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In testimony Tuesday before a House oversight committee, Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler insisted that his proposal for a fast lane on the internet was not what it appears to be—paid prioritization that creates two internets, because the FCC could step in an prevent that.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency recognizes that Internet providers would be disrupting a "virtuous cycle" between the demand for free-flowing information on one hand and new investment in network upgrades on the other if they started charging companies like Google for better access to consumers. What's more, he said, the FCC would have the legal authority to intervene.

"If there is something that interferes with that virtuous cycle—which I believe paid prioritization does—then we can move against it," Wheeler said, speaking loudly and slowly.

If a broadband company creates a fast lane for some content providers that worsens service for some internet uses, Wheeler says, that would be "commercially unreasonable" and the FCC would act. That's the case-by-case approach Wheeler wants for regulating against paid prioritization—content providers paying to have their stuff made a priority. He insists that his proposal that would allow broadband companies to charge more for better, faster content delivery is all about keeping net neutrality.

Wheeler is counting on two things happening under this proposed rule that seem unduly optimistic: that the telecoms won't try to abuse this power, and that this and future FCCs will act swiftly and effectively in the event that they do it anyway. That's putting a lot of faith in companies that have shown outright hostility to regulation. It's also assuming that  an FCC appointed by a future Republican—as hostile to regulation as the telecoms—will work to prevent abuse.

There's a clear path forward for Wheeler to prevent what he says he wants to prevent—a two-tiered Internet. That's by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service—a public utility—instead of as an information service as it currently is, a classification that has created all sorts of legal wrangling challenging the FCC's authority. The FCC can simply reclassify broadband companies, and enforce net neutrality without jumping through the hoops he proposes with this rule.

Please sign our petition to the FCC to keep a free and open internet.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed May 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Wed May 21, 2014 at 11:29:39 AM PDT

  •  Clearly Wheeler thinks we're that stupid. (8+ / 0-)

    A top telecom lobbyist expects us to applaud over handing his industry the power to royally screw us on a silver platter — in a way they've been itching to do for years — & think we're dumb enough to believe they'll change their minds about using it?

    Stop the FCC from killing the Internet! E-mail them. Call them. Tell the President & your congressmen to help save Internet freedom!

    by Brown Thrasher on Wed May 21, 2014 at 12:33:22 PM PDT

    •  What are we going to do if they put this plan (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      daeros, cybrestrike

      into motion?

      I hope there are people planning for next moves. Even if they don't want to talk about it here, want to focus on stopping this, etc.

      There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities. ---Edward R. Murrow

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:15:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ad-hoc Mesh Networks (3+ / 0-)

        I've been to hackathons that teach you how to flash routers and set these up.  Basically, instead of the centralized model we have now, all the routers that can see each other talk to each other directly and computers can send files to each other daisy-chain style.  

        Mesh networks are attractive because they cannot be shut down unless you physically go to each one and yank the power plug from the wall.  Also, they're more difficult for people to spy on (with certain caveats) because you don't have traffic passing through trunk lines where a lazy spy cough government agency cough sits and watches everything go by.

        They're also called dark-nets, and there have been reports of their wide use already.  Now that the required hardware is cheap and more energy-efficient, and that solar panels have become much more affordable and able to power said routers, it's increasingly possible to do an end-run around the telcoms entirely.

        Latency is one issue, but I'll cede to network specialists to address that one.

        •  I like this idea, and had no idea that that was (0+ / 0-)

          what a dark-net was. Apart from any political considerations, how awesomely efficient! in the way that only decentralized stuff is. Efficiency in a decentralized system has to do with resilience, the same way that efficiency in a centralized system has to do with speed and reliable replication. I'd be happy to switch over to decentralized "nets" though still angry over damage to our pretty decent functioning capital-N Net caused by really lame politics.

          Thank you much for explaining it to me.

          There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities. ---Edward R. Murrow

          by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:33:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Wheeler seems to be trying to turn (6+ / 0-)

    this into Bến Tre

    It is necessary to destroy net neutrality to save it

    Rush — the quivering rage heap who is apparently desperately trying to extinguish any remaining molecule of humanity that might still reside in the Chernobyl-esque Superfund cleanup site that was his soul. -- Jon Stewart

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed May 21, 2014 at 12:55:43 PM PDT

  •  Wheeler is an archetypical DC lobbyist (6+ / 0-)

    I watched his testimony before Congress. He is such a typical Beltway lobbyist!!! (Or, as some prefer to call themselves, a "public policy manager.")  Wow. He's typecast. The look: suit, tie, watch, haircut, shave, face, skin; check. The voice: always even-keeled, slightly raspy from Scotch and cigarettes, Old Boy accent. The answers and delivery: mix of kiss-ass ("Yes, Sir" to every question), glib, smooth, smarmy, always an answer to everything, never stumped, never admitting to any of the serious critiques, turning the questions into whatever he wants to answer. It's so easy to see him gliding in and out of the Capital, the Georgetown Club, the OEOB, the Haye Adams, with an telecom comm exec on one arm and a Congress Critter or White House staffer on the other.

    It is so clear that, despite being appointed by Obama, Wheeler is simply a tool of industry. Not consumers. Not the technology and the future. The only conflicts he might feel are over which companies/industries to support.

    Y.U.C.K!

    Anyone who hasn't read it already, should read Charles Ferguson's (of "Inside Job" movie fame) 2004 book: "The Broadband Problem: Anatomy of a Market Failure and a Policy Dilemmaemma".

    Unlike every other information technology industry, the ILECS -- [incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) such as BellSouth and Verizon -- and the cable television industry engage in virtually no research and development. Their network capital spending has remained flat for over a decade. However, their political spending has increased sharply; they spend up to half a billion dollars per year on lobbying, regulatory efforts, litigation, and political contributions, including multiple legal challenges to the 1996 telecommunications law and FCC regulations. They also cooperate extensively in purchasing, investing, litigation, regulatory proceedings, and politics. This pattern appears to be the combined result of rational monopolistic conduct, and of entrenched top managements unwilling to face modern high technology competition. The ILECs' top managements and boards of directors generally contain very little technical expertise. [They are mainly lawyers, lobbyists, and MBAs.]
  •  Net Neutrality discussions frequently confuse (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mannie, sweatyb, daeros

    little competition for connecting homes to the net, and speed of service on the backbone.

    The most important issue by far for the FCC to work on for consumers is increasing competition for "last mile" connections to homes and businesses. Do this by removing barriers for new competitors to route fiber and high speed wifi (and WiMax ) on streets - not forcing carriers to share last mile access from past generation telephone and copper cable.  Prohibit local government from selling or enforcing monopoly rights to carriers and charging new providers more than cost for routing fiber for the right to sell their service. This is how we get higher speeds at lower cost. We will see slow progress at best on this unless the FCC removes the barriers to more competition.  I am in Silicon Valley and I have only one possible service for greater than 50 Mb/s service.

    Some current applications and emerging Internet application would benefit greatly for far better bandwidth and low latency than is required for very high quality streaming HD video.  

    We want to encourage availability of much higher speeds and lower latency from businesses, universities, research centers, etc., and charge them for this so the US becomes more competitive place for jobs, better Research and development, better medical informatics and better government services while not driving up the cost of service for consumers.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Wed May 21, 2014 at 01:29:47 PM PDT

    •  Out of curiosity, how does Europe and Asia (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie

      manage to provide faster speeds for lower prices than in the US? Do they charge businesses, universities and research centers more so that consumers reap the benefits?

      •  The speeds you refer to are from the home to the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mannie, daeros

        ISP, what is generally referred to as last mile.

        In the case of South Korea - which has one of the fastest in the world:

        See http://en.wikipedia.org/... and http://www.korea4expats.com/... and http://www.cnn.com/...

        - government subsidies.  Vs US taxing infrastructure and special fees for routing cable/fiber.  S Korean pushed high speed Internet so Samsung and LG would have their home market be able to adopt new products earlier than other countries - making these companies better global competitors.

        - more competitors to choose from - there are 3 major ISPs, all of which have high speed broadband plus smaller ones with high speed.  In many places in the US local governments essentially sold monopoly rights to 1 cable company. In most of US only one ISP offers service faster than 50 Mb/s

        - S Korea has most all of its population located in a few major cities with high population densities - so infrastructure is less expensive per person.

        Also in the US the FCC in the 1990s required that telcos with last mile service make these connections available to their competitors at essentially cost.  This killed the incentive for telcos to make the massive investment in fiber - so they didn't.  Fortunately when this policy was made the FCC thought that cable companies did not have the technology to do high speed broadband and did not impose the same requirement.  The cable industry made the investment and they dominate high speed broadband in most of the US.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Wed May 21, 2014 at 02:57:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  - government subsidies. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          delver rootnose, thomask, zinger99, daeros
          In the case of South Korea - which has one of the fastest in the world:
          Now if S. Korea would just pay for the tanks and other military equipment and for the over 28,000 US troops based there, perhaps we would have some of those "- government subsidies" here for the fastest in the world.

          While back at home here in Homeland, the Pentagon sucks up our taxpayers dollars into its bottomless money pit.

          _______________The DOD/ War Department, which consumes 22% of the national budget, is the world's largest employer with 3.2 million employees.

          by allenjo on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:34:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  This just isn't true. (0+ / 0-)

      Cable franchises have been non-exclusive for 20 years in my state.  Local governments cannot grant monopolies.  Similarly, federal law requires utility pole owners to allow any telecom carrier or cable TV operator to use their poles at favorable rates.

      But no second cable company has strung fiber or coax in any town in the state.

      The business model that the facilities-based ISPs have, assumes that they get a very high "take rate:" most of the houses they pass subscribe.  That means an effective monopoly.  With a mile of fiber not generating revenue from 75% of the houses it passes, they won't invest.

      Eliminating government oversight just means the monopolies act like monopolies - which is why cable companies get the worst consumer ratings of any industry.

      •  The business terms with the cable company brings (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        luvbrothel, daeros

        the monopoly status with the local government by having a high barrier to entry.  This is done in various ways ranging from requiring high fees to route fiber, requiring providing service throughout the community, paying for community access channels, free service to government, making permitting difficult, etc..

        This is why I wrote "essentially monopoly rights" instead of just monopoly.

        In my city, Comcast has been effective in working with the city to block new entrants into what is one of the best markets in the county - a city central to Silicon Valley.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Wed May 21, 2014 at 04:47:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Again, not true. (0+ / 0-)

          The law for a generation in my state has said that the franchise terms must be equal.

          No competitive takers.

          The barrier is NOT government involvement.  It is the simple economics of how many customers you get per mile of fiber / copper.  That ratio strongly favors monopolies.  It may even support nothing BUT monopolies.

          •  Equal terms can still result in effective monopoly (0+ / 0-)

            When the costs are higher due to government policies, a higher market share is required for a new entrant to enter the market with reasonable expectations of profitability. In effect the government policies protects the monopoly.

            The term that service needs to cover a wider geography than the new provider would like can be another high barrier as a much larger financial commitment would be required rather than allowing the competitor to grow into the market.

            As there is a transition from copper to fiber, this is a technology transition point than can make it easier for new competitors to enter.  In addition, high performance wifi and WiMAX, can also allow connection into home from the street using wireless, avoiding the cost of wiring to the home.

            Other countries with higher bandwidth at lower cost adopted policies that helped bring a far more competitive market than we have in most of the US.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Wed May 21, 2014 at 07:14:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is fantasy. (0+ / 0-)

              "Well, even if the government is completely even-handed, the problem is the GOVERNMENT!!"

              Of COURSE there is a first-mover advantage - which government regulation tries to reduce (for example, by requiring the pole owner to sell space cheap.)

              MARKETS create first-mover advantages.

  •  As if we have not learned how regulators fail to (5+ / 0-)

    regulate, particularly clear to all of us after September 2008.........

    There's a clear path forward for Wheeler to prevent what he says he wants to prevent—a two-tiered Internet.

    That's by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service—a public utility—instead of as an information service as it currently is, a classification that has created all sorts of legal wrangling challenging the FCC's authority.

    The FCC can simply reclassify broadband companies, and enforce net neutrality without jumping through the hoops he proposes with this rule.

    _______________The DOD/ War Department, which consumes 22% of the national budget, is the world's largest employer with 3.2 million employees.

    by allenjo on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:27:58 PM PDT

    •  We have also learned how regulators (0+ / 0-)

      create industries and innovation - see the Carterfone decision, forcing Ma Bell to let people plug their own electronics into the phone system.  From that decision and its enforcement, came home answering machines, fax machines, Hayes modems - from which came Compuserve and the demonstration that the public would use an Internet.

      •  it is our telecommunications system, not (0+ / 0-)
        In the end, Carterfone says that it is our telecommunications system, not AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast's. We finance the system with our subscription, application, and investment money. We support it with utility easements, regulatory breaks, and government contracts paid for by our taxes. We make it work because we are its workers. We make it exciting with our innovations, technical and social, big and small.
        We do not begrudge the CEOs of these great corporations their legal positions. But they are, as Andrew Carnegie would put it, stewards of the system, not its owners. They are not there to tell us to Go Away.

        They are there to keep the system running while we discover it, use it, develop it, innovate it, game it, finesse it, and reinvent it to our heart's content. The great enterprise of telecommunications is no better than our right to participate in it as individuals.

        http://arstechnica.com/...

        _______________The DOD/ War Department, which consumes 22% of the national budget, is the world's largest employer with 3.2 million employees.

        by allenjo on Thu May 22, 2014 at 05:08:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Unless the ... (3+ / 0-)

    ... Cable companies add much more bandwith this is a zero sum game. If you speed up one person's connection you will by default slowdown another persons access because the bandwith is only so much.

    We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

    by delver rootnose on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:07:40 PM PDT

  •  All net users are equal (4+ / 0-)

    but some net users are more equal than others.

    We need a world in which we ask "What's happened to you?" more and "What's wrong with you?" less. (From a comment by Kossack nerafinator)

    by ramara on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:13:09 PM PDT

  •  This guy is full of shit. (4+ / 0-)

    But it's lucky that I know who he is and who he used to work for--because he is damned good at giving a speech and sounding earnest.

    Still, I guess even if I didn't know, I wouldn't have been fooled by this pile of crap policy. I mean, really:  saying "We'll set up an Ombudsman to scrutinize situations on a case-by-case basis!" is just this side of saying you're setting up a Task Force.

    There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities. ---Edward R. Murrow

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:14:40 PM PDT

  •  Wheeler is not the problem. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brown Thrasher, daeros, cybrestrike

    The problem is President Obama nominated him after Candidate Obama said this:

    And this is the guy President Obama nominated:

    Thomas E. Wheeler is the current Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November, 2013. Prior to working at the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

    [...]

    In recognition of his work in promoting the wireless industry, Wheeler was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2009, as a result of his work in promoting the growth and prosperity of the cable television industry and its stakeholders, was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.[2][6][7] He is the only member of both halls of fame.[3] Cablevision magazine named Wheeler one of the 20 most influential individuals in its history during cable's 20th anniversary in 1995.[2]

    During Barack Obama's presidential campaign Wheeler spent six weeks in Iowa aiding his campaign efforts and went on to raise over US$500,000 USD for both of Obama's campaigns.[4][8]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    And in all fairness to Obama, perhaps Obama had no earthy clue who exactly Wheeler was because no one told Obama where Wheeler's alliances were.  Disregard the the 500K Wheeler raised for Obama.  I'm POSITIVE that money had nothing to do with the nomination.

    Dallasdoc: "Snowden is the natural successor to Osama bin Laden as the most consequential person in the world, as his actions have the potential to undo those taken in response to Osama."

    by gooderservice on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:19:34 PM PDT

  •  As a public utility (4+ / 0-)

    could we regulate isp's to stop tracking and giving our information to the NSA as well?

    "You cannot win improv." Stephen Colbert (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6tiaooiIo0 at 16:24).

    by Publius2008 on Wed May 21, 2014 at 05:21:23 PM PDT

    •  In theory, yes (0+ / 0-)

      Your local (state) Public Service Commission would be the regulator of the conduct of utilities.  But the PSC is not necessarily your friend: they are subject to "regulatory capture" like any other agency, and tend to be business friendly (at least here in New York).

      Example:  as you may know, the NSA is not the only entity tracking you.  Changes to their TOS (terms of service) introduced by Google and Yahoo (among others) a year or two ago allow them to scan the content (not only the metadata) of all your emails and use that to target advertising.  That's invasive and wrong, I say, so I guess I'll use my local telco, Frontier, who is also my ISP, for all my email.

      Problem is, my telco/ISP changed their own email service last year: instead of doing the email system in-house, they are using Yahoo now for all email.  So now my telco, regulated as a "public utility", is giving away all my (and my correspondents') email contents to Yahoo so they can target me with ads. And what does the PSC have to say about this? Nothing. Not a word.  Meaning in other words that the possibility of maintaining actually private email correspondence is vanishingly small, in spite of the PSC.

  •  Did he explain this supposed "legal authority"? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brown Thrasher, daeros, Elwood Dowd

    I hope someone at the hearing made him explain. The DC Circuit just overturned the FCC's claim of legal authortity, and said that the FCC would have legal authority IF it reclassified broadband as "telecommunication."  Why should we believe him now.

    The FCC and the cable monopoly have strung us along for 18 years since passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and Wheeler's proposal seems like more of the same.

    Reclassification is the only alternative.  The cable monopoly will litigate that too, but at least we will be on the right path.

  •  Title II (0+ / 0-)

    It's fascinating to see the proposed classification of broadband ISPs as common carriers under Title II as a step insuring a free and open internet (tm). That classification would subject ISPs --small scale operators as well as the big bad Comcasts--to all kinds of government regulation, which in others times has been cast as a horrible outcome.

    •  That's not Wheeler's proposal, of course. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glenn45, daeros, cybrestrike

      Wheeler wants to privatize & tier the Net (while calling it the opposite policy in hopes of conning us "rubes".)

      By now, a federal court, many concerned citizens & businesses, & now more than a few politicians have reminded him that reclassification under Title 2 is merely common sense (&, in fact, was the status quo until Chairman Powell screwed things up under Bush Junior).

      Stop the FCC from killing the Internet! E-mail them. Call them. Tell the President & your congressmen to help save Internet freedom!

      by Brown Thrasher on Wed May 21, 2014 at 06:51:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Translation: (4+ / 0-)
    If a broadband company creates a fast lane for some content providers that worsens service for some internet uses, Wheeler says, that would be "commercially unreasonable" and the FCC would act. That's the case-by-case approach Wheeler wants for regulating against paid prioritization [ ... ]
    Call me cynical, but that sounds to me like not-at-all-veiled code for hanging a sign outside his door reading, "Bribe me."
  •  Time and patience (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brown Thrasher

    The telecoms don't need to do anything to degrade the "basic" lane. They just need patience for a few years. Today's internet speeds in 5 years will be like 28.8Kbps modem speeds are to us now. So in a while, that free lane will be sooooooooooo slow as to be almost useless and the telecoms can swear on a stack of Bibles that they have faithfully maintained it and isn't it too bad that nobody chooses to use it anymore?

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