Tue, 12 December 2017
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What is Net Neutrality?
Today, the internet and access to it remain open. It remains accessible. It remains “free”, because anyone, anywhere at anytime can use it.
But that very freedom is scheduled to be rolled back dramatically on December 14th when the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote to remove the internet as a public utility from Title II of the Communications Act.
Exactly. That legalese is most likely what your internet service provider, commonly called simply ISPs, has been counting on in order to keep consumers willfully ignorant about the future of the internet. But here’s where the rubber meets the road: it’s not working. Yep, as high as 2/3 of Americans from all walks of the political spectrum are keen to this corporate coup. And for good reason, right? From ridiculously long and non-intelligible user agreement forms to shoddy bundling packages with landlines that most kids in the year 2017 don’t even know exist, to simply trying to terminate your cable plan with customer service representatives who are more beast than man (Video of guy cancelling). This last video went viral after that man repeated those cancellation requests to Comcast customer service for nearly 20 minutes. Hell, I personally was sent to collections by Comcast over their mistake for about $30. Cable companies and internet service providers clearly have one lasting motive: the bottom line.
So is Net Neutrality just the latest gimmick? Most experts say it’s much more serious than that.
Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu first used the term “Net Neutrality” in 2003 when discussing “common carriers”. Companies that have a purpose of moving goods or services from one point to another. They “carry” your phone call from your mother, they “carry” our oil in pipelines, our Christmas packages on railways, and even “carry” precious YouTube videos all the way to your ears. Obviously, some applications may be more useful than others.
The important part is that the goods get to you when you need them, and are done so efficiently and quickly.
So what might happen in the aftermath of the death of Net Neutrality? Some are saying:
The Death of Online Activism the Expansion of Censorship
Right now, I can say whatever I want about Verizon. I can say that President Trump’s FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, whom he personally appointed, is a dirty former lawyer of Verizon that likes to play with his poopy for foreplay in front of his corporate overlords at weird Verizon headquarter sex parties where the board of directors dress up like futuristic S&M dolls and virgins are led to the slaughter at the hands of anatomically correct killer robots all for the purpose of revitalizing their decrepit old skin in bizarre witchcraft rituals. And while this is clearly a true statement, under proposed FCC guidelines, they could simply block this very website altogether if they chose to.
This past December 7th saw some of the largest organized efforts to stop the FCC’s proposed changes as nationwide protests in front of Verizon stores took place. Those organizers like verizonprotests.com and battleforthenet.com could be in a state of perpetual loading if their ISP doesn’t like the content. Imagine if verizonprotests.com were located in an area where their only ISP was Verizon. There is literally nothing stopping Verizon from simply shutting down that operation. It sure doesn’t sound like a booming success for consumers, does it? It doesn’t resonate with options or protections for Jon and Jane Doe. The question presents itself then as a debate over whether or not access to the internet is a right. Should it be designated a common carrier and should consumers have proper access to it, as regulated by the government?
The words “more government” automatically give a lot of people the heeby jeebies. Fair enough, let’s look at why eliminating Net Neutrality is a good thing.
Probably the most common argument for ending Net Neutrality is economic. That argument goes like this: Why would ISPs continue to invest in internet infrastructure if the incentive for building it is financially undermined by everyone having the same access to it. Instead, internet service providers argue that being able to provide faster internet to those willing to pay for it will help create the financial incentive to build a faster internet for everyone, fast lanes for all, faster lanes for some. Sounds simple enough.
Companies like Comcast, Charter and Cox have said for sometime that slowing down internet speeds for most consumers wouldn’t be the goal of these new internet rules. Instead, they make the claim that consumers already have robust options in the internet market, and therefore this wouldn’t be a giveaway to the major ISP players. In other words, your internet service will be largely unaffected as the invisible hand of the market plays out and competes for your dollar. If company A is too slow, then company B will be a tough competitor in that market, or company c or d and so forth. Absolutely a solid argument with a strong foundation. But do people really have multitudes of ISP options?
Furthermore, could it be that the real reason money is not being invested in infrastructure is become the cable lobby is well aware that competition is weak. The main economic argument by ISPs assume that resources have been tight, and consumers can walk to another provider anytime they want. Business Insider’s Jeff Dunn doesn’t seem to think so in an April article saying, “Could Pai's net-neutrality plan lead ISPs to invest in more robust internet, and even offer it at cheaper prices? Possibly. But most of these companies have been sitting on piles of money for a long time, and they haven’t been very eager to spend the hundreds of millions needed to build out their private infrastructure into more places.”
However, according to a popular piece by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight (video clip)
Brodkin finishes the July piece stating, “That report was issued before current Chairman Ajit Pai (former Verizon lawyer) took over for Tom Wheeler (former cable lobbyist). Pai voted against the 2015 decision to raise the broadband speed definition, criticized Wheeler for excluding satellite and mobile services from the new broadband benchmark, and has said the broadband market is too competitive for strict privacy rules. Under Pai's leadership, the FCC's future conclusions about broadband deployment and competition might be more in line with the cable lobby’s.”
One of the things I’d get in trouble for when I was a kid was playing Devil’s Advocate. My parents hated it to the point that they made me a shirt that had a quote from Dante’s Divine comedy - “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” I’m reluctant to take a stand for either side of an argument because both sides usually have their own merits. And, to paraphrase Penn Jillette, you should defend the people you don’t agree with at some point in your life. That act is a step to finding out what your priorities truly are. Now, with times being what they are, it’s difficult to support the repeal of Net Neutrality. For me, that means it’s time to stand for something.
Would the repeal of Net Neutrality be as big a deal if we weren’t living in an age of kleptocrats and a lack of corporate transparency?
I can’t in good conscience support the repeal of Net Neutrality. First off, the answer to my own question is no. This sort of thing wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place it people weren’t so obsessed with the weight of their wallets. When looking up at Net Neutrality rules, I found out that the internet is classified as a Title II communication service, which essentially means that the providers had to play fair with the services that they provided and couldn’t gouge people on prices. Further research refers to regulations on communications services in the early 1900’s, a time where railways were charging lower and higher rates depending on the traffic in and out of cities. In 1934, FDR asked for legislation for the creation of a government body that could study and regulate communication services. Thus, the FCC was created. A president 80 years back created an agency to prevent consumers from being thrown to the wolves that are hungry corporate interest, and the delicious irony is that the agency responsible for originally protecting the consumers is now the one threatening to repeal the rules keeping corporations fair.
Second, the implications of a corporate stranglehold on a communications service can’t be ignored. We have a president who is currently delegitimizing the media, and the only channel he watches is fucking FOX News, a nest of vile sycophants who haven’t ceased to line up and blow the con artist in chief on live television. If the repeal of Net Neutrality means that your ability to communicate depends on how deep your pockets are, there are going to be a lot of people whose perspective on many things is narrowed significantly, and that is a dangerous prospect no matter who happens to be in office.
It should go without saying that technology is vastly different than it was in the 1930’s. It seems like these days that things have advanced so quickly that people haven’t had the opportunity to catch up with the Information Age. The advent of the Information Age has made it impossible to be completely ignorant on something, but that’s a good thing. The ability to exchange information, among other things, wirelessly and quickly has birthed a new way that we communicate ideas. One of the effects of that, however, is that there’s a lot of things that people part of older generations want to keep buried, which is a polite way of saying that old fucks have a lot of dirty laundry. There’s always going to be a conflict in a period of transition, and in the United States we are in a state of heavy societal upheaval. The last thing that we should have to worry about is how we communicate with each other and who might threaten our abilities to do so.
Now, if you haven’t made your voice heard to the FCC already, do so. Host of Last Week Tonight John Oliver shared a web address that directly links to the FCC’s website and the page you need to be on to file a complaint about the repeal of Net Neutrality. (www.gofccyourself.com) Everyone has a voice. As much as I like the idea of arguing for both sides, sometimes you need to stand for something.
One more thing - I kind of shit on Ajit Pai earlier, or at least implied I did, but I can’t do that to the fullest extent. On a personal level, the Chairman of the FCC seems like a good guy. Because of his movement to repeal Net Neutrality, however, his family has been harassed and his home has been vandalized. ("Ajit Pai Says His Children Are Being Harassed") I can’t condone that sort of thing, nobody should. That being said, this is a display of what happens when you mess with something people think should be a basic right to everyone. If Ajit Pai wasn’t formerly a lawyer for Verizon (and put in his current position specifically for what he’s doing now), the public’s perception of him would be different. But his goofy smile and comically large coffee mug won’t change the fact that Pai has pissed off a good portion of the internet community for lying and exaggerating about Net Neutrality to rally people behind his cause and blatantly ignoring the public who fucking hate his idea. It’s not an unheard of tactic for someone in political power, and it’s something that would land him squarely in the Trump White House, which makes him fit well with the other bullshit artists he has in his stable.
From, the Outsider
That last piece was produced by Vili Branyik and performed by Eric Ellzey.
What implications are there for eliminating NN?
The Death of Small Business
If the internet is reclassified and Net Neutrality is ended, then big businesses like Google or Amazon will be able to purchase “fast lanes” where you as a consumer can use their websites with almost no interruption - exactly the way you use it everyday. Internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast will most definitely like this, because they won't have to provide those same fast lanes to damn freeloaders like the Majority Villain podcast. In fact, they can do something called “throttling” (video of person explaining this) and intentionally make websites slower than they would be otherwise. ISPs will make obscene amounts of money in the process by charging mid-size to large-size companies huge premiums at whatever price they deem profitable, regardless of market demands all for the bandwidth those same companies already get today. Sadly though, ending Net Neutrality protections will be a death sentence to many small businesses, because their meager advertising budgets won’t be able to afford the service. Those businesses who cannot compete with this new flavor of corporate elitism will go back to advertising mediums that belong in a museum. Sayonara Ma and Pa.
December 14th the FCC is set to vote and end what we know as Net Neutrality. Even if you’re listening to this afterward, you can make your voice heard. Go to fccyourself.com and leave your feedback for the FCC on this disastrous decision. Change.org, battleforthenet.com, savetheinternet.com and verizonprotests.com all have actions you can take and there are links to every one of them in the show notes which you can find on the device you are using right now. Don’t just get angry, do something about it. The power is ours to create the future we want.
You’ve been listening to the Majority Villain podcast. I’m your host, Gregory Haddock.