invention.

    This particularly pertinent post shows the total lack of good faith with which Ajit Pai and his cronies are manipulating events, showing them mocking the people they ostensibly serve and actually reviling in the maliciousness of their agenda. Inflammatory as it is, back-out to their homepage to get more detailed documentation of what the new FCC is doing and other developments along these lines.

    link to techdirt.com

    Another reaction to the original IC post is that there are bound to be numerous technical work-arounds to what is very much a determined plot. Things such as VPN’s can evolve to provide more privacy and maintain access, but it will be at a cost and that is the intention. Pressure will also doubtlessly increase on the technical sophistication to use such tools. This would all be part of a plan which has to be seen clearly for what it is.

    The point of barriers being created for the purpose of (no other word for it) subjugation, is what to keep in focus.

  9. Some time ago I wrote in my blog questioning, do people still watch the news? Because I don’t ….I just choose what I want to watch on my computer and cast it to my TV screen.

    My TV box is only useful to warm up my cat paws :)

    So at last I don’t have to watch advertisement and elongated news session that have no news…

    Hence, cooperates got to think now of innovative ways to control our brains and pockets

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