The US's media censor voted to end rules protecting an open internet on Thursday, a move critics warn will hand control of the future of the web to cable and telecoms companies.
At a packed meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in
Washington, commissioners voted three to two to dismantle the net neutrality rules that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites more for delivering certain services or blocking others should they, for example, compete with
services the cable company also offers.
FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, denounced the move. I dissent because I am among the millions outraged, outraged because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the
nation's broadband consumers, she said.
Fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC had shown contempt for public opinion during the review. She called the process corrupt. As a result of today's misguided actions, our
broadband providers will get extraordinary new powers, she said.
Evan Greer, campaign director for internet activists Fight for the Future, said:
Killing net neutrality in the US will impact internet users all
over the world. So many of the best ideas will be lost, squashed by the largest corporations at the expense of the global internet-using public.
Michael Cheah of Vimeo said:
ISPs probably won't
immediately begin blocking content outright, given the uproar that this would provoke. What's more likely is a transition to a pay-for-play business model that will ultimately stifle startups and innovation, and lead to higher prices and less choice for
Ignoring the millions of Americans who protested against the end of net neutrality
In recent months, millions of people have protested the FCC's plan to repeal U.S. net neutrality rules, which were put in place by the Obama administration.
However, an outpouring public outrage , critique from major tech
companies, and even warnings from pioneers of the Internet, had no effect. Today the FCC voted to repeal the old rules, effectively ending net neutrality.
Under the net neutrality rules that have been in effect during recent
years, ISPs were specifically prohibited from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of lawful traffic. In addition, Internet providers could be regulated as carriers under Title II.
Now that these rules have been repealed,
Internet providers will have more freedom to experiment with paid prioritization. Under the new guidelines, they can charge customers extra for access to some online services, or throttle certain types of traffic.
Most critics of
the repeal fear that, now that the old net neutrality rules are in the trash, fast lanes for some services, and throttling for others, will become commonplace in the U.S.
This could also mean that BitTorrent traffic becomes a
target once again. After all, it was Comcast's secretive BitTorrent throttling that started the broader net neutrality debate, now ten years ago.
Despite repeated distortions and biased information, as well as misguided,
inaccurate attacks from detractors, our Internet service is not going to change, writes David Cohen, Comcast's Chief Diversity Officer:
We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate today, that we do not and will not block,
throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.
It's worth highlighting the term lawful in the last sentence. It is by no means a promise that pirate sites won't be blocked.
Neutrality Repeal Is Extremely Bad News for Porn
Within minutes of a party-line Federal Communications Commission vote to repeal rules protecting net neutrality, at least three states announced measures to keep the rules204set up to guarantee a level playing field for internet consumers, users and
businesses204in place. New York, California and Washington quickly outlined a mixture of legal actions and legislative moves to keep net neutrality in place, which more than a dozen states expected to follow.
Whether the states
can succeed in stopping the Donald Trump-era elimination of the Barack Obama-era net neutrality requirements is of special interest to adult content providers and consumers, because porn appears likely to be among the hardest hit of all industries
affected by the rollback.
Why? Because porn comprises about one third of all internet traffic, and there are an estimated 800 million pages of porn on the World Wide Web, meaning that the giant corporations that now control
internet access for most Americans will envision almost unimaginable profits to be reaped from slapping users with extra fees to access their favorite adult content.
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FFC), Ajit Pai, has been forced to cancel his scheduled appearance at the world's biggest tech conference, CES, after receiving death threats.
That's according to a report by Recode, which cites two
agency sources familiar with the matter. This seems to be in response to the disgraceful FCC decision to scrap the US government's net neutrality rules, made in December last year.
For those not up-to-date, net neutrality is the concept that
internet service providers should enable equal levels of access to all web services. The decision enables big business to assert a lot more control over the internet and to let them charge websites and customers for differing levels of service.
Democrats in the United States House of Representatives have gathered 90 of the 218 signatures they'll need to force a vote on whether or not to roll back net neutrality rules, while Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has already predicted
that the House effort will fail and large telecommunications companies publicly expressed their anger at last Wednesday's Senate vote to keep the Obama-era open internet rules in place.
Led by Pai, a Donald Trump appointee, the FCC voted 3-2 along
party lines in December to scrap the net neutrality regulations, effectively creating an internet landscape dominated by whichever companies can pay the most to get into the online fast lane.
Telecommunications companies could also choose to block
some sites simply based on their content, a threat to which the online porn industry would be especially vulnerable, after five states have either passed or are considering legislation labeling porn a public health hazard.
While the House
Republican leadership has taken the position that the net neutrality issue should not even come to a vote, on May 17 Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle introduced a discharge petition that would force the issue to the House floor. A discharge petition
needs 218 signatures of House members to succeed in forcing the vote. As of Monday morning, May 21, Doyle's petition had received 90 signatures . The effort would need all 193 House Democrats plus 25 Republicans to sign on, in order to bring the net
neutrality rollback to the House floor.
California's net neutrality bill, SB 822 has received a majority of votes in the Senate and is heading to the governor's desk. In this fight, ISPs with millions of dollars to spend lost to the voice of the majority of Americans who support net
neutrality. This is a victory that can be replicated.
ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast hated this bill. SB 822 bans blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, classic ways that companies have violated net neutrality
principles. It also incorporates much of what the FCC learned and incorporated into the 2015 Open Internet Order, preventing new assaults on the free and open Internet. This includes making sure companies can't circumvent net neutrality at the point of
interconnection within the state of California. It also prevents companies from using zero rating--the practice of not counting certain apps or services against a data limit--in a discriminatory way. That is to say that, say, there could be a plan where
all media streaming services were zero-rated, but not one where just one was. One that had either paid for the privilege or one owned by the service provider. In that respect, it's a practice much like discriminatory paid prioritization, where ISPs
create fast lanes for those who can pay or for other companies they own.
ISPs and their surrogates waged a war of misinformation on this bill. They argued that net neutrality made it impossible to invest in expanding and upgrading
their service, even though they make plenty of money . Lobbying groups sent out robocalls that didn't mention net neutrality--which remains overwhelmingly popular--merely mentioned the bill's number and claimed, with no evidence, that it would force ISPs
to raise their prices by $30 . And they argued against the zero-rating provision when we know those practices disproportionately affect lower-income consumers.
There was a brief moment in this fight when it looked like the ISPs
had won. Amendments offered in the Assembly Committee on Communication and Conveyance after the bill had passed the California Senate mostly intact gutted the bill. But you made your voices heard again and again until the bill's strength was restored and
we turned opponents into supporters in the legislature.
In the middle of all of this, the story broke that Verizon had throttled the service of a fire department in California during a wildfire. During the largest wildfire in
California history, the Santa Clara fire department found that its unlimited data plan was being throttled by Verizon and, when contacted, the ISP told the fire department they needed to pay more for a better plan. Under the 2015 Open Internet Order, the
FCC would have been able to investigate Verizon's actions . But since that order's been repealed, Verizon might escape meaningful punishment for its actions.
California's fight is a microcosm of the nation's. Net neutrality is
popular across the country . The same large ISPs that led the fight against it in California are the ones that serve the rest of the country, a majority of which don't have a choice of provider . The arguments that they made in California are the same
ones they made to the FCC to get the Open Internet Order repealed. The only thing preventing what happened to California's firefighters from happening elsewhere is Verizon saying it won't.
We need to net neutrality protections on
as many levels as we can get them. And Congress can still vote to restore the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. In fact, the Senate already did. So contact your member of the House of Representatives and tell them to vote for the Congressional Review Act
and save national net neutrality protections.