Net neutrality –not so neutral

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) defines “Network neutrality—(as) the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services—is a principle that must be upheld to protect the future of our open Internet. It’s a principle that’s faced many threats over the years, such as ISPs forging packets to tamper with certain kinds of traffic or slowing down or even outright blocking protocols or applications.”

Watch News Segment Here

The neutrality of the Internet is a principle that’s faced many threats over the years, lately, there have been many big Internet providers trying to interfere with certain kinds of traffic, slowing down the speed or outright blocking content they do not like. But under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules all consumers require equal access to lawful content of their choice, and the FCC was supposed to ensure there were no gatekeepers deciding Internet content.

However, last week Congress passed a bill allowing Internet providers to gather personal information of its customers and to sell it to interested third parties. Simply put, the cable companies can now sell your personal information, like shopping or viewing habits, and they collect more revenue!

So is the government playing favorites?

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) believes in the free market economy and wrote an OPED for the Daily Signal saying Americans want to watch, listen, and play any video whenever they want, wherever they want, and for as long as they want. And customers don’t want to pay a fortune for the privilege to do so.

“For most of the history of the Internet, companies have been free to find innovative new ways to meet America’s insatiable demand for data. But progressive activists have never been comfortable with the unregulated nature of the Internet. They have always wanted government bureaucrats to have more control over how the Internet is managed. After President Barack Obama installed like-minded progressives on the FCC, the Commissioners realized those progressive dreams when they introduced the agency’s first “net neutrality” regulations, called the Open Internet Order of 2010,” Lee concluded.

Last week, President Trump’s new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai publicized that his staff would begin the process of repealing the 2015 Open Internet Order. “Going forward, we cannot stick with regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell.”

“Instead, we need rules that focus on growth and infrastructure investment, rules that expand high-speed internet access everywhere and give Americans more online choice, faster speeds and more innovation,” he explained.

For the moment, Pai’s decision to save the Internet from innovation-killing government regulations doesn’t mean a future administration could not change the Internet rules to suit their needs.

That is why Senator Lee introduced the ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Act’—“a bill that would nullify the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and prohibit the FCC from issuing a similar rule in the future. Congress should be the one setting telecommunications policy, not federal bureaucrats, and I look forward to engaging in this debate in the months ahead.”

Tech giant Oracle said in a statement: “Given these technical and economic realities, we applaud your leadership [over the FCC] in considering restoration of the ‘information services’ classification to broadband Internet access service.”

While partisanship keeps cable ratings high, Lee suggested there is a simple bipartisan fix. “Congress could easily pass a bipartisan law to make net neutrality permanent and put enforceable rules in place for good. Support for this approach is building on the left and right and FCC Chairman Pai has indicated it may provide the simplest path forward.”

Internet and privacy watchdog group EFF has been an outspoken critic for Internet issues and the unnecessary collection of metadata, LPR (License Plate Readers) readers as well as customer information that is sold to third parties for profit. The co-founder of Apple as well as EFF, Steve Wozniak, said the FCC was simply “squashing the little guy.”

Watchdogs explained that with the 2010 rules the FCC attempted to fight the new threats by introducing a new set of Open Internet rules. However, their efforts contained many legal and practical holes. By 2014, a legal challenge from Verizon overturned many rules and fired-up the FCC to draft new rules that will better serve consumers.

Lastly in a letter to the FCC: EFF said: “the goal of the FCC is to effectively hand over the future of the Internet to the cable and telephone industry and abandon its duty to protect the public interest, we ask that you oppose such a plan.”

Once public comments were requested, millions of consumers weighed in with their concerns and demanded the FCC ensure that net neutrality was done right. Many of the respondents asked the FCC to issue rules that would hold up in court.

After intense public activism, the FCC finally created rules that EFF supports “in part because, in addition to the bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic, they include strict ‘forbearance’ restrictions on what the FCC can do without holding another rulemaking.”

“There’s no silver bullet for net neutrality. The FCC order plays a role by forbidding ISPs from meddling with traffic in certain ways. But transparency is also a key (factor): ISPs must be open about how traffic is managed over their networks in order for both users and the FCC to know when there’s a problem. Local governments can also play a crucial role by supporting competitive municipal and community networks. When users can vote with their feet, service providers have a strong incentive not to act in non-neutral ways,” EFF said in a statement online. “We want the Internet to live up to its promise, (of) fostering innovation, creativity, and freedom. We don’t want regulations that will turn ISPs into gatekeepers, making special deals with a few companies and inhibiting new competition, innovation and expression.”

But an approach that censors, prioritizes content, and favors one class of users over another is not only unworkable as a practical and legal matter; it would be devastating for Internet freedom, economic opportunity, and innovation. We wouldn’t put the fox in the hen house… or would we?

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