Last week, the Save the Internet site reported that more than 40 organizations sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISP) and restore Net Neutrality rules. Without net Neutrality rules, experts predict several changes to your Internet access including higher prices and degraded service.
The organizations that sent the letter included governments, journalism, and advocacy groups:. Some of the organizations that signed the letter: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Media and Democracy, Free Press, the Government Accountability Project, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the PEN American Center, the Project on Government Oversight, Reporters Without Borders, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Writers Guild of America East.
Excerpts from the letter:
"Dear Chairman Wheeler:
The D.C. Circuit’s decision in Verizon v. FCC dealt a huge blow to the open Internet, press freedom and our right to access information... we appreciate your agency’s role in protecting our free speech rights online and call on you to use your clear authority under Title II of the Communications Act to protect the open Internet... With the court’s decision, however, broadband providers are now free to block or discriminate against online content, services and applications. Allowing broadband providers to control this once-open platform shifts power away from communities and individuals and toward entrenched companies like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon. This will have a chilling effect on our rights to access, report and share information... U.S. laws and leaders have protected these rights, acknowledging the fundamental need for our speech to be delivered without discrimination. Freedom of the press was not simply the freedom to print, but also the freedom to distribute speech across the country through a common-carrier network: the postal service. Our ability to utilize that network (and its successors) is central to our ability to self-govern... Free speech depends on access to open and nondiscriminatory platforms for that speech. Without such principles governing online networks, we cannot guarantee the exercise of this most fundamental right."
Freepress.net, a project of Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund, operates the Save The Internet site.
I am sure that some readers are thinking, "I'll wait and see what new prices my ISP releases. If it's bad, then I'll complain." Well, you don't have to wait. East Buchanan Telephone Cooperative (EBTC), an ISP in Iowa, released two months ago a metered pricing scheme that looks a lot like your mobile phone bill:
You pay more for a faster connection and more for how much you download. Go over in usage and your monthly Internet bill goes up a lot higher. The new pricing has hit hard many residents, including students, elders, and people who work at home. Many people have already complained.
This metered pricing scheme is one view of a future without net neutrality. I see mostly bad news. The tiny bit of good news: this Iowa ISP isn't directing users (yet) to specific search engines, video, and/or media sites. Internet users should and must have the freedom to surf where they please. It is censorship if ISPs restrict users to specific search engines, media sites, and/or news sites; or block other sites. It is the "World Wide Web" and not the "ISP Selected Web."
The bad news I see:
- Metered pricing hits certain people hard, especially those on fixed incomes
- This pricing scheme included DSL which is at the slow end of the range of broadband speeds. It encourages other ISPs with faster broadband speeds to implement even higher prices
- The pricing scheme is designed for users to exceed the thresholds. Stream a couple movies and you've already maxed out the 5 GB limit.
- The pricing scheme doesn't reflect costs. Remember the marginal cost concept from economics in college? Since the ISP has already built out their system, it doesn't cost much to serve one subscriber one more movie after they have already served 1,000 other subscribers 8,000 movies during the past day. ISPs incur hardware costs more like a step or stairway function with hardware costs amortized over the useful life of the equipment. So, the pricing scheme maximizes revenues rather than reflect the ISP's costs.
- The pricing scheme is counter to consumers' reality. Visit any of the big-box chain stores and buy toilet paper. The more you buy, the less you pay per roll. ISP pricing should work the same way. The more you download, the less you pay per gigabyte download. (Banks and payment processors have tricked consumers similarly with per transaction costs never decrease with volume, but that is a discussion for another blog post.)
- The pricing scheme forces subscribers to subsidize other ISP businesses. The Independence Bulletin Journal reported, "... EBTC’s DSL and line of sight broadband customers appear to be subsidizing the cost of EBTC’s IPTV service, and that an argument could be made that this could be considered anticompetitive..."
- This metered pricing scheme presented absolutely no innovation, just price increases.
FCC Chairman Wheeler promised innovation. Where's the innovation? Where's the beef?
It looks like a big, fat zero to me.
What are your opinions of the Free Press letter? Of the FCC's actions regarding net neutrality? Of the metered pricing scheme by EBTC?