This article originally appeared in the 11.13.14 issue of Metroland
Did anybody see this coming?
In the aftermath of the disastrous mid-term elections, leaving us
ashamed of our country and fearful of the future, President Obama issued a
startling call for pure, clean net neutrality.
of you not playing the home game, a court decision several years ago rearranged
the Federal Communication Commission’s presumed jurisdiction over the internet,
leaving the web subject to the whims of the several monstrous corporations that
control our access to it.
have been disastrous. We have some of the slowest and most expensive internet
services in the civilized world.
Broadband comes to us through two lightly-regulated duopolies: cable
(Comcast and Time Warner) and wireless (AT&T and Verizon). These duopolies
are squeezing us dry, providing crap service, and shaking down big users like
Netflix for preferential treatment, which has the double whammy effect of
driving up Netflix prices while making it all but impossible for any Netflix
competitor that can’t afford the bribes to compete.
The FCC has
been considering its reaction to the emasculating court decision.
The simplest fix is for the FCC to simply
reclassify the internet as a “telecommunications service” and a “common
carrier” like it does with telephones.
But the FCC has been wavering on this, afraid of being sued again by the
likes of Verizon and Comcast.
the FCC has been floating trial balloons for various measures that fall short
of what’s called “Title II classification”, none of which would prevent
internet service providers from favoring some customers at the expense of
Over the past several months,
the FCC has received an unprecedented 4 million messages from consumers,
demanding that it do the right thing.
House has been equivocating, saying a lot nice sounding things laced with what
we in the legal business call “weasel words” that can be interpreted all kinds
of ways, rendering the White House statements meaningless.
On Monday, Obama called for the FCC
to reclassify the internet as a Title II common carrier, which would allow the
FCC to bar ISPs from blocking, speeding up, or slowing down particular internet
Remarkably specific and wonky,
Obama also suggested that the FCC “forbear” on various Title II regulations
that don’t neatly apply to the internet.
It calls for a level playing field
for anyone using the internet.
And while it wouldn’t
immediately cure all of our internet ills (things like universal service and
data caps still need to be addressed), Obama has for once put himself in the
voice-of-the-people position, the position he campaigned on, and is standing up
to the corporate behemoths who would otherwise hijack the internet and a big
chunk of our future.
reactions to Obama’s statement have been all too predictable and
It’s the sound of money
The ISPs trotted out the same
tired arguments that Title II classification was overbearing “government
regulation” that would inhibit investment and innovation and competition.
Never mind that these companies’ investment
in the internet drastically declined over the past five years and that
innovation likewise slowed as a result.
Because there is no real
competition in the internet service industry!
Never mind that these
companies have delivered to us a level of internet service that is the laughing
stock of the rest of the world.
are the paid whores masquerading as elected officials and policy experts.
Some phony business analyst at Fox News used
the word “Orwellian”.
Ted Cruz, who has
reeled in a ton of campaign money from Comcast, etc., got headlines saying that
net neutrality is the “Obamacare of the internet.”
Which, if we didn’t already know it, reveals
Ted Cruz as a lying, pathetic, pandering, cowardly, racist, fascist little
douchebag, an embarrassment to us all.
Well, we wait for the FCC
to issue a ruling, which may happen in December.
The FCC is an independent agency, so Obama’s
prodding only goes so far.
“independent” is a relative term.
Wheeler is the chairman of the FCC, but he is the former chief lobbyist for
cable and wireless industry, a position currently held by Michael Powell, a former
See how that works?
who has been alternatively strident and spineless through this debate, is
reportedly skeptical of Title II classification and wants everyone to know that
the FCC is independent and can make up its own mind about these things.
The latest is that he’s considering a hybrid
plan that will deem the internet as a Title II telecommunication service in its
dealings with content providers, but keep it virtually unregulated in its
dealings with consumers.
Which is a
puzzling position for a guy who’s afraid of getting sued.
And it’s another way of saying “OK, we’ll
protect the corporations with regulations, but you little people?
You’re on your own.”
Paul Rapp is a local
IP and art and entertainment attorney who is getting ready to renew his call
for the northeastern United States to secede from the Union. And to take Austin, Texas, Asheville, North
Carolina and New Orleans along with it.