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It's Not Too Late. Contact The FCC Today About Net Neutrality

Federal communications Commission logo Today, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is meeting met to discuss rulemaking about the future of the Internet and the agency's policy about net neutrality. Many experts believe the FCC is trying to kill net neutrality100 technology companies sent a letter on May 7 to the FCC asking it to keep net neutrality.

Today, the FCC released this Fact Sheet. It starts a four-month period of seeking comments from the public:

"Since February, tens of thousands of Americans have offered their views to the Commission on how to protect an Open Internet. The proposal reflects the substantial public input we have received. The Commission wants to continue to hear from Americans across the country throughout this process. An extended four-month public comment period on the Commission’s proposal will be opened on May 15 – 60 days (until July 15) to submit initial comments and another 57 days (until September 10) for reply comments."

The Fact Sheet also stated:

"This Notice seeks public comment on the benefits of applying Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Title II of the Communications Act, including the benefits of one approach over the other, to ensure the Internet remains an open platform for innovation and expression. While the Notice reflects a tentative conclusion that Section 706 presents the quickest and most resilient path forward..."

Let's decode this legalese. Section 706 refers to the current classification of broadband as an "information service," meaning slow and fast lanes are allowed, as said by the courts. Title II refers re-classifying broadband as a telecommunications service (e.g., utility), which allows the FCC to enforce strict net neutrality as we've all known the Internet to be until now.

The phrase "quickest and most resilient path forward" probably refers to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's preference not to re-classify broadband as a telecommunications service, and avoid a long political battle as the corporate Internet service providers and their lobbyists have threatened. Reclassification would allow the FCC to enforce strict net neutrality and prohibit the ISPs from charging both fees to certain website operators (e.g., Netflix and others) and higher fees to consumers for "fast lane" Internet access, while relegating website operators that don't pay the fees to the "slow lane."

If you want to learn more, read this analysis by the Center For Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. What the FCC Fact Sheet omits is the fact the FCC first classified broadband as an "information service" in 2002, after President George W. Bush had appointed Michael Powell as FCC Chairman in 2001. Before President Obama appointed Wheeler as FCC Chairman, Wheeler served as an industry lobbyist.

So, it is not too late for consumers to do their part and contact the FCC. You have several options:

  1. The offical FCC Electronic Comment Filing system for comments between now and July 15
  2. The official FCC e-mail address for comments. It's probably best to include either Proceeding Number 14-28 or 09-191 with your e-mail comments and the subject line (although the FCC should have clarified these instructions)
  3. Write via postal mail: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554
  4. Call the FCC at: 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322)
  5. The form at Dear FCC.org created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  6. The form at U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' website (I-Vermont)
  7. Petitions: U.S. Senator Markey (D-Massachusetts), MoveOn, Credo Action, Daily Kos, Bold Progressives, and the White House

Of course, you should also contact your elected officials. There are demonstrations today in several cities near FCC offices. What to tell the FCC? That's your choice. A good first step is to read the FCC's May 15 Fact Sheet, so you submit comments that are brief, relevant and specific to each Proceeding Number, when using method #1 above.

Also, I suggest:

  • To keep Net Neutrality; real Net Neutrality not the fake Net Neutrality in the latest policy proposed by FCC Chairman Wheeler.
  • The healthiest democracy possible, with everyone having access to information.
  • To keep the freedom to choose the websites you visit, and not lose that freedom when ISPs choose (like they do currently with cable TV).
  • The FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility (e.g., telecommunications).
  • Real broadband competition everywhere, not the fake competition where the corporate ISPs have gentleman's agreements that divided up the country so cable never competes against fiber. That also includes stopping the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable
  • Local prohibitions removed so local governments and their residents can develop broadband utilities, if they choose. Local governments should have the same freedoms as corporate ISPs. This increases competition and will (hopefully) lower broadband prices.
  • Everyone to have broadband at the lowest prices possible: for education and schools, to create jobs, and to encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses.

If you attended one of today's demonstrations, please share your experiences  and observations below.

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