The topic of Net Neutrality revisited…

I wanted to take the time to communicate to you the single most important action that you need to take to retain your existing rights to free speech, but may not even have know about until you read this article.

Currently in front of the FCC is a proposal for changing of the current definition of Net Neutrality.  The FCC has issued a 120 Day Comment period, which has been extended recently due to the incredible influx of community comments so far.  The new deadline is September 15th.

The definition of the current Net Neutrality principle says that: “Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.”

Historically, ISPs did not distinguish between the different types of traffic (e.g. webpages, e-mail, game content, or a movie) that traversed their network.  However, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, a few ISPs tried to arbitrarily block certain types of traffic (mostly peer-to-peer file-sharing networks), which caused a lot of public outrage over that abuse. They stopped blocking after public opinion turned against them.  The question then became what actions the ISP had the right to perform in managing their networks.   Sadly, each ISP can enforce whichever strategy they choose, because there is no real oversight in what they do, other than public opinion.   Currently “throttling” (to reduce the bandwidth of your account) is the new favorite tactic of ISPs if you exceed a vaguely specified “cap” on the amount of data you consume in a month.  Do you know what your “cap” is?

The ISPs of the world have been selling Internet access for approximately 25 years.  Not only are they selling access to you, but they are also selling access to the owner of your favorite website, and to companies like Netflix, etc.  They are effectively making money on both sides of the equation.  Now they want to be allowed free reign to create a new class-of-service concept that could spell the end of the public Internet as we know it.  That concept is called “packet prioritization”, which means that certain traffic going across the ISP’s network will be given different levels of importance.  This proposal continues the Highway metaphor by calling this differentiation of packet priority the “Fast-lane”.

This now becomes the defining point of the debate, because the moment that ISPs are allowed to DIFFERENTIATE between traffic types, then we begin down that road where only those with sufficient money will be able to afford HIGHER PRIORITY traffic on the Internet.  The creation of HIGH PRIORITY also means the creation of LOW PRIORITY traffic, which will be the only class-of-service that everyone else can afford.  Not surprisingly, this leads to the classic “Haves and Have-nots” debate.   It follows that shortly thereafter the WEALTHY (both individuals and Corporations with deep enough pockets) will start demanding additional ways in which to differentiate and segregate themselves from the average consumer.   Already I’m unable to enter the gated communities and private country clubs of the wealthy, and I can’t even begin to compete against their lobbyists and Corporate PACs.   Why should they get a better internet than you or I can get?

I predict in the same future with “Packet Prioritization”, there will also be an attempt by the ISPs to offer incentives to clients to forgo their normal privacy expectations for a discount on Internet Service: in exchange for letting the ISP monitor every online transaction, read every e-mail message sent and received, and access to your browsing history, users will get a modest discount on their Internet bill.  Eventually only the wealthy will be able to afford Privacy settings that we accept as the norm today.

Here is a scenario for your consideration: Attempting to get some news from your favorite news website in the new future with “Packet Prioritization” and an additional “Online Privacy” options could go something like this:  If you’re wealthy, the news site comes-up as you would normally expect with no delays or ads.   If you’re not wealthy, you’ll have to wait 5 to 10 minutes while your data-packets requesting that news are delayed long enough to allow the HIGH PRIORITY packets to get through to their destination first.  Eventually your packets will make it across the internet to have your request fulfilled by your favorite news website, but if you also couldn’t afford the cost of the future “Privacy” option on your internet package, you get to spend that initial 5 or 10 minutes wait watching targeted advertisements based on all the details they gleaned by watching what sites you visited, and which only let you view the intended website content once you’ve finished watching all 6 of the 1.5 minute ads.

And if an ISP Corporation can legally delay your ability to get the news, just imagine what a power hungry government could do to erode a citizen’s rights and Free Speech.

What can you do to help?  This is the easy part.  You can make your voice heard with the FCC in less than 5 minutes with the web-form on their SaveTheInternet website,  and help ensure the single most important issue of our age doesn’t impact your right to free speech in the future.

Some of the best arguments that you can provide the FCC to help curb the power and abuses of the ISPs would be to suggest reclassifying them from being Information or Entertainment Services to those of a Utility.

After all, ISPs have effectively become localized monopolies like the phone companies of old, and I believe that they should be treated as such.  This would entail placing them under the “Title II” regulations, which means giving the FCC strong regulatory powers over those ISPs.  This would effectively end ISPs arbitrarily deciding to block or throttle your data.  If you agree, please suggest placing ISPs under FCC control under “Title II”.

It would also help if you could mention that you do not believe it would be beneficial for ISPs to be allowed to offer prioritization of traffic or the “fast-lane” option on their networks.  If you agree, then you should say that you agree with the original definition of Net Neutrality, and that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

Regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with the points I’ve made in this article, thank you for your time and assistance in voicing your concerns to the FCC in this incredibly important decision!

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