Former FCC Commissioner: Net Neutrality Is A First Amendment Issue

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas on April 25, 2017. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Michael Winship for Moyers & Company – In just a few short months, the Trump wrecking ball has pounded away at rules and regulations in virtually every government agency. The men and women the president has appointed to the Cabinet and to head those agencies are so far in sycophantic lockstep, engaged in dismantling years of protections in order to make real what White House strategist Steve Bannon infamously described as “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” The Federal Communications Commission is not immune. Its new chair, Republican Ajit Pai, embraces the Trump doctrine of regulatory devastation. “It’s basic economics,” he declared in an April 26 speech at Washington’s Newseum. “The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.” His goal is to stem the tide of media reform that in recent years has made significant progress for American citizens. Even as we rely more than ever on digital media for information, education and entertainment, Pai and his GOP colleagues at the FCC seek to turn back the clock and increase even more the corporate control of cyberspace.

National Day Of Action To Protect Our Internet!

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By Protect Our Internet. Here’s the gist; riddle me this: How is a Train like the Internet? They’re both common carriers! You buy your ticket and decide where you want to go on the train. You buy your Internet service provider and decide where you want to go on the Internet. But that could end in August. Sign up here to take action to spread the word. Big Telecoms like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T don’t want to just provide Internet service, they want to control the content too – slowing down, diverting or even shutting down our access to the open internet we know and love. Imagine being on a train and all of a sudden, you can’t get off at your stop – or it takes you twice as long to get there, and costs twice as much. That’s why we’re asking all of you internet users out there to come together on July 12 to spread the word at your local train or metro stations about the importance of an open and accessible internet – just like an open and accessible public transportation system. These actions will coincide with an Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.

Report Falsely Blames The EFF For Fraudulent Net Neutrality Comments

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By Karl Bode for Tech Dirt – So we’ve discussed at length how somebody is gaming the FCC’s comment system, using a bot to post hundreds of thousands of fake comments in support of the agency’s plan to kill net neutrality. We’ve also made it pretty clear that the FCC doesn’t appear interested in doing much about this, because these bogus (and in some instances dead) people “support” the FCC’s plan to gut consumer protections governing the already uncompetitive broadband market. I’ve had some first-hand experience with the FCC’s apathy, given I’ve been trying to get them to remove (or even address) a post supporting the death of net neutrality made in my name, falsely claiming I run an “unregistered PAC” and am upset that Title II “diminished broadband investment, stifled innovation, and left American consumers potentially on the hook for a new broadband tax” (none of which is true, it should go without saying). While the agency says it’s looking into my complaint, you simply don’t get the sense that tackling public proceeding comment fraud will be a top agency priority anytime soon.

Group Accuses FCC Of Trying To Stifle Pro-Net Neutrality Speech

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By Harper Neidig for The Hill – A public interest group is accusing the Federal Communications Commission of trying to stifle free speech in the debate over net neutrality regulations. The pro-net neutrality group Free Press sent a letter to FCC general counsel Brendan Carr on Monday expressing concern “about recent actions that call into serious question the Federal Communication Commission’s commitment to fostering free expression.” Free Press deputy director Jessica González and policy director Matt Wood wrote that at the FCC’s March open meeting, two members of the group’s advocacy wing were barred from entering the hearing room because they were wearing shirts that read “Protect Net Neutrality.” The two were apparently told to go into a restroom and turn the shirts inside out. A spokesman for the FCC, which is moving to overturn the Obama-era rules that reclassified internet service providers, declined to comment. “It is beyond ironic that the Federal Communications Commission — the government agency charged with promoting First Amendment values — seems intent on violating the First Amendment,” the letter reads.

Netflix Backs Out Of Fight For Net Neutrality

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By Matt Lopez for The Videoink. At Recode’s Code Conference this week, Netlix CEO Reed Hastings all but threw in the towel against the fight for net neutrality. Netflix, which has extended its reach across 190 countries, has been a vocal proponent of net neutrality rules in the past, but Hastings believes it’s not their fight anymore. “We’re big enough to get the deals we want,” he said at the conference. Why is net neutrality so important? Well, it makes sure internet providers enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. One concern for the loss of net neutrality is the idea that smaller players wouldn’t be able to compete against larger companies that can afford to pay for priority access. An issue that would have been a bigger concern for “the Netflix of 10 years ago,” Hastings said.

Trump TV, Coming To A Market Near You

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By Craig Aaron for Other Words – Political appointees are changing the rules to let administration allies crowd out local voices on local TV. Donald Trump’s favorite local TV chain is about to get a lot bigger thanks to — wait for it — Donald Trump. Trump’s Federal Communications Commission is paving the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group — already the nation’s largest TV conglomerate — to take over Tribune, which owns 42 stations in many of the country’s big cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Denver. You may not have heard of Sinclair. But if you watch your local news, there’s a good chance you’re already watching a Sinclair-owned station. Sinclair already owns 173 stations, which are local affiliates in different cities for national networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. If this merger goes through, Sinclair will own a whopping 215 stations. No company has ever had that degree of control over local TV news, which is still the top news source for a majority of Americans. This deal would have been unthinkable in any other administration. But Trump’s FCC is actually rewriting the rules to make it happen — and to give one of the administration’s loudest media boosters an even bigger megaphone.

6 Things FCC Chairman Doesn’t Want You To Know About Net Neutrality

Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai participates in a discussion about his accomplishments at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC on May 5, 2017. Pai is determined to roll back net neutrality. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Timothy Karr for Bill & Moyers – Under its Trump-annointed chairman, Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission decided last Thursday to revisit its net neutrality ruling. The agency has reopened a docket for public comments on Pai’s proposal to undermine the safeguards needed to protect people from having their internet service providers block, throttle or de-prioritize the online content they want to see. The last time the agency did this, in 2014 and 2015, it unleashed a torrent of public comments in support of the idea that the open internet should have basic protections under the law. Four million people voiced their concerns via the agency’s beleaguered website. The vast majority of these comments supported meaningful net neutrality protections. That’s just what the FCC put in place: It responded to the public outcry and reclassified ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. The 2015 decision was a stunning victory for the public interest. Millions of net neutrality supporters faced down a mighty phone and cable lobby, which had spent hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade to dismantle the one principle that makes the internet a tremendous engine for equal opportunity, democratic access, free speech and economic innovation.

Dead People Are Posting Anti-Net Neutrality Comments To FCC Website

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By Daniel Oberhaus for Motherboad – Yet upon closer inspection, some 500,000 of these comments are anti-net neutrality copypasta and bear the telltale signature of a bot (such as perfectly identical formatting and names listed in alphabetical order). Moreover, dozens of people whose names are associated with these comments have come out of the woodwork to say that they never posted these comments and are in fact strongly in favor of net neutrality. On Thursday, 14 people who say their identity was inappropriately used to oppose net neutrality without their permission wrote a letter demanding that Pai and the FCC open an investigation into the alleged astroturfing campaign. “Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto,” the letter reads. “While it may be convenient for you to ignore this, given that it was done in an attempt to support your position, it cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack.”

Right Wing Trolls Sent To Net Neutrality Rally To Advocate Censorship

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Two articles. Jack Posobiec sends fake “anarchists” with pro-censorship signs to net neutrality protest On the 18th of May, activists holding a sit-in and rally at FCC headquarters for net neutrality noticed several folks trying to pose as anarchists, with signs calling for banning far-right websites. This message was in direct conflict with net neutrality. Jack Posobiec streamed this fake news of planted signs onto Twitter via their “periscope” service. The fake protesters turned out to have a camerman with them from Jack Posobiec’s “Rebel Media” crew, and did a very poor job of posing as an anarchist black bloc. Jack Posobiec is an infamous liar and troll, known among other things for planting someone with a sign calling for raping Melania Trump in a left wing protest. This is one way Trump supporters create “alternative facts” and actual fake news.

FCC Is Honoring Fake Anti-Net Neutrality Rants Left By Bots

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By Kevin Collier for Vocativ – The federal agency weighing whether to kill a basic internet freedom wants to hear from you first. But it probably thinks your real voice is worth the same as that of a faked comment pretending to come from a real person. Whenever the Federal Communications Commission weighs a serious decision — like now, when it’s weighing whether to overturn rules to protect net neutrality, which keep internet providers from selling internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” for certain sites — it invites the public to comment, and weighs its response in its decision. So far this year, it’s already received more than 2 million such comments on net neutrality, and will assuredly receive far more in the coming months. Public comments are, in theory, an important part in how the FCC makes a choice. “When I was at the FCC, problems with the electronic comment filing system were treated with the utmost urgency and transparency,” Gigi Sohn, the counselor to previous FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, told Vocativ. However, as a ZDNet investigation discovered, however, a number of the recent comments supporting the net neutrality rollback used the exact same screed, blaming former U.S. President Barack Obama for the net neutrality rules and falsely claiming they’ve stifled broadband internet investment.

Access Denied. Please Pay Up.

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By Eleanor Goldfield for Art Killing Apathy – “The commission voted along party lines Thursday to move forward with the proceeding to eliminate the regulations, which reclassified internet service providers as telecommunications companies and required them to treat all web traffic equally. Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal would undo the reclassification, which would eliminate the commission’s legal authority to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling web content or creating “fast lanes” that websites can buy into.” What a gift to big Telecoms! On top of that, the Intercept released an article today reporting that the talking points delivered to Republicans on how to support Pai’s plan comes STRAIGHT from “the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, and other cable industry companies.” We are up against a considerable force of Telecom lies and trickery specifically aimed at turning the Internet into a toll road and restricting our access. Constituents on both sides of the aisle need to understand the depth of deception and the real importance of Net Neutrality for us all!

Newsletter United To Save The Internet

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By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. The former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, who now chairs the Federal Communications Commission has taken the first official steps to destroy the free and open Internet by proposing the end of Title II net neutrality rules on May 18. This would be a giveaway to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other large Internet Service Providers that would allow them to control access to content on the Internet and charge users more fees. Chairman Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is an example of the revolving door between government and industry that serves big business interests, and not the people. Pai has demonstrated during his first few months as chairman that he will say anything, including obvious lies, to serve the telecom industry. We must act quickly to save the Internet from going the road of cable TV

Tell The FCC To Protect Net Neutrality

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By Popular Resistance. On May 18, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai formally introduced a proposal to end net neutrality. He plans to rush the process through this summer while people are on vacation and less likely to notice. This is a critical time to take action. We won the fight for net neutrality in 2015 in part because millions of people submitted comments to the FCC in favor of reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. This means that neither the government nor the Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, can control where people go on the Internet. Title II treats the Internet like a utility – for example, electric companies can only provide electricity to your home, they can’t tell you what you can and cannot plug in.

FCC Manhandles Reporter For Asking A Question

Ajit Pai (center) is the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Mignon Clyburn (right) and Michael O'Rielly (left) remain as commissioners.
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By Julie Schoo for The National Press Club – The reporter, John M. Donnelly of CQ Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist. He is also chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Team and president of the Military Reporters & Editors association. He has chaired the NPC Board of Governors and formerly served on the Standing Committee of Correspondents in the U.S. Congress, which credentials the Washington press corps. Donnelly said he ran afoul of plainclothes security personnel at the FCC when he tried to ask commissioners questions when they were not in front of the podium at a scheduled press conference. Throughout the FCC meeting, the security guards had shadowed Donnelly as if he were a security threat, he said, even though he continuously displayed his congressional press pass and held a tape recorder and notepad. They even waited for him outside the men’s room at one point. When Donnelly strolled in an unthreatening way toward FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to pose a question, two guards pinned Donnelly against the wall with the backs of their bodies until O’Rielly had passed. O’Rielly witnessed this and continued walking. One of the guards, Frederick Bucher, asked Donnelly why he had not posed his question during the press conference.

Pai Needs To Start Acting Like A Chairman Of The FCC

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By Harold Feld for Wet Machine – In my 20+ years of doing telecom policy, I have never seen a Chairman so badly botch a proceeding as Chairman Ajit Pai has managed to do with his efforts to repeal Net Neutrality. For all the fun that I am sure Pai is having (and believe me, I understand the fun of getting all snarky on policy), Pai’s failure to protect the integrity of the process runs the serious risk of undermining public confidence in the Federal Communications Commission’s basic processes, and by extension contributing to the general “hacking of our democracy” by undermining faith in our most basic institutions of self-governance. Yeah, I know, that sounds over the top. I wish I didn’t have to write that. I also wish we didn’t have a President who calls press critical of him “the enemy of the American people,” triggering massive harassment of reporters by his followers. What both Trump and Pai seem to fail to understand is that when you are in charge, what you say and do matters much more than what you said and did before you were in charge. You either grow up and step into the challenge or you end up doing serious harm not only to your own agenda, but to the institution as a whole.