Lawmakers introduce a bill to restore 'Net Neutrality' rules
- By J. D. Heyes - February 14, 2014
It is one of those pieces of legislation that should be unnecessary, but as it happens, it is being welcomed, especially by online publishers, bloggers and other producers of news and opinions that might be considered unruly by the ruling class.
A group of Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill designed to allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reestablish so-called "Net Neutrality" rules that were struck down by a federal appeals court in January.
As reported by the Huffington Post:
Under the Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014, the FCC could enforce net neutrality rules, which require telecom companies to treat all websites equally, until the agency comes up with a permanent solution to last month's [court] ruling. ...
Democrats said they are hopeful they will shore up more support among their colleagues, although even some of the more progressive members of the party have aligned themselves with telecom companies in the past. The bill will also likely hit a roadblock with Republican lawmakers, who have tried multiple times to repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules.
FCC act ruled improper by federal appeals court
Indeed, House Republicans considered killing net neutrality rules last fall, in exchange for going along with raising the debt ceiling. When HuffPo asked if the Waxman-Eshoo bill even had a chance of coming up for a vote in the House, which the GOP controls, a Republican leadership aide simply responded, "No."
For their part, Republicans have said they back the appeals court ruling, because when the FCC initially approved an order called "Preserving an Open Internet," the agency exceeded its authority. In addition, Republicans say the order puts the government in the position of deciding who gets access to the Internet and which companies benefit. And they say that, before the FCC issued its regulations, the Internet was already open, free and "net neutral."
Still, some Internet rights and free speech groups are hopeful that the FCC will exert the authority that they say it has to restore its rule over the Internet. As such, they have undertaken a campaign with Free Press to urge the agency to do so. So far, advocates have collected more than a million signatures in support of federal net neutrality rules, and some 85 groups have backed the issue, including the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, the uber-progressive MoveOn.org, Reddit and the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
"We're calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband connections as 'telecommunications services,' a simple move that would allow it to pass robust net neutrality rules that would actually hold up in court," Free Press said in a statement. "Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it could be a relic of the past."
The FCC's authority to issue the rules was challenged by Verizon in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where challenges to federal regulations are most generally heard. In January, the court ruled that the agency had indeed overstepped its authority, and ordered a recision.
GOP endorsed 'Internet freedom' in 2012
President Obama has also weighed in. During a recent live video chat, he repeated earlier support for net neutrality and said he was confident that the FCC would take new action to ensure an open Internet.
"It's something that I've cared deeply about ever since I ran for office, in part because my own campaign was empowered by a free and open Internet and the ability for citizens all across the country to engage and create and find new ways and new tools to mobilize themselves," Obama said. "A lot of that couldn't have been done if there were a lot of commercial barriers and roadblocks and so I've been a strong supporter of net neutrality."
He went on to say that, while it was important to respect the court's decision, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler, who was appointed to the agency by the president, is examining all options available to the agency to evaluate and respond to the court's ruling.
"The one good piece of news coming out of this court opinion was that the court did confirm that the FCC can regulate this space -- they have authority," Obama said. "And the question now is how do they use that authority. If the old systems and rulings that they had in place were not effective in preserving net neutrality, do they have other tools that would stand up to court scrutiny that accomplishes the same goals?"
In its 2012 platform, the GOP endorsed "Internet freedom."
"We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties," the party said.
Verizon killed Net Neutrality. But the FCC can save it.
Verizon killed Net Neutrality when a federal appeals court ruled in its favor and struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order.
Net Neutrality rule is a principle, which put the Internet users, the people, not big the few greedy Internet service providers (ISPs), in control. Net Neutrality ensures that Internet service providers can not speed up, slow down, or block web content based on its source, ownership, or destination.
And now Net Neutrality is dead – at least until the FCC stands up to the greedy bastards Verizon and AT&T and passes strong rules that will pass the legal test for ensuring Americans have access to an open and free from greedy corporate rule Internet.
Tell new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler: Save Net Neutrality. Click here to sign.
What is "Net Neutrality?" - Net Neutrality 101
When we log onto the Internet, we take lots of things for granted. We assume that we'll be able to access whatever Web site we want, whenever we want to go there. We assume that we can use any feature we like -- watching online video, listening to pod-casts, searching, e-mailing and instant messaging -- anytime we choose. We assume that we can attach devices like wireless routers, game controllers or extra hard drives to make our online experience better.
What makes all these assumptions possible is "Network Neutrality," the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. But all that could change.
The biggest cable and telephone companies would like to charge money for smooth access to Web sites, speed to run applications, and permission to plug in devices. These network giants believe they should be able to charge Web site operators, application providers and device manufacturers for the right to use the network. Those who don't make a deal and pay up will experience discrimination: Their sites won't load as quickly, and their applications and devices won't work as well. Without legal protection, consumers could find that a network operator has blocked the Web site of a competitor, or slowed it down so much that it's unusable.
The network owners say they want a "tiered" Internet. If you pay to get in the top tier, your site and your service will run fast. If you don't, you'll be in the slow lane.
What's the Problem Here?
Discrimination: The Internet was designed as an open medium. The fundamental idea since the Internets' inception has been that every Web site, every feature and every service should be treated without discrimination. That's how bloggers can compete with CNN or USA Today for readers. That is how up-and-coming musicians can build underground audiences before they get their first top-40 single. That's why when you use a search engine, you see a list of the sites that are the closest match to your request -- not those that paid the most to reach you. Discrimination endangers our basic Internet freedoms.
Double-dipping: Traditionally, network owners have built a business model by charging consumers for Internet access. Now they want to charge you for access to the network, and then charge you again for the things you do while you're online. They may not charge you directly via pay-per-view Web sites. But they will charge all the service providers you use. These providers will then pass those costs along to you in the form of price hikes or new charges to view content.
Stifling innovation: Net Neutrality ensures that innovators can start small and dream big about being the next eBay or Google without facing insurmountable hurdles. Unless we preserve Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web. On a tiered Internet controlled by the phone and cable companies, only their own content and services -- or those offered by corporate partners that pony up enough "protection money" -- will enjoy life in the fast lane.
The End of the Internet?
Make no mistake: The free-flowing Internet as we know it could very well become history.
What does that mean? It means we could be headed toward a pay-per-view Internet where Web sites have fees. It means we may have to pay a network tax to run voice-over-the-Internet phones, use an advanced search engine, or chat via Instant Messenger. The next generation of inventions will be shut out of the top-tier service level. Meanwhile, the network owners will rake in even greater profits.