Things seem to be happening regarding open Internet rules or "Net Neutrality." On Wednesday May 7, 2014, 150 technology companies sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to keep open Internet rules. The letter was sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (Adobe PDF) several FCC commissioners. It read in part:
"We write to express our support for a free and open internet. Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users... According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet. Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low."
Several notable companies signed the letter including Amazon, Dropbox, Ebay, Facebook, Gawker, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Twitter, Vonage, and Yahoo. I did not see Apple Computer on the list of companies that signed the letter.
Several venture capitalists have said that the FCC's fast/slow-lanes broadband proposal is already having a negative impact upon business. Start-up executives are forced to raise more money than otherwise because ISPs are already charging fees. This will cause some new ventures to not receive funding (e.g., fewer jobs), and/or venture capitalists shift their funding to other businesses away from Internet/tech. Both impacts are not good for a country serious about maintaing leadership in tech and Internet industries.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported:
"A Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission called Wednesday on the agency's chairman to delay a proposal for new net neutrality rules, throwing into doubt whether the chairman will be able to muster enough votes at an F.C.C. meeting next week to issue proposed rules. Jessica Rosenworcel, one of three Democrats on the five-member commission, said in a speech Wednesday that a delay was warranted because of a "torrent of public response" to the idea that the commission's rules might create a fast lane on the Internet for companies willing to pay for it."
"FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to allow paid Internet ‘fast lanes’ is quickly losing support as more than 100 technology companies sign on to save the current net neutrality law. “The cracks are beginning to show in Chairman Wheeler’s plan that would undermine net neutrality,” said president of public policy group, Free Press, Craig Aaron, in a statement."
So, 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.
- 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.