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U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the FCC on Capitol Hill in Washington May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  (UNITED

The Nation has done, well, the nation a great service in providing this primer on what net neutrality is, the short history of it and how we got to last week, when the FCC proposed a rule that could signal the end to the concept, and an end to a free and open internet. Starting with the basics: net neutrality means that all internet traffic should be treated equally, every bit of content delivered to you at the same speed and quality as every other bit of content. What it really means is that the gatekeepers—the telecommunications companies that manage the "tubes" the information is pushed along—can't prioritize anyone's content.

Here's where we're at with that now:

Currently, Internet service providers are legally classified as “information services,” and the law says that no discrimination or price regulations are “necessary for consumer protection.” This means that the FCC has no authority to regulate those services, though the commission does have indirect authority to regulate interstate and international communications. After the FCC released its Open Internet Order, Verizon filed a lawsuit against the FCC claiming that the commission didn’t have the authority to make those rules or enforce them over Internet service providers like itself. In January of this year, the DC Court of Appeals agreed with Verizon and said that the FCC can’t stop Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against websites or any other Internet traffic unless the Internet is reclassified as a public utility. But the court also said the FCC does have some authority to implement net neutrality rules so far as it promotes broadband deployment across the country.
And here is a deeper look into what the FCC did last week in its proposed rule to answer that ruling.
In an attempt to try to balance that with the public interest, the Commission introduced three rules to keep the Internet “as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission.” Those three rules would require transparency about broadband providers’ practices; prohibit blocking any lawful website or app and ban “commercially unreasonable practices.”
More on those three rules below the fold. But before you make the jump, please sign our petition to the FCC to keep a free and open internet.

The three proposed rules from the FCC:

The transparency rule would require Internet service providers to publicly share a performance report that would include information about their Internet speed and traffic congestion, as well as any instances of blocking content or pay-for-priority agreements like the ones described above.

The no blocking rule would prohibit any Internet service company from outright blocking lawful content for any reason. This would prevent an Internet service provider from, for example, blocking the sites of their competitors.

The third rule, banning “commercially unreasonable practices,” is not as clearly defined, but it generally bans unfair business practices. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said in the past that he wouldn’t accept, for example, practices that would slow down your access to a particular website if you paid for a certain Internet speed. So if you paid for high-speed Internet access and you want to read something on TheNation.com, your Internet service company can’t slow your access to DSL speeds because that would be “commercially unreasonable.”

Here's the big rub: that still creates a two-tiered internet, with a fast lane. Now Wheeler would say that doesn't necessarily also mean a slow lane, because the FCC would make sure that it didn't. But it does mean that any innovation by the telecoms to make delivery of content faster and better would be reserved for the highest bidder. Which pretty much means that yes, there will also be a slow internet. But, Wheeler says, the FCC can make sure it's still fair by stopping "commercially unreasonable practices."

Problem is, he doesn't define what "commercially unreasonable practices" might be. That gives plenty of wiggle room for telecoms to plead innocence or ignorance. It also means that future FCCs, ones appointed by Republican presidents for example, can choose how tightly they want to interpret "unreasonable" practices.

Clearly, the most straightforward, legally justified option for the FCC is to reclassify broadband. That's one of the possibilities the FCC is considering under this proposed rule, but clearly not its preference. That's why it's so critical that they hear from the public that real net neutrality needs to be preserved.

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

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Comment Preferences

  •  see Cyber-Robber Cyber-Barons fail Turing Test (9+ / 0-)
    Problem is, he doesn't define what "commercially unreasonable practices" might be. That gives plenty of wiggle room for telecoms to plead innocence or ignorance. It also means that future FCCs, ones appointed by Republican presidents for example, can choose how tightly they want to interpret "unreasonable" practices.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Fri May 23, 2014 at 07:23:17 PM PDT

    •  The Internet is allowing People to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      daeros

      wise up to their slippery language, and everything else.  We are truly living in Orwellian times, when "they" threaten to take this font of human information from the People.

      Who, exactly, are "they", in THIS nefarious instance?

      We need a good list...

    •  Let your contract expire (4+ / 0-)

      then call them up and ream their asses. Then maybe "turn off" your bundling for a couple of months. Shake it up. Fuck these people. Go back to DSL, use netflix, buy your favorite seasons, etc. It's all cheaper than this bundled heap of shit being served by Big Telecom.

    •  Signed the petition, now what do I do? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prognosticator

      Could Daily Kos post addresses of FCC and others to write to and call to have stronger impact on this decision?

      I wrote an e-mail to FCC, but I'm worried that and the phone calls to my congressmen and senators won't be enough.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Sat May 24, 2014 at 06:45:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Want Daily Kos to survive? (8+ / 0-)

    Support net neutrality.

  •  I love this: (11+ / 0-)
    The transparency rule would require Internet service providers to publicly share a performance report that would include information about their Internet speed and traffic congestion, as well as any instances of blocking content or pay-for-priority agreements like the ones described above.
    Great. So more 80-page fine-print documents that someone has to slog through in order to find out if you're getting screwed or not.

    And please - "commercially unreasonable business practices"??? That describes just about every goddamned corporation in this country. Yeah, they're sooo ethical and can totally be trusted... I'm sure they'll tell the FCC to set the fines at a "commercially reasonable" rate too.

    Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

    by La Gitane on Fri May 23, 2014 at 07:33:10 PM PDT

  •  Henry, age 11, is trying to do his part... (3+ / 0-)

    My 11-year-old son decided to try to do his part by raising some money and increasing awareness:

    http://www.amazon.com/...

    "Between the stimulus and the response there is a pause, and in that pause lies our power and our freedom." Viktor Frankl

    by Darcy Burner on Fri May 23, 2014 at 07:41:54 PM PDT

  •  my email to the FCC (5+ / 0-)

    i posted this before but it might add to the discussion here.

    to: OpenInternet@fcc.gov

    Sir, I object to the proposed fast lane internet proposals due to the advantages this gives to large and well funded corporations. I want to see the internet stick to 'fair play' routing rules with equal access to all, rather than "pay to play" rules currently being considered.I suggest using the "Title II"  regulations for regulating the internet.
    response:
    Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet proceeding. We're hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this critical issue, and so I'm very glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

    I'm a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

    Tom Wheeler
    Chairman
    Federal Communications Commission

    So he has let it be known he will fight for what they call an "open internet"  with those dodgy rules with lots of wiggle room (the kind of wiggle room lobbyists love)
  •  Happy happy joy joy... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Prognosticator

    That's very funny, a fly marrying a bumblebee...

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    ...but you didn't believe me! Why didn't you believe me?!

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Fri May 23, 2014 at 07:44:01 PM PDT

    •  File this under "Imagine That!": (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      daeros
      "President Obama on Wednesday will nominate Tom Wheeler, a former telecom industry lobbyist, to head the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a White House official confirmed to The Hill...
      If confirmed as chairman, Wheeler will oversee the FCC's plan to..."

       A well-connected guy who gets rich as a lobbyist/industry hack... gets a "public service" job "regulating" the very industry he previously lobbied for...

      I'm sure the Republicans were quickly on board for THIS confirmation.
  •  No on Net Neutrality (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prognosticator, daeros, greenchiledem

    Please, please, PLEASE - refer to it as "Open Net" or "Open Internet"

    The instant people hear the words "Net Neutrality" their eyes roll back in their head and they drift off to sleep.

    It would be difficult to come up with a name for this issue that would be worse that this term.

    Why does the left consistently screw itself over by latching onto terminology that alienates people?

    OPEN NET
    OPEN NET
    OPEN NET

  •  I agree with net neutrality (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prognosticator, sweatyb, daeros

    and I want to see it implemented. I also agree that Wheeler's proposal is a lot of blown smoke: it seems unlikely to say the least that the FCC will act as a champion of the regular folks in the future when it is so unwilling to do so now.

    But I think the Nation article and most comments on Wheeler's proposal (those I have seen) fail to address one specific aspect of his argument that seems very appealing to some folks - even some here on Kos:

    Here's the big rub: that still creates a two-tiered internet, with a fast lane. Now Wheeler would say that doesn't necessarily also mean a slow lane, because the FCC would make sure that it didn't. But it does mean that any innovation by the telecoms to make delivery of content faster and better would be reserved for the highest bidder.
    The telcom industry argument - supported by their paid lobbyist Wheeler - seems to be that "innovation by the telecoms to make delivery...faster and better" will not occur unless there is a monetary incentive for it.  So, they argue, net neutrality is the recipe for a slow internet for all down the road, because it suppresses the innovation that makes it fast.

    This is the argument we need to answer now, I think.

    •  4K and on (0+ / 0-)

      Neutrality or not, telecoms can't lose ground to TV on ultra-hi def.  Is that enough incentive?

      Wired ran an article arguing that Netflix needs to adopt TV's 'passive viewing' model to compete with TV?  TV still exists, I thought?  Apparently yes.  Wired says the average American still watches TV 3 hours a day.  Yet Wheeler claims that, without paid fast lanes, ISPs will sit on current speeds -- actually slowing down relative to UHDTV and on -- with that vast growth pool of TV viewers still out there?  And the speed race with TV is never going to end.

      Wheeler's argument sounds to me like spectacular b.s.  All I've ever seen in tech is "faster, faster!" Can Wheeler show examples in tech history, under any policy environment, where any business sat on current speeds?

  •  Government could at least pretend (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prognosticator, atana

    that we, the citizens, matter a bit. It has become so genuflective toward business interests in the last couple of decades that even the terminology used shows clear bias. Senators, Representatives, and administration officials are constantly referring to us not as citizens but as consumers. We are not concerned members of the community, we are stakeholders. I get that business sees everyone and everything in a Ferengi-like perception of commercial opportunity, but I am tired of my government considering me as a unit of financial value or cost.

    Couldn't Wheeler at least pretend to be concerned about the public he purportedly serves and say something like "detrimental to the public good" instead of "commercially unreasonable?"

  •  Net Neutrality is just a part of a much larger (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prognosticator, daeros, coral

    problem. What companies like Verizon are doing is truly corrupt and an abuse of wealth and power. Look at the revenue streams to Verizon:

    1. Artificial control of download speed.

    2. Advertisers. I pay $70 for basic cable. 100% of these channels has commercials. To add insult to injury they embed VOD advertisements in the guide which cannot be disabled.

    3. Consumers.

    4. Pay to play (Net Neutrality)

    5. Hardware rental.

    Did I miss any? I'm sure I did. But look at the cash on hand with these folks who do little more than bury fiber.

    Between smart phones and home bundling I spend $300 a month. And every month a little piece of me dies because of it. It won't last.

    •  Price gouging / lack of competition (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plok, cybersaur

      I have 2 options for ISP. DSL and cable. Both are price outrageously without any transparency. Can't get a straight price quote on anything from their service reps.

      Very frustrating. I can live w/o TV but not w/o Internet, as my business depends on it.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Sat May 24, 2014 at 07:01:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Getting access to information/media (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Prognosticator

        should not be like negotiating fora car. And frankly I don't know how content providers stand for it. Maybe they're too busy trying to put their products up from in this wild west atmosphere. I use Steam to download games, which usually runs 3MB speed. Last night it was running 10MB, which leads me to believe Steam has struck a deal with Verizon.

        At some point we're going to have to say enough is enough. Basic cable, in this environment where content providers are paying to get into the tubes, should be commercial free. There are simply too many revenue streams to Big Telecom. It's criminal.

  •  There's a bigger problem with "commercially (0+ / 0-)

    unreasonable," in my opinion.

    It is so fuzzy a "standard" that it will never pass court scrutiny.

    Agencies don't get to claim that level of arbitrary power without a clear congressional mandate.

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