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Trampling on Fundamental Freedoms — Ending Net Neutrality


Net Neutrality — Freedom of Information

The issue of net neutrality discouragingly has devolved into death threats. A 28-year-old man faces criminal charges for allegedly saying he will kill Rep. John Katko if the New York Republican supports the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on rolling back the rules that enable a free and open Internet.

Patrick Angelo, of Syracuse, N.Y., was arrested and already made a court appearance, at which the federal prosecutors presented evidence that a threatening message was left on Katko’s voicemail stating, “Listen, Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family, and I will kill…you…all. Do you understand?”

Clearly not an appropriate message that any of us could support. But, the alarming emotional fervor conjured by the issue of net neutrality should communicate to the FCC and members of Congress the gravity of their vote Dec. 14, 2017, to change the way the Web works.

Why do people feel so strongly about net neutrality? It is essentially about the freedom of information on the internet. A philosophy much akin to,” Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Many argue that in the larger picture, net neutrality is in its very being as important as the defense of the United States; free speech; and is the foundational freedom for a new society.

As early as 2007, President Obama said this about net neutrality:

“I am a strong supporter of net neutrality … What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites … And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

The FCC has been hit with violent protests in the month leading up to the vote, with Chairman Ajit Pai becoming a top target. Pai saw signs in front of his home that made claim Pai would go down in history as the man who “…murdered democracy in cold blood.”

Pai (who used to be one of Verizon’s corporate lawyers) wants to repeal regulations put into place two years ago by President Obama that mandate Internet service providers (ISPs) to equally and fairly stream content. The goal of net neutrality is to prevent ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up their apps and services and slowing down their competitors’.

“But Pai argues the rules discourage the ISPs from making investments in their network that would provide even better and faster online access,” states an article on Fox News titled “FCC chairman blasts net neutrality activists ‘harassing us’ at home.”

So, is Pai and the administration correct that the current open, free, form of net neutrality somehow negatively affects “…even better and faster online access”?

No. The goliaths of industry want a monopoly built on their ability to overpower smaller competitors. They want to get a stranglehold on the internet much like the powerful grip they posses over the “hard copy” world. The one place where a small start-up company can leverage the power of marketing and stand on more level ground with power house competitors is the internet.

Unfortunately, the five-member FCC is expected to cast at 3-2 vote in favor of the repeal.

That would be a mistake. That would be an insult to consumers across the country. That would be a step toward censorship. That would be like the founding fathers deciding that abridging free speech and a free press was a good idea. This is a battle that, couched in earlier history, would be about the freedom to publish and print.

Even technology companies such as, Google, DropBox, Facebook, NetFlix, Twitter and others, oppose the move:

“The Internet should be competitive and open,” Google said in an early statement on the issue. “That means no Internet access provider should block or degrade Internet traffic, nor should they sell ‘fast lanes’ that prioritize particular internet services over others. These rules should apply regardless of whether you’re accessing the Internet using a cable connection, a wireless service, or any other technology.”

Given that the Internet is an essential, indispensable technological tool that enables businesses to thrive, consumers to connect with those businesses and people around the world to communicate, the playing field should be level, and net neutrality does that. Letting ISPs loose will turn the Internet in a Wild West of sorts, with pay-to-play schemes eliminating endless amounts of information from the ever being seen – not because it isn’t there, but because consumers can’t reach it. Here is an all-too-accurate excerpt from an opinion piece on titled “Ending net neutrality will destroy everything that makes the internet great.”

“Try this scenario on for size: You wake up, reach for your phone, and head to your favorite news site to check the headlines. But instead of the latest news, you see a message from your cellphone carrier: “This site is not available. Please upgrade to our deluxe package to access it.” Since you’re like most of us and on a limited budget, and can’t upgrade your plan, you head to social media to find out what’s going on in the world. On this platform, however, your feed takes forever to load because your carrier doesn’t have a special “Fast Lane” deal with your preferred app. Growing frustrated, you try to search for alternatives to your phone company online, only to be met with a “This site has been blocked,” pop-up in your browser. It sounds like a nightmare, but if a proposal unveiled by the Federal Communications Commission…is enacted, this hellscape of extra fees, slow-loading apps and censorship could be the future of the internet.”

Road to Information is Closed

Five basic principles are at the center of the heated debate over net neutrality.

  1. Losing a healthy, competitive market.
  2. The ability of ISPs to block and filter content.
  3. The ability of ISPs to throttle connection speed based on specific content.
  4. The emergence of Internet fast lanes.
  5. Zero-rated services that cheapen the Internet.

“With a focus on the outcome of network management practices, policy and regulatory approaches should be shaped by the overarching principle of openness, as well as the enabling characteristics of access, choice, and transparency,” an Internet Society policy brief states.

“These core values are represented by the following broad guiding principles:

Access to Internet services, applications, sites, and content enhances the user experience and the Internet’s potential to drive innovation, creativity, and economic development. Practices that might limit or block access to Internet content are of prime concern.”

At the end of the day this is a constitutional battle over a new frontier and is yet another battle of Goliaths and Davids for freedom. Freedom of speech; freedom of information; and freedom of the printing presses.  Make your opinions about this important subject known to those for whom you will (or will not) cast your vote in the future.

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