BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
You’ve all heard, at one point or another, the phrase net neutrality. Some probably are bored by the phrase and others don’t get it, and others just don’t care.
But now is the time to care. In the last 10 weeks the Federal Communications Commission opened a door to allowing major communication companies to have control over what you get when log onto the Internet.
The Trump Administration and proponents of putting net neutrality on different legal footing – words used by attorneys for Verizon on an edition of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, are trying to put a “governor” or throttle on what comes to you on your devices when you access the Internet. The end game seems to be for them to be able to market their products more effectively than smaller companies, eliminating a level playing field in a very competitive market
Most companies are looking at it as anti-competitive, which it is. But I don’t care too much about that. After all, my company is totally dependent on our readers being able to access www.pencitycurrent.com, just as easily as they can www.thehawkeye.com or www.dailydem.com.
Could those groups pay to have access to our site slowed down? Theoretically, yes. Not very probable, but if their parent company’s have the gumption and connections, it could happen. And they could do it to each other as well. On a larger scale, a company like Verizon could limit a competing company’s app from getting access through its customers’ Verizon devices. U.S. Cellular could do the same thing. You would literally be seeing what they chose for you to see first. A former Verizon attorney, Ajit Pae, the chairman of the FCC is leading the charge at the direction of President Trump.
How scary is that? The anti-competitive nature in itself is scary enough, but what it really is..and the really creepy part…is a tug at that one string that begins to unravel the fabric on which this country was woven – The First Amendment. If a company slows your message in favor of their own, they have curtailed your ability to get your message across the Internet and that’s an infringement on free speech.
Pai says the tougher classification has impeded corporate investment in upgrades including broadband networks. I say that just means they’re holding progress hostage until they get their way.
Let’s see if we can make this a little simpler to understand.
We have a huge river that runs right down the side of our town. It runs right by us and we have natural rights to use that river within legal parameters anyway we choose. We can fish it, we can boat on it, we can clean it and improve it…we can even contain it. But now a big corporation comes in and requires more of the river so they settle up north and put in dams and channels and move the river off our shores and leave us with a tributary.
These net neutrality rules would work like that. Company’s would determine what information would flow to your devices. They’ll tell you they’re just putting the rules on “different legal footing” and no major changes will occur.
For example, prior to the FCC incorporating stronger net neutrality guidelines during the Obama presidency, companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint were all caught violating net neutrality guidelines, but they were just that – guidelines. Verizon sued in court and the courts said the FCC needed to tighten up the rules, which they did.
According to a website run by FreePress Action Fund www.freepress.net/blog/2017/04/25/net-neutrality-violations-brief-history – “From 2011–2013, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system that competed with a similar service called Isis, which all three companies had a stake in developing.”
Also according to FreePress – “In 2005, the nation’s largest (Internet Service Provider) ISP, Comcast, began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network. Users of services like BitTorrent and Gnutella were unable to connect to these services. 2007 investigations from the Associated Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others confirmed that Comcast was indeed blocking or slowing file-sharing applications without disclosing this fact to its customers.”
We sent letters supporting net neutrality to the offices of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack.
“As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications policy, I will continue to closely monitor any FCC rulemaking related to net neutrality, and will keep your thoughts in mind when considering any legislation related to this important issue. My primary goal is to ensure that constituents in my district have continued open access to Internet content while also fostering an environment that allows our rural service providers the ability to compete and grow in an ever changing telecommunications landscape,” Loebsack wrote in his reply.
By clicking on the following link http://act.freepress.net/sign/internet_nn_trump/?source=conf&aktmid=tm595487.QQ9XGl&t=2 – you can register your comments with the FCC about keeping Internet access fully open.
Seriously, anything else is giving these companies a knob to control the speed of information to your phone, computer or tablet. They will tell you what you get and when you get it. This is no small change. It can be compared to an invasion of privacy by limiting where you shop, how you book a flight or hotel and, yeah, what news outlets you read.