Simply stated at whatisnetneutrality.org: “Net Neutrality is the principle that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet.”
That principle protects one’s freedom to communicate and to choose information sources, without being throttled or blocked by one’s internet service provider (ISP). In this information age, that freedom becomes more-and-more widely recognized as a right. And it becomes more-and-more crucial for citizens of a constitutional democracy in keeping informed and active.
A like principle was in effect for the nation’s telephone system. Our government deemed the telephone system a “common carrier” — a public utility that must treat all messages (phone calls) equally, and not interfere with them. In the dial-up ISP days, that principle carried over to the internet, which then grew rapidly.
Later, big telephone and cable TV companies gathered most of the ISP market. And during the Bush II administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) classified those ISPs as “information services,” which are not common carriers.
Eager for the easy money to be had by just turning the valve to slow or speed data transmission, big telecoms lobbied against net neutrality. Courts struck down FCC tries at applying the net neutrality principle to ISPs classified as information services. An outcry — including 4 million comments to the FCC — came from the internet-using populace. And at last, in 2015, the FCC reclassified ISPs as “telecommunciation services”, which are common carriers.
Now, having near-total control of our federal government, Republicans are acting to quash net neutrality and internet freedom. Already, Republican Congressmen and President Trump have repealed the privacy rule. No longer does an ISP have to get your explicit consent before it can use or disclose your browsing history, app usage or content of your messages. That repeal was done using the Congressional Review Act, and so was not subject to a Senate filibuster. Also, nine Republican Senators have introduced a bill to kill net neutrality and ban the FCC from ever adopting it again.
After the election, commissioner Ajit Pai seemed to relish his coming appointment as chairman of a Republican-majority FCC. “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation,” he said. But Pai and the other Republican commissioner have taken the weed whacker to the flower garden. In spite of hundreds of thousands of new comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality, they have voted to hold a rulemaking session aimed at undoing its protections.
Until August 16, before its upcoming session, the FCC is taking comments on its rulemaking proposal. The proposal would drop the ISP common carrier classification, and look at abandoning the transparency rule and the bright-line rules of no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization. You can easily submit your comment to the FCC via this tool from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The tool provides text for the comment, but you can add, or change the whole thing to your own words before submitting. Be mindful that comments to the FCC are public record. Here is an example comment:
As the writer of a small blog, I want my government to protect my right to reach my audience via the internet. As a citizen, I want my government to protect my right to get information from the sources I choose, and communicate by way of the apps I choose via the internet. These rights are important to our freedom and duty in a constitutional democracy. These rights are too important to leave in the hands of an unwatched ISP company that will make decisions based on profit.
I urge you, as part of our government, to protect the rights of all the people by keeping the transparency rule, and the bright-line rules for internet freedom:
No Blocking, No Throttling, No Paid Prioritization.
The courts have said that the FCC can only enforce these rules for a common carrier. So please, keep the common carrier classification for ISPs.
Commissioner Pai seems hellbent to whack net neutrality and the right to internet freedom. But Congress has the power to write net neutrality out of, or into, law. You can write your senators and representative via their website contact forms, available from these links:
being throttled or blocked “The worst net neutrality violations in history” by
Aaron Sankin, The Daily Dot; May 21, 2014
as a right “Human rights – taking sides for Net Neutrality” by JOSH LEVY, Open Democracy; 22 April 2015
deemed the telephone system “It’s Axiomatic — A Free Press Needs Net Neutrality” by Quinn Hungeski, The Paragraph; March 9, 2014
lobbied against “Telecoms Working Congress to Make ‘Information Superhighway’ a Toll Road” by Quinn Hungeski, The Paragraph; April 21, 2006
struck down FCC tries Net Neutrality – Public Knowledge
reclassified ISPs “FCC ADOPTS STRONG, SUSTAINABLE RULES TO PROTECT THE OPEN INTERNET” – Federal Communications Commission; 2015-02-26
repealed an Obama administration privacy rule “Actually, Congress Did Undermine Our Internet Privacy Rights” BY ERNESTO FALCON, Electronic Frontier Foundation; MAY 4, 2017
using the Congressional Review Act “Deadline passes on law Trump used to reverse Obama-era regulations” BY DAVID JORDAN AND NIA PRATER, Medill News Service; 2017-05-10
kill net neutrality “GOP’s ‘Internet Freedom Act’ permanently guts net neutrality authority” by JON BRODKIN, Ars Technica; 5/2/2017
fire up the weed whacker “FCC’s Ajit Pai says net neutrality’s ‘days are numbered’ under Trump” by JON BRODKIN, Ars Technica; 12/8/2016
comments to the FCC “Flooded with thoughtful net neutrality comments, FCC highlights ‘mean tweets’ by JON BRODKIN, Ars Technica; 5/15/2017
voted to hold “Net neutrality going down in flames as FCC votes to kill Title II rules” by JON BRODKIN, Ars Technica; 5/18/2017
rulemaking proposal “NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING” – Federal Communications Commission; Adopted: May 18, 2017
this tool “Dear FCC,” – Electronic Frontier Foundation
Senator “Find Your Senators” – The United States Senate
Representative “Directory of Representatives” – United States House of Representatives
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By Quinn Hungeski, TheParagraph.com, Copyright (CC BY-ND) 2017