Congressional Democrats aren’t letting up on pressuring the FCC to preserve real net neutrality. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch, Vermont Democrats, held a standing-room-only field hearing on the issue last week, in which everyone who spoke opposed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s two-tiered internet approach. That includes Leahy and Welch. And on Tuesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) spoke at a Free Press event and made sure the audience understands what’s at stake in his fight.“It is absolutely the First Amendment issue of our time,” Franken said at a Capitol Hill forum sponsored by the advocacy group Free Press.(I suspect that’s the reaction Franken has to his Republican colleagues, on every issue.) The FCC has now received more than 625,000 emails and comments about net neutrality. Public comment on the current proposal by Wheeler for a two-tiered, pay-for-play internet ends next week, but the commission will accept responses on comments already made through mid-September, and won’t decide on the issue before the end of the year.
“Do we want deep-pocketed corporations controlling what information you get at what speed?” he added. […]
“This has been the architecture of the Internet from the beginning, and everyone should understand that,” he said.
“Some of my colleagues in the Congress don’t understand that. … You just want to go ‘Oh, come on,’ ” Franken said. “’Really, don’t get up and talk unless you know something.’”
If you haven’t already, send your comments supporting net neutrality. You can use the FCC comments page; the inbox they set up specifically for this issue, email@example.com; and with Daily Kos’s petition.
The FCC approved Thursday a controversial proposal that would let big Internet providers like Comcast charge for faster access.
Advocates on all sides of the net neutrality debate are gearing up for an intense battle for Internet freedom after the agency approved a controversial plan. After a 3-2 vote Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency would move forward with a set of rules that could make pay-for-faster Internet deals between websites or mobile applications and broadband companies more common. The public has until July 15 to comment on the rules, and activists are ready to make that window count.
The party-line decision led by Democrats came after weeks of demonstrations and debate on how the FCC should best protect the Internet and ensure open and free-flowing access. The two Republican commissioners who voted against the proposal would go further, eliminating any and all net neutrality rules on the grounds that they’re unnecessary. Last week, a group of nearly 200 tech companies and investors appealed to the FCC, urging that it not go forward with its fast-track plan. An online campaign led by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, spread across some corners of the Web where supporters posted a “Save the Internet” picture on their social media profiles. Verizon, AT&T and other broadband providers also petitioned the FCC this week, insisting Wheeler back off a proposal that could translate into stricter regulations for the companies. Protesters camped outside of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) headquarters in Washington, D.C. ahead of the decision.
Net neutrality defenders and opponents ultimately walked away from Thursday’s meeting with mixed feelings. “The Internet is a place of dialogue and interdependence, and [the FCC’s proposal] threatens that,” said Yoni Galiano, a 28-year-old massage therapist from Long Island, N.Y. who camped out in front of the FCC building for a week leading up to Thursday’s vote.
People can get their message out at little to no cost on the Internet, and the FCC’s pay-to-play model jeopardizes that, Rain Burroughs, an activist from Richmond, Va., who camped out and protested in front of the agency for three days before the hearing, told ThinkProgress. “We need the people to be aware of what’s at stake, it’s a First Amendment issue…This is how people communicate, especially activists,” she said.
The activists worry that the new rules may impede customer Web access by allowing Internet providers such as Comcast to control what kinds of content customers can get, and at what speed, through charging hefty fees to websites or mobile applications such as Netflix. As a result, even companies that do pay for priority access could pass those extra costs to consumers.
Thursday’s plan differs slightly from an earlier version released last month. Fast track plans would be permitted as long as broadband providers didn’t slow down customers’ connections they pay for every month. The FCC said it would also make sure any deals with Internet providers that promised fast-track access would be heavily scrutinized before they could be approved. Wheeler’s new plan, which was penned earlier this week, also offers an alternative in which the Internet would be treated as a common carrier or utility, similarly to electricity and water.
Broadband companies took major issue with the FCC’s plan, saying the common utility proposal that would subject them to crippling regulations. “For the FCC to impose 1930s utility regulation on the Internet would lead to years of legal and regulatory uncertainty and would jeopardize investment and innovation in broadband,” Verizon said in a statement. Comcast echoed the same sentiment, saying treating the Internet as a utility “would spark massive instability” and “kill jobs in America.”
The two Republican commissioners on the FCC board who voted against the plan also say the rules are unnecessary and should be scrapped altogether. “Prioritization is not a bad word,” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told the Wall Street Journal. “It is a necessary component of reasonable network management.”
Source: Lauren C. Williams for ThinkProgress
Within hours of the late night ban, #Twitterisblockedinturkey and #DictatorErdogan were trending in the country.
Twitter is investigating reports that the service was blocked in Turkey late Thursday after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned at a rally that he will “eradicate Twitter” and had a court order to do so.
“In the ongoing situation, Twitter has remained indifferent to remove certain links despite court orders favoring the citizens of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan’s office said in a statement published by the Turkish website Sabah and translated by Al Monitor. “We came to [the] conclusion that in order to relieve our citizens, there is no way left beyond blocking Twitter, which disregards court orders, does not obey the rule of law.”
At a daily press briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “As we have previously stated, we remain very concerned by any suggestion that social media sites could be shut down. Democracies are strengthened by the diversity of public voices.
“An independent and unfettered media is an essential element of democratic, open societies, and crucial to ensuring official transparency and accountability”
As the news spread, Twitter offered users a way to bypass the ban by tweeting via text message.
Twitter users in Turkey and abroad immediately shared information on how to bypass the ban via SMS and VPN. From inside Turkey,#TwitterIsBlockedInTurkey and #DictatorErdoganbegan to trend within hours.
Erdogan – who is currently fighting corruption allegations and waves of anti-government protests – has made repeated threats against social media users. Memes mocking the embattled Erdogan and his latest media crackdown also circulated widely.
Source: Miriam Berger for Buzzfeed
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Facebook and YouTube could be banned following local elections in March after leaked tapes of an alleged phone call between him and his son went viral, prompting calls for his resignation. Erdoğan claims social media sites have been abused by his political enemies, in particular his former ally US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who, he says, is behind a stream of “fabricated” audio recordings posted on the internet purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle. “We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook,” Erdoğan said in an interview late on Thursday with the Turkish broadcaster ATV…* The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.
Why, it was just yesterday that the FCC was moving to make changes in response to the strike down of Net Neutrality.WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. federal regulators will once again try to set rules that make sure broadband providers do not block or slow access to content on the Internet, or charge content providers like Netflix or Amazon for faster Web service.But it doesn’t take long for Republicans to move to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.
The Federal Communications Commission’s plan for new so-called “Net neutrality” rules comes a month after a U.S. court struck down their previous iteration, which was the second court’s rejection of the rules.Republicans are not happy about the administration’s plan to rewrite net-neutrality rules aimed at ensuring free and equal access to the Internet and will introduce a bill soon to block the effort.
The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that it plans to reinstate rules that would restrict Internet providers from blocking websites or charging sites like Netflix an extra fee for faster service. The announcement comes one month after a federal court struck down the commission’s net-neutrality rules but upheld its authority to regulate the Internet.
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Internet, Broadband and even media services. Time Warner and Comcast agree in principle to a merger which will impact about 70% of US customers.
Time Warner shows the power of it’s new merger by helping the customer out, to ease the way. Oh wait, no, they actually just raised rates. Effective March 1.Time Warner Cable is also starting to charge users a $2.25 “Broadcast TV” fee next month, which as we’ve been discussing is something most cable operators have been doing as a way to sneakily bury retransmission fee hikes from broadcasters in below the line fees.Contracts are good for TW, not so much for you, because TW can rewrite them at any time. Hell of a contract.
That allows cable operators to not only sock you twice for content (since such programming hikes generally should be included in the overall cost of business and the existing rate hikes), but it allows them to misleadingly leave advertised rates the same. It also lets them increase prices for users in price-guarantees or under contract.
As with most rate hikes, the notices are accompanied with the insistence that the hikes are about bringing you added “value,” and necessary because of all the great upgrades the companies have been busy with. Except in Time Warner Cable’s case those upgrades have been slow in coming, the company considerably slower than Comcast in deploying faster DOCSIS 3.0 speeds or new TV technologies.
But, with such trustworthy people now in charge of the majority of US internet access, there is nothing to fear, right?Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee will introduce legislation in the coming weeks to block what she calls the “socialistic” proposal.Ok, now technical, IT person me has to come to the table. I am puzzled by the assumption that ‘this prevents innovation’. What kind of innovation do they plan? Do they think a private ISP is suddenly going to roll out IPv6 only network? Would that be innovation? Or do they imagine a whole new technology will come about to make rates lower? Considering Republicans have made moves in states like the one I’m in (Kansas) to block anyone but cable companies from competing, I’m not sure how that plays out either.
"Federal control of the Internet will restrict our online freedom and leave Americans facing the same horrors that they have experienced with HealthCare.gov," Blackburn said in a statement.
Blackburn’s bill will likely be more symbolic than substantive, as was a bill introduced by Democrats in early February aimed at restoring net-neutrality rules. The Republican bill would not pass in the Senate, while the Democratic bill would never make it through the House. Rep. Anna Eshoo, author of the Democrats’ bill, recently admitted the bill had no chance of passing.
The effort also leaves the FCC sharply divided, with both Republican commissioners opposing the plan.
"Today’s announcement reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day," Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement. "I am skeptical that this effort will end any differently from the last."
Republicans have long said net-neutrality regulation stifles innovation and oversteps the FCC’s legal authority. Democrats welcomed the FCC announcement as an important step to protecting a “free and open Internet.”
The problem with Republicans on this issue is that they so badly misunderstand the technology that they cannot come up with a valid argument that does not sound hopelessly foolish. Saying ‘their should be innovation’, would be like me saying: We should stop regulating gasoline quality because it stifles innovation.
What Marsha Blackburn and Republicans can’t seem to get across is that fulfilling a standard of practice is not the same as a government take over, any more than requirements that a AT&T Phone user can call people on Verizon. Would it be innovative if AT&T offered a lower rate, but you could only call AT&T customers? Maybe, but AT&T can’t do that because the market confusion would be considerable, and people would end up paying more to get less.
As I’ve grown older, I have realized something. What we are missing in congress and Republicans isn’t education, degrees are no proof of intelligence and lack of degree is no sign that someone is unable to put forward a reasoned argument. No, what we are missing is the lack of critical thinking.
But I want to go back to her statement, here:“Federal control of the Internet will restrict our online freedom and leave Americans facing the same horrors that they have experienced with HealthCare.gov.”
Is she implying that ending net neutrality would allow ISPs the innovative practice of blocking access to government (.gov) websites? Is she now in favor of privately run firewalls that block out domains of those they don’t like, but specifically healthcare.gov? I’m trying to wonder what horrors HealthCare.Gov has in store to her that she has to block it out, in comparison to say the millions and millions of fetish porn sites?
Despite opposition from press freedom groups, Turkeys parliament approved a bill tightening control of Internet.
Author Tim Wu explains the importance of net neutrality on the Colbert Report. http://bit.ly/1fipYoz
A federal appeals court just struck down the FCC’s Open Internet Order protecting net neutrality—which means that companies like Verizon can now block or slow different websites if they want to.
This is a big deal. Here’s why it matters, and what can be done about it, via Free Press
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government’s latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content, a policy that supporters call net neutrality.
The Federal Communications Commission did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling.
"Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates," Judge David Tatel said.
Although the three judge panel were unanimous about the outcome, one wrote separately that he would have gone even further in restricting the FCC’s authority.
The FCC could appeal the ruling to the full appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, or it could attempt to rewrite the regulations to satisfy the appeals court.
During the oral argument in September, Verizon’s lawyer said the regulations violated the company’s right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.
The eventual outcome of the dispute may determine whether internet providers can restrict some content by, for instance, blocking or slowing down access to particular sites or charging websites to deliver their content faster.
The FCC had no immediate comment on the ruling. Verizon also had no immediate comment.
Over the last decade, net neutrality has increasingly made its way into public discourse: politicians on Capitol Hill have battled over it, corporations have worked to curb it and public interest advocates have fought to preserve it. In September, the fight to keep the Internet free and open found its way to the DC’s Circuit Court of Appeals, where Verizon is attempting to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s current net neutrality regulations. Verizon vs. FCC, which could be decided as soon as this month, is the latest and arguably most important battle to protect the Internet from censorship and discrimination. But what is net neutrality? And what could this case mean for the future of the Internet? We’ve put together this explainer to catch you up.
What is net neutrality?
Network neutrality, or net neutrality, is a term first coined by technology policy scholar Tim Wu to describe the preservation of online innovation by prohibiting companies from discriminating against some users and content, or prioritizing some content over others. It guarantees a level playing field in which Internet users do not have to pay Internet service providers more for better access to online content, and content generators do not have to pay additional fees to ensure users can access their websites or apps.
By the way, what is an Internet service provider?
An Internet service provider, or ISP, is a company or organization that sells you access to the Internet. These companies, like Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable or CenturyLink, do not own the Internet, they just provide the infrastructure needed to access it, like underground fiber optic cables. It’s a lot like how your local water company doesn’t actually own the water you use, they just own the water pipes.
Is net neutrality a new concept?
No. The first innovators of the Word Wide Web intended for Internet to be non-discriminatory and fair to all users. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, is a staunch supporter of net neutrality regulation and frequently makes public critiques of companies who aim to violate it.
Now, what happens without net neutrality?
Without net neutrality, your Internet service provider could block or slow online content, depending on which websites or apps they wish to preference. For example, an ISP might speed up your access to NBC.com, but slow or degrade your access to AlJazeera.com. They could also charge different prices for different content. An ISP might charge NBC.com more to host last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation than to feature an article about it. Internet service providers could also charge fees to Internet companies for providing that content to you. They might, for example, begin charging Netflix a fee for carrying online video over its network, which it likely will pass on along to its customers.
Has anyone in the US attempted to establish net neutrality rules?
Yes, the FCC issued an Internet policy statement in September 2005 that attempted to ensure ISPs “operated in a neutral manner” by offering consumers choice in content, providers and devices. But because it was merely a policy statement, it came with no enforceable rules. In 2006, Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska introduced a failed bill that would have prohibited ISPs from blocking traffic or applications. It would have also tasked the FCC with studying net neutrality for five years and handling net neutrality complaints.
What movement on net neutrality has happened since Obama took office?
The FCC shifted to the left after Obama’s 2008 campaign, which included a net neutrality platform. Obama appointed Julius Genachowski, a lawyer and media businessman who had previously served on the campaign’s technology policy working group, as the commission’s new chairman in 2009. With a new, more liberal chairman and a pro-net neutrality president in office, the FCC began the process of introducing net neutrality rules in October of 2009. In August of 2010, Google and Verizon released a joint policy proposal intended for the FCC as a framework for net neutrality rules, emphasizing self-regulation on broadband Internet. This proposal called for stricter net neutrality regulations on wired Internet services than on wireless Internet services and extremely limited regulation from the Commission. Four months later, in December 2010, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order by a 3-2 vote. The order, which instituted relatively light net neutrality rules, imposed stricter rules on wired Internet services and weaker rules on wireless services, just as the Google and Verizon proposal had suggested.
What are the rules in the FCC’s Open Internet Order?
Wired Internet service providers, like your broadband Internet at home, are prohibited from blocking content, must disclose their network management practices, terms and conditions and are prohibited from prioritizing some traffic over others. On the other hand, mobile broadband providers, like your cell phone carrier or wireless internet provider, are only required to disclose their network management practices and terms and conditions of their service. These orders fell short of public interest goals to protect consumers, as people are increasingly accessing the Internet via mobile devices. But they also extended too far for some conservative congress members and companies, like Verizon.
Why did Verizon take the FCC to court over net neutrality?
Shortly after the order was instituted in 2011, Verizon sued the FCC saying that the commission does not have regulatory authority to impose net neutrality rules on any Internet Service Provider. After two years of legal filings, oral arguments for Verizon vs. FCC began in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in September.
What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars? This nullification of our people’s right to direct expenditures is just one of the horror stories in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
This is a super-sized NAFTA, the 1994 trade scam rammed through Congress by the entire corporate establishment. NAFTA promised the “glories of globalization”: prosperity across our land. Unfortunately, corporations got the gold. We got the shaft — thousands of factories closed, millions of middle-class jobs went south, and the economies of hundreds of towns and cities were shattered.
Twenty years later, the gang that gave us NAFTA is back with the TPP, a “trade deal” that mostly does not deal with trade. Of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters! The other chapters amount to a devilish “partnership” for corporate protectionism:
—Food safety. Any of our government’s food safety regulations (on pesticide levels, bacterial contamination, fecal exposure, toxic additives, etc.) and food labeling laws (organic, country-of-origin, animal-welfare approved, GMO-free, etc.) that are stricter than “international standards” could be ruled as “illegal trade barriers.” Our government would then have to revise our consumer protections to comply with weaker standards.
—Fracking. Our Department of Energy would lose its authority to regulate exports of natural gas to any TPP nation. This would create an explosion of the destructive fracking process across our land, for both foreign and U.S. corporations could export fracked gas from America to member nations without any DOE review of the environmental and economic impacts on local communities — or on our national interests.
—Jobs. US corporations would get special foreign-investor protections to limit the cost and risk of relocating their factories to low-wage nations that sign onto this agreement. So, an American corporation thinking about moving a factory would know it is guaranteed a sweetheart deal if it moves operations to a TPP nation like Vietnam. This would be an incentive for corporate chieftains to export more of our middle-class jobs.
—Drug prices. Big Pharma would be given more years of monopoly pricing on each of their patents and be empowered to block distribution of cheaper generic drugs. Besides artificially keeping everyone’s prices high, this would be a death sentence to many people suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases in impoverished lands.
—Banksters. Wall Street and the financial giants in other TPP countries would make out like bandits. The deal explicitly prohibits transaction taxes (such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax here) that would shut down speculators who have repeatedly triggered financial crises and economic crashes around the world. It restricts “firewall” reforms that separate consumer banking from risky investment banking. It could roll back reforms that governments adopted to fix the extreme bank-deregulation regimen that caused Wall Street’s 2007 crash. And it provides an escape from national rules that would limit the size of “too-big-to-fail” behemoths.
—Internet freedom. Corporations hoping to lock up and monopolize the Internet failed in Congress last year to pass their repressive “Stop Online Piracy Act.” However, they’ve slipped SOPA’s most pernicious provisions into TPP. The deal would also transform Internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our “user activity,” arbitrarily take down our content and cut off our access to the Internet. To top that off, consumers could be assessed mandatory fines for something as benign as sending your mom a recipe you got off of a paid site.
—Public services. TPP rules would limit how governments regulate such public services as utilities, transportation and education — including restricting policies meant to ensure broad or universal access to those essential needs. One insidious rule says that member countries must open their service sectors to private competitors, which would allow the corporate provider to cherry-pick the profitable customers and sink the public service.
The biggest thing to come out of Texas may turn out to be a blow to Internet freedoms: legislators there are considering a bill that would compromise privacy on the Web for all residents of the Lone Star State.
It would appear that Rep. Mike Rogers, the main person in Congress pushing for CISPA, has kept rather quiet about a very direct conflict of interest that calls into serious question the entire bill. It would appear that Rogers’ wife stands to benefit quite a lot from the passage of CISPA, and has helped in the push to get the bill passed. It’s somewhat amazing that no one has really covered this part of the story, but it highlights, yet again, the kind of activities by folks in Congress that make the public trust Congress less and less.
It has seemed quite strange to see how strongly Rogers has been fighting for CISPA, refusing to even acknowledge the seriousness of the privacy concerns. At other times, he can’t even keep his own story straight about whether or not CISPA is about giving information to the NSA (hint: it is). And then there was the recent ridiculousness with him insisting that the only opposition to CISPA came from 14-year-old kids in their basement. Wrong and insulting.
Remember back in 2011, when Congress angered privacy advocates and Internet users by introducing legislation like SOPA and ACTA? When more concerns were raised as tech giants like Google fought back against federal law enforcement requests for emails? When, in 2012, Congress introduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which passed the House despite a veto threat from the White House, drawing criticism from privacy advocates?
Well, CISPA is back and completely unchanged from the original draft. And it’s this week’s topic for Underreported Story.
In conversation with The Hill, Representative Charles “Dutch” Ruppersberger stated that he intends to re-introduce the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act in 2013.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known to most as simply ‘CISPA,’ was a lighting rod bill in the House last year, leading to a contentious vote in the lower chamber, and a veto threat the President over privacy concerns. The final vote for the bill was rammed through so quickly that a half dozen of its co-sponsors did not vote for the law in the end.
CISPA passed the House 248 to 168. However, its lack of mandatory standards for critical infrastructure put it into a difficult spot, as the Senate majority was in favor of such standards. In the House they were, and likely remain, anathema. The political climate has shifted some since the last age of CISPA, but probably not enough to convince the House majority to vote in favor of increased regulation.
Naturally, the updated version of CISPA will attract heavy scrutiny when it is announced. That said, I’m not optimistic that it will have been reformed sufficiently to ensure proper privacy for the average United States citizen.
Clearly, there is a firm need for clear, strong cybersecurity legislation in the United States. This is universally agreed upon. However, after the Senate’sfailure on the larger issue, and the President’s apparent declination of issuing an executive order, to see the next round of legislative work originate in the House isn’t surprising But, as with the first version of CISPA before it, the House could trip out of the gate, and gum the wheels of progress.