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Republicans Waste No Time Moving Against Net Neutrality

January 10, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t have a great record when it comes to protecting net neutrality, but they’re still our best line of defense against a telecom industry that’s hell-bent on creating a tiered internet that restricts how people who can’t afford premium access can use the web. Republicans in the House, however, are looking to take the FCC off the beat entirely and leave all decisions concerning fairness and access on the internet up to the telecoms and Congress.

On the first day of the new session of Congress Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R, TN-7] introduced H.R.96, a bill designed to “prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet.” The full text hasn’t been made public yet, but a version of the bill she introduced last year stated, “In General – The Federal Communications Commission shall not propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services.” According to a release from Blackburn’s office, the new version would set up a judicial repeal of the FCC’s 12/2010 rules (PDF) by adding new language stating that regulation of the internet is Congress’s business and no one else’s.

The problem, of course, with counting on Congress to create rules to protect internet freedom is that the corporations who stand to benefit from a tiered internet have enormous influence on the Hill in the forms of campaign money and lobbying. “More than half of the US congress will do pretty much whatever the phone and cable companies ask them to,” said FreePress President Josh Silver back when Google and Verizon came out as a tag-team against neutrality. “Add the clout of Google, and you have near-complete control of Capitol Hill.”

Undoing net neutrality protections and deregulating the internet is not a pet position of Blackburn’s, it is the mainstream position of the Republican party. Blackburn’s bill already has 62 co-sponsors, including one Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren [D, OK-2], and all but two Republican members of the Committee on Education and Commerce that it has been referred to. There is really nothing that can stop this from passing the House. Obviously, it will have a more trouble in the Senate, which is still led by Democrats, and it almost certainly would be vetoed by Obama if somehow it did clear Congress, but the growing energy around this approach shows what the future of internet regulation looks like if the Republicans gain more control of the legislative process in the future.

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  • VahidThaneEichenauer 01/10/2011 12:10pm

    Freedom from unwarranted and unwanted regulation. What a backward idea. Given the tens – no hundreds – no thousands – no millions of people who have been grievously harmed by their internet providers I am not the least surprised that the regulate first lobby has jumped into the fray advocating for Net Neutrality.

    How hundreds of millions of people ever managed to download the home page and watch videos before the FCC decided to stick its nose into the internet is a complete mystery to me.

    Barack Obama very well may veto such a bill given Ex Google lobbyist Andrew McLaughlin employment with the current administration.

    Given enough competition I have no need to worry that I am going to wait 30 seconds for my home page to arrive. Net Neutrality is a problem in search of a government solution. All I ask of the FCC is for it to leave me and my ISP alone.

  • luminous 01/10/2011 5:44pm

    Net neutrality(common carrier for the internet) is an important part of how the internet works.

    However I am willing to compromise, when the internet providers agree to surrender the legal protections of common carrier then we can end Net neutrality.

    I am absolutely against the internet providers getting the protections of common carrier without the burden of neutrality and ignorance of carried package that goes with it.

    If they get to open my letters(packets) and read the contents to determine rather or not they want to carrier them or choose to place them into a slow lane. Then they should be partly responsible for the transport of any illegal content within those letters(packets) given the fact they opened them and are aware of their contents.

    Common carrier/net neutrality is a trade, they can dump it but they sure as hell better accept the liability related to not having it.

  • Comm_reply
    LucasFoxx 01/11/2011 5:32pm

    Somewhat along the same lines, I’m not half serious when I say we should look to existing US code for direction on this:

    U.S.C. TITLE 47§ 10
    “such Internet and Broadband Providers, …, shall so operate their respective access points as to afford equal facilities to all, without discrimination in favor of or against any person, company, or corporation whatever, and shall receive, deliver, and exchange business with connecting Providers on equal terms, and affording equal facilities, and without discrimination for or against any one of such connecting lines; and such exchange of business shall be on terms just and equitable.”

  • Comm_reply
    LucasFoxx 01/11/2011 5:34pm

    TITLE 47§ 11
    “If any ISP … or company operating such internet traffic shall refuse or fail, in whole or in part, to maintain, and operate as provided herein, for the use of the Government or the public, for commercial and other purposes, without discrimination, or shall refuse or fail to make or continue such arrangements for the interchange of business with any connecting ISP, then any person, company, corporation, or connecting company may apply for relief to the FCC, whose duty it shall thereupon be, … (to) determine and order what arrangement is proper to be made in the particular case, and the ISP concerned shall abide by and perform such order; and it shall be the duty of the FCC, … (to) enforce the same…”

  • Moderated Comment

  • Moderated Comment

  • kdozier 01/11/2011 5:45am

    Can the author please give an example of an internet provider “hell-bent on creating a tiered internet”. Are people being shut out of the internet? Who and where? I have not experienced this. What is the problem that needs to be solved?

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 01/11/2011 8:43am

    “How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?”
    — AT&T CEO Edward Whitacre 11/07/05

    He is talking about Google, and the basis of his comment is utter nonsense, Google pays handsomely to their ISP who pays to connect to a network provider who pays to connect to at&t who’s customers pay to connect to in order to receive content from Google.

  • luminous 01/11/2011 8:43am

    What the telco’s want to get away with is charging Google for being allowed to reach customers connected from their network. Never mind the inter connect agreements of the network provider and the money Google already pays to their internet provider, the Telco’s want their cake and your cake and to eat both of them to.

  • Comm_reply
    VahidThaneEichenauer 01/12/2011 10:12am

    Any given ISP (telco or otherwise) should be left alone. If Qwest should wish to charge Google let it do so. If Qwest charges too much Google is fully able to tell Qwest to take a hike. If a Qwest customer wishes to provide an internet such that you can’t get good access to Google that is up to the company and the customers who choose to patronize Qwest.

    When it comes to behemoth vs. behemoth the best society can do it to keep government from having a hand in jiggering the playing field. The best a customer can do is keep himself informed on the issues and ask himself if he is happy with the product he is receiving.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 01/13/2011 8:16am

    Your not really listening are you!, I don’t get the vote with my wallet option, I either have Qwest on any terms they force on me or I have nothing.

    Everyone is pretty much in the same boat, yea a few can use services from their cable company, but for business class services cable networks do poorly. At best you have 2 choices.

    We here in Utah have wised up on this, 11 cities banded together and created, The local city governments got involved and now in many area’s around here(not mine yet =-( ) you can choose between 13 providers on ultra fast 100mbit or 1gbit fiber. A bit of government went a long way here.

    Clearly the city governments in Utah’s case have created a better market place with more competition.

  • Judd 01/11/2011 2:35pm

    This is my article against the new FCC Net Neutrality regulations. It’s getting a lot of attention. Thoughts?

  • Comm_reply
    kdozier 01/12/2011 6:41am

    So they want to, but they’re not. What’s stopping them?

  • BrettGlass 01/11/2011 3:48pm

    This article gets off on the wrong foot in the very first sentence, which claims that ISPs are “hell-bent on creating a tiered internet that restricts how people who can’t afford premium access can use the web.” Total nonsense, and a slander upon me and my industry. The author has blown his credibility before he even begins. The rest ofthe article is equally biased and inaccurate.

  • luminous 01/11/2011 3:57pm

    Their was actually a time when the internet was not neutral, the good old days of America online, Prodigy, several over short lived services. what made the Internet neutral was the shear growth rate of competitive service providers in the days of dialup internet access. Because dialup access enabled you to use your phone line to connect to any provider the benefit from having closed networks quickly disappeared to the companies running them.

    The Telco’s hated this, and the 1996 telcom act enabled CLEC’s to exist leading to isp’s running their own dslams to run DSL service. Earthlink and covad and an alphabet soup of competitive providers grow out of this, which continued to prevent closed networks from being successful again.

  • luminous 01/11/2011 3:57pm

    Well the Telco’s hated this, so they lied and cheated to gain the ability to not have to share their fiber lines with the CLECS never mind all of the public money that is going into building them or the USF which they gorge themselves on at tax payer expense, so using “fiber” service installs the free market crumbled before them and ISP’s where slaughter on mass. Now most people have only two providers, the telephone company and the cable company, The stage is now set for the return of the closed network if we are dumb enough to allow it.

    Its not really possible for more then the 2 networks to be build on top of each other, and we only have 2 because of economic conditions created by cable tv’s growth before the telephone companies had enough bandwidth to offer that service as well. This is a natural monopoly and a basic utility service and should be regulated as such.

  • Comm_reply
    VahidThaneEichenauer 01/12/2011 10:15am

    I have a hard time swallowing the line that any given telco is a monopoly so long as the area is served by a cable provider. The justification for monopoly regulation of telephone companies is stale in this day and age.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 01/12/2011 5:18pm

    Well technically it is a duopoly, Where I live(Utah) I can choose between dialup service offered by many different people, Qwest FTTN which you only provider option is and Comcast which the only provider to choose from is Comcast.

    I used to be a Xmission customer receiving 1.5meg dsl from them with qwest as the line provider, But after the fiber line rules where change Qwest swapped all of the dslams in my area out for FTTN based adsl2 service. Qwest doesn’t sell FTTN services to third parties and forced my to change my isp taking away my ability to vote with my dollars, aka they ended the free market via private means.

    Comcast service can’t serve my needs given the limitations of their network design( no guaranteed uptimes, random throttling, excessive “network management”, vastly oversold, etc).

    Luckily here in Utah we got smart and the municipalities of 11 cities have banded together to create a city ran fiber network, not in my area yet tho.

  • AmericanIam 01/15/2011 4:30pm

    “Undoing net neutrality protections and deregulating the internet is not a pet position of Blackburn’s, it is the mainstream position of the Republican party.”

    Why? Because we know how power hungry the FCC is…we know they would NEVER stop with this. This would be the beginning, an opening for an infringement on free market capitalism as never seen before, and on individual rights. And it’s not up to them to regulate the internet. The FREE MARKET will keep things competitive, and there will be problems that will be worked out without govt interference.

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