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Why The FCC Is Trying To Kill "Net Neutrality"

Federal communications Commission logo If you haven't read it, there is an excellent analysis at the Mother Jones website that explains why the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under Chairman Tom Wheeler's leadership, is trying to kill net neutrality. Josh Harkinson's excellent analysis is also available at BillMoyers.com.

Harkinson explained all of the details: the FCC history, Wheeler's history, and the trail of cash. Basically, lobbyists have shown Congressional politicians and the FCC the money... huge amounts of money. So, rather than listen to citizens and voters, the agency seems ready to cave into corporate lobbyists' interests:

"Could a handful of powerful companies really matter more to the commission than pretty much everybody else who uses the internet?... Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would propose new rules allowing companies like Netflix or Google to pay internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon or Comcast for faster data lanes to deliver video and other content to their customers. In other words, the FCC was proposing to replace net neutrality—the egalitarian internet that we all know—with a pay-to-play platform designed to favor the biggest and richest players."

A handful of corporations, Internet service providers (ISP), are trying to change the open Internet rules for their sole benefit and higher profits with a fast lane for the Internet:

"... an onslaught of lobbying by ISPs. By then their main trade group, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), was spending about 95 times more money lobbying the FCC than the Internet Association, which represents the tech companies that favor net neutrality."

This situation highlights that money, not your votes, matters. I like how Harkinson's analysis explains Internet speed. For the past 16 years, I've built many websites in a variety of industries: telecommunications, banking, consumer packaged goods, health care, pharmaceuticals, travel, and higher education. Harkinson's chart is consistent with usability principles I used to guide website development. Speed matters. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or doesn't understand. Slow access will kill a website usage: new users and returning users. (This is one reason why spammers and hackers use DDoS attacks, which make targeted sites slow or unavailable.) When pages load slowly, website visitors go elsewhere.

Last week, more than 100 tech companies sent a letter to the FCC demanding it keep open Internet rules. While Google signed that letter, Harkinson explained that it is no saint:

"Proponents of net neutrality, also known as the open internet, fear that allowing a fast lane on the web would hurt startups, nonprofits, activists, and anyone else who couldn't afford to pay the toll. Bigger tech companies such as Google also tend to favor net neutrality, though sometimes more for the sake of public relations than principle."

Consumers: your opinion matters! You can make a difference. If you haven't done so already, contact your elected officials today. Write directly to the FCC. Consumers can also submit comments to the FCC through Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-Vermont) website.

After contacting your elected officials, then sign a few petitions: Senator Markey, MoveOn, Credo Action, Daily Kos, Bold Progressives, and the White House. During the coming days or weeks, participate in local protests in your city or town. Tell them you want:

  • 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 gentlemen'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.


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