Did you know that your Internet protections were not being protected? Neither did I. Yeah, they were all kinds of running like rough-shod over you and stuff. The FCC is very slowly finalizing some rules that will protect your protections better than you’ve ever been protected. YAY! Epic win for you, the Internet you-ser. You you you! You win! You get something good from your government agency!
More specifically, from Tom Wheeler’s op-ed in Wired, the FCC’s new rules will “preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.” Man, I was so concerned about this platform being pulled out from under me. I can’t believe they were trying to take away my platform for free movies/MP3s, cat tweets, fail blogs, selfies/profile pics, and my right to push my personal beliefs about dress colors. You are nothing short of the savior of the Internet. One day, when they’re erecting a statue of Al Gore, the inventor of the Internet, a place for your bust shall be reserved immediately to the right hand of Mr. Global Warming himself.
I must say, this is the most quickly presented PRS I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never felt such a simultaneous rush of surprise, outrage, and relief all at once.
- Surprise that I’ve been swindled into thinking I’d been subjected to slower download speeds to give preference to some multi-billion dollar corporation like Netflix.
- Outrage enough to demand that the government do something immediately after “a decade of debate and a record-setting proceeding that attracted nearly 4 million public comments.”
- Relief that Tom Wheeler, under direct orders from Commander-in-Chief Barry Obama, has already drafted some kick-ass regulations to upgrade dusty and crotchety Old-Man Internet into the real party place for awesome radical ideas, even more risqué dog blogs, and controversial opinions on celebrities that it was always meant to be.
Thank God for you, Mr. Wheeler.
If you really read what he has to say, though, it does sound like they’re doing us a favor. Whenever someone talks about free expression and innovation, I’m usually paying more attention, especially nowadays. But I’m having trouble paying attention, because I really didn’t know my rights were being infringed upon. Well, maybe this lovely piece of propaganda will help you understand why we need to “enforce net neutrality:”
It all sounds fine and good, especially the part where they say, “Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers should give customers equal access to web traffic, without blocking or favoring certain sites.” Yeah, I totally agree, it sucks when that happens—wait, that doesn’t happen!
Notice how they are fixing a problem that wasn’t even known to be a problem (and if it was, it was extremely obscure). It almost seems made up. I have heard reports that Silicon Valley people are very aware of the problem, and a lot of the problem had to do with Netflix. So if it is happening, it is all back-end stuff we’re talking about that no one except the very techy and vigilant would notice. I have never experienced a “slow lane” to my knowledge on any Web site or as a blogger with a site using WordPress as a platform, and I’ve definitely not been upcharged for a fast lane (save download speeds in my Comcast “high-speed internet” subscription—and I’ve only seen download speeds get higher and higher for lower prices).
Please let me know if you’ve experienced slow lanes or an attack on your online privileges as a user or website owner.
Just to cover my bases, because obviously Netflix is related to the average Internet user: When I’ve had issues with Netflix, I have contacted them about the problem, and their customer service department took care of it. They even offered refunds equivalent to the lack of service I experienced during “slow times.” I did not feel marginalized or discriminated against in any way.
Even if they are doing all of this for solely good reasons, it doesn’t change the fact that these regulations will make the Internet a public utility and more open for censorship. Ironically, of the most concern is the potential censorship of small blogs/independent news sources that it claims to protect with enforced net neutrality. I just love the paradox of that. They’re trying to “enforce neutrality” that, for all intents and purposes, already exists in abundance. Also, when you enforce anything, you automatically introduce a bias, as the enforcer(s) must determine what is(n’t) neutral. This is essentially double speak, and some people are buying it hook, line, and sinker.
A major part of the just criticism is the secrecy of the regulations present in this document. The most obvious question, which the Washington Post so flippantly dismissed in their “There’s already a conspiracy theory brewing over net neutrality” article, is why they won’t release the 332 pages of regulations on Granddaddy Internet that come with this bill. I don’t even think it’s even a bill, really—but it’s sure getting the attention of a bill. In either case, it’s hard to scrutinize something that you haven’t even seen, for both its critics and supporters.
However, there is no question that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler refused to testify before Congress the night before they voted on this crucial document. This does not bode well, and shows more lack of transparency, and that’s the crux of the matter.
The True Heroes of the FCC
I think I understand what the Washington Post is trying to say in defense of the FCC’s failing to release the pages. “Rulemaking is a little bit different…Under the FCC’s procedures, dissenting arguments must be tallied up and responded to by the FCC’s majority — in this case, the Democrats.” Rulemaking, huh? You know, I can’t help but think of all of this rule by executive order that Obama keeps getting criticized for when I read this. What the heck is rulemaking anyway? Are they just trying to confuse us by diverting from the traditional and Constitutional lawmaking that used to go on in this country?
In any case, the “finalizations” sound like a very convenient excuse, if not a more poignant example of their lack of transparency. Perhaps it’s confusing because it sounds so much like a bill before Congress. But even if they aren’t required to release the latest draft of the regulations, they could have done so by now (which WP admitted), and under Obama’s pretext of a transparent administration (which I hope you’ll agree it has decidedly not been), this amount of secrecy goes far beyond ironic.
In my mind, there’s a very simple equation when it comes to something as revolutionary, liberating, and democratizing as the Internet: More regulation = BAD, always. (The quotes below get into this axiom to a far more profound and descriptive degree.) I promise you, unless we really watch what the FCC is doing with it and sound off accordingly as the censorship trickles down (possibly right after the regulations are “finalized and approved”), it will be bad.
But don’t take it from me. The FCC’s minority commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly are speaking out pretty solidly against this bill (thing?). They’ve been there for the whole thing, and probably have the best perspective of anyone involved, I guess save Tom Wheeler. Ajit was even the guy who requested that the FCC “immediately release the 332-page Internet regulation plan publicly and allow the American people a reasonable period of not less than 30 days to carefully study it” and was denied. I couldn’t stop listening to former FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell, who was involved in the debate for 7 years, describing the process of getting the new rules passed. I ended up just transcribing almost all of what he said. You can read a summary of O’Rielly and Ajit Pai’s perspective here. But these two chunks of profound rhetoric from McDowell lay it out pretty clearly for me:
“The other side did a masterful job of messaging. They had to create the sense of a crisis, and then say the Internet is so horribly broken that only the government can fix it. And then on top of that say that three unelected Washington bureaucrats…are better able to resolve all of the challenges of the Internet and manage it—its growth—better than entrepreneurs, and engineers, and consumers. And we need more than just existing law and that something is wrong with this marketplace—when it’s not. The American Internet ecosphere is the greatest deregulatory success story, of all time, and for this to all be turned on its ear to have one of the most massive government interventions into a world-leading economic sector, that is improving the human condition unlike anything else in human history, is really a shame.”
“There was a big bait and switch. First of all, keep in mind that history is important… Back in the day, 10 years ago, this was advertised as making sure that ISPs like a cable/phone company could not block content or degrade the content, or somehow act in an anti-competitive way that harmed consumers… By the way, that wasn’t happening. They never did a market study, which I called for back in 2008 during the Comcast BitTorrent matter, and there are already laws on the books that exist that would make that illegal. So it wasn’t happening, because of market forces and existing law that existed prior to yesterday. So it has evolved now—the term net neutrality, beautifully focus group–tested—is an empty vessel into which anyone can pour their hopes and dreams of the government regulating their rival, but not them. And that’s what many of the requests boil down to, to the FCC and other agencies, “Please regulate my rival, but not me.” And I think that the point that for all these years net neutrality purists have rejected the notion of a bonafied peer-reviewed market study, shows that there’s a fear of what that might reveal. The last time anything like that was attempted was in ’07—granted, a long time ago, but by the Federal Trade Commission, which in a unanimous, bipartisan vote, said that there was nothing broken in the Internet access market that needed fixing, and warned against the unintended consequences of rules in this space. And, it was actually prescient. But here we are today, otherwise.”
In Summary, Until We Find Out What’s in the Darn Thing
Nothing is going to change that we are at the whim of any number of mandates, commissions, and actual laws that come into being in our Brave New World of a country. Not any time soon, sadly. However, we need to pay close attention, because the outrage of the people is the only thing that can really make a change in this country (at least we still hope). We are obviously not happy about some things with the Internet, but most of them have to do with the Government’s spying on us, regardless of whether we’ve done anything wrong. Why are we stuck focusing on this diversion where they claim they have our best interests in mind?
But we must fight it, because it could change everything.
Rob McDowell really had some beautiful points about deregulation of the Internet. The other side, bureaucrats in favor of net neutrality, if they are really trying to help us by saving consumers and small businesses from getting stuck in the virtual slow lane, may have some good points as well. However, if the Affordable Care Act, originally drafted to solve very real problems like preexisting conditions, is any indication, we are in for some serious surprises once those pages are made public. That is another example of a PRS where the government looked like it was helping in a very specific problematic aspect of an industry but moved in to have tighter controls/regulations therein. We have only scratched the surface on the negative effects that government’s involvement in healthcare will have.
Yes, I must admit after putting all of this together, that even O’Rielly could be in the pocket of some lobby serving corporate interests. He is a Republican after all. He was appointed by Obama, though, so that speaks to in favor of his being unbiased.
In any case, keep fighting the good fight. Here’s a little more information on it from InfoWars (couldn’t resist).
BREAKING: And oh crap. I just figured out that Google truncated an article title of ours on the search page, against what we had prescribed as the correct SEO title. No joke, this really just happened (well we just noticed it):
This s#@% just got real, folks.