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Understanding the Net Neutrality Debate | Linguistic Shenanigans, Net Neutrality | The Tired Donkey

The Tired Donkey

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The Tired Donkey blogs about cocktails, ways to get the most out of your Mac at home, work, college . . . wherever. He used to write about the unending abuse suffered by the 51% of Americans who actually pay the federal income tax. But this became too depressing, and, frankly, no one wanted to read it.

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Understanding the Net Neutrality Debate



AlexRossSuperman
The Tired Donkey cares deeply about having unfettered access to the internet. You should too. If you have grown weary of all the network neutrality blather dribbling out of Washington over the past few years, the Tired Donkey understands. It is, after all, a topic that provokes great passion in a small group and eyes glazed like a Krispy Kreme doughnut in everyone else. But now is the time to pay attention, and the Tired Donkey provides you with both background and information about why you should give a damn below; in fact, he is so serious about this subject that he even breaks into first-person prose. That’s serious. If you love the internet, read the rest of this post. Then do something about it.
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In the wake of the DC Circuit’s decision in April, 2010, in the Comcast v. FCC case, the giant corporations that control our access to the internet launched a massive disinformation campaign designed to change the very nature of what the term “net neutrality” means. It’s time to clear the air.

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First, a little background. In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission fined Comcast for secretly preventing their broadband customers from accessing several peer-to-peer Internet services (and then lying about it). Comcast sued, claiming the FCC lacked the authority to prevent it from restricting customer access to whatever websites Comcast didn’t like. On April 6, the DC Circuit agreed.

So where does this leave us as consumers? Imagine for a moment a world in which you lease the functioning of your eyes and ears from
Blind-Man
massive corporations. These corporations charge newspapers, television stations, radio stations, bloggers, food producers and every other entity that wants to communicate with you for access to your senses.

If you’re in the grocery story and Kraft decided not to pay off your corporate sense-provider, you can’t see any Kraft products on the shelves. Like a certain indie rock band? You’ll just hear silence when their songs are playing unless their record company anted up. And that big blank spot in your newspaper? It’s there because it contains a story criticizing your corporate sense-provider.

Sound crazy? It shouldn’t. That’s where the
Comcast decision leaves us. The Internet itself is still out there in all it’s glorious confusion, but it’s now entirely legal for Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and every other ISP to let you visit only those sites they want you to visit.

Get your internet from AT&T and interested in looking at Verizon’s cellular offerings? Good luck. Want to access non-NBC programming on the web over your Comcast connection? Ditto. In fact, in early April an ISP with more than a million customers, Windstream Communications,
hijacked all search queries initiated via a Firefox browser and redirected those queries to a Windstream-owned
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search engine. Prefer to use Google? Too bad.

Of course, we’re not yet in the 1984-like world described above because the massive ISPs don’t have the comfort of having the Comcast decision enshrined in law. But they’re working on it. Just last week Verizon and Google announced a joint proposal for legislation that would preserve what they describe as “net neutrality.” But don’t be fooled because their “net neutrality” is not our net neutrality.

Net neutrality, as most people understand it, means something quite simple: I pay for my internet access and my ISP lets me surf wherever I want with no interference. No website can pay my ISP for preferred access to my eyes and no website gets blocked based on the content they want to present to me. But that’s not the Verizon-Google formulation of net neutrality because (i) their definition gives ISPs the right to create “additional online services” that prioritize traffic in any way they want to prioritize it, and (ii) their vision of network neutrality doesn’t apply at all to internet access you get wirelessly. How long will it be before every service becomes either an “additional online service” or available via wireless only? Not long.
If you want an exception to swallow a rule in one gulp, give companies with annual revenues larger than the yearly budget of most countries a good incentive to swallow.

The FCC is in a tough spot. Chairman Genachowski has made it absolutely clear that the FCC is committed to
Genachowski
protecting your right to access whatever you want on the web. But the Comcast decision makes that impossible absent either Congressional action or a reclassification of broadband access as a Title II service under the FCC rules. The AT&Ts, Verizons, Googles and Comcasts of the world want to turn things over to Congress where they spent nearly $160 million on lobbying in 2009 alone. But the FCC has the power to protect all of us simply by using their existing statutory authority to reclassify broadband access as a Title II service, and we should be urging them to do just that.

The massive ISPs know this, of course, and this is where the disinformation comes in: they want you to believe that the FCC’s efforts to protect your right to access whatever you want on the Internet is the same as regulating the Internet itself. It’s a linguistic shell game, and none of us should fall for it. Let’s take a look:

Verizon VP Tom Tauke claims “we can both protect consumers and competition” by creating new rules “to ensure a vibrant Internet
jabberwocky
Ecosystem.” Of course, he says, “this is a job for Congress.”

AT&T EVP Jim Cicconi chimes in: "If there are questions about the authority of the FCC in the Internet ecosystem,” those questions “should properly be referred to the Congress for resolution."

What do these quotes have in common? Instead of talking about what is actually going on at the FCC—a concerted effort to protect your right to access the
whole Internet—Mssrs. Tauke and Cicconi give us the grand and amorphous phrase “Internet ecosystem” in an effort to convince us that this simple, straight-forward topic is so complex and fraught with danger that only Congress can tackle it. It’s not.

So don’t let the giant corporations fool you. They don’t want complete control over all Internet access points because they want to maximize your surfing experience. They want control so they can maximize shareholder profits. It’s a noble goal. But it’s not always compatible with the public good.

If you, like me, want continued access to everything available on the free-wheeling
autobahn the Internet has always been, tell the FCC. It’s time for them to take action to protect our Internet on-ramps so we don’t become victims of the highway robbers waiting there to prey on us. Do you really want Comcast to have the power to tell you what you can and can’t read?
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“Thanks,Tired Donkey,” you may be thinking, “but what the hell am I supposed to do about it?” Good question (even if the minor profanity was a little uncalled for). The Tired Donkey will tell you: let our FCC Commissioners know you want them to take the steps necessary to keep our ISPs honest. You may think your voice doesn’t make any difference, but you are wrong. So send them an email:

Chairman Julius Genachowski: Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov
Commissioner Meredith Baker: Meredith.Baker@fcc.gov

And what should you say to them? Whatever you think is best. The Tired Donkey suggests something along these lines: “I really appreciate the FCC’s ongoing efforts to preserve the diversity and competitiveness of the Internet by protecting its authority to regulate the shenanigans that ISPs get into from time to time. In keeping with this, please take the steps necessary to reclassify internet access as a Title II service. And please do it soon. The Internet needs you.”

The Tired Donkey

Sitting Donkey
The Tired Donkey blogs about cocktails, ways to get the most out of your Mac at home, work, college . . . wherever. He used to write about the unending abuse suffered by the 51% of Americans who actually pay the federal income tax. But this became too depressing, and, frankly, no one wanted to read it.

Nevertheless, if you came here looking for the Tired Donkey's brilliant analysis of our dim-witted tax system, you can still find his earlier posts. Just check the archives or the
Site Map.

Note: The Tired Donkey is not advertiser supported, and he gets no benefit from any product mentioned on his site.

The Tired Donkey

Archives