Don’t Let Corporations Pick What Websites You Visit

Flickr/Backbone Campaign

By Razan Azzarkani for Other Words – Think about the websites you visit. The movies you stream. The music you listen to online. The animal videos that are just too cute not to share. Now think about the freedom to use the internet however and whenever you choose being taken away from you. That’s exactly what Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are trying to do. Right now, those companies are constrained by a principle called net neutrality — the so-called “guiding principle of the internet.” It’s the idea that people should be free to access all the content available online without ISPs dictating how, when, and where that content can be accessed. In other words, net neutrality holds that the company you pay for internet access can’t control what you do online. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission adopted strong net neutrality rules that banned ISPs from slowing down connection speeds to competing services — e.g., Comcast can’t slow down content or applications specific to Verizon because it wants you to switch to their services — or blocking websites in an effort to charge individuals or companies more for services they’re already paying for. But now the open internet as we know it is under threat again. Net neutrality rules are in danger of being overturned by Donald Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai and broadband companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

American Oversight Sues FCC To Obtain Net Neutrality Communications With Industry Groups

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, during the Inaugural Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force Meeting in Washington, DC, on June 15, 2017. An influential paper cited by Pai in his campaign against net neutrality has been found to be "riddled with factual errors." (Photo: Lance Cheung / USDA)

By Staff of American Oversight – Washington, DC – As the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to end Net Neutrality, nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to find out how the telecommunications industry has influenced government regulators. “The FCC has made it clear that they’re ignoring feedback from the general public, so we’re going to court to find out who they’re actually listening to about Net Neutrality. If the Trump administration is going to let industry lobbyists rewrite the rules of the Internet for millions of Americans, we’re going to make them do it in full view of the public,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. American Oversight filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in April seeking information about meetings and correspondence between the incoming FCC chair Ajit Pai, his senior staff, Congress, and companies in the telecommunications industry. After initially agreeing to process American Oversight’s requests quickly, the FCC repeatedly delayed releasing the records even as the Trump administration continued its work to roll back the open internet rules.

FCC Chair Asked Can Anything Stop Net Neutrality Rollback?

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By Jon Brodkin for ARS Technica – US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.) yesterday accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of pursuing an agenda that harms both consumers and small businesses. “Chairman Pai, in the time that you have been head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” Doyle said during an FCC oversight hearing held by the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Doyle pointed to several of Pai’s decisions, including ending a net neutrality investigation into what Doyle called “anti-competitive zero-rating practices” by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Doyle criticized Pai moves that made it more difficult for poor people to get broadband subsidies and made it easier for large TV broadcasters to merge. The latter decision would “enable an unprecedented merger between Sinclair and Tribune that would give the combined entity a foothold in nearly 80 percent of American households,” Doyle said. (The exact figure is 72 percent of US households with TVs.) Doyle also criticized Pai for a decision that eliminated price caps in much of the business broadband market by imposing a new standard that deems certain local markets competitive even when there’s only one broadband provider.

A People-Owned Internet Exists. Here Is What It Looks Like

‘Whatever happens in Washington, we can start building an internet that respects our rights on the local level.’ Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

By Nathan Schneider for The Guardian – Like many Americans, I don’t have a choice about my internet service provider. I live in a subsidized housing development where there’s only one option, and it happens to be, by some accounts, the most hated company in the United States. Like its monstrous peers, my provider is celebrating that Congress has recently permitted it to spy on me. Although it pretends to support the overwhelming majority of the country’s population who support net neutrality, it has been trying to bury the principle of an open internet for years and, under Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, is making good progress. I can already feel my browsing habits shift. I’m reigning in curiosities a bit more, a bit more anxious about who might be watching. I’ve taken to using a VPN, like people have to do to access the open internet from China. And the real effects go deeper than personal anxieties. Although the fight for an open internet tends to have Silicon Valley tech bros at the forefront, it’s a racial justice issue; arbitrary powers for corporations tend not to help marginalized populations. It’s a rural justice issue, too.

New Book Explores How Protesters—And Governments—Use Internet Tactics

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By Wendy Grossman for ARS Technica – In February 2003, the largest demonstration in Britain’s history saw two million people march across London to protest the approaching Iraq War. Dozens of other cities across the world saw similar events, and yet. Why did politicians feel safe ignoring the millions who participated in those marches—yet stand down after the protests against the proposed intellectual property laws SOPA and PIPA? Why did Occupy apparently vanish while the Tea Party has embedded itself into US national electoral politics? How much did Facebook really have to do with the Arab Spring? How—and this is the central question technosociologist Zeynep Tufecki considers in her new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest—do digital media change the reality and effectiveness of social protest? Over the quarter-century since the Internet went mainstream, much has been written and argued about digital technologies’ ability to transform disparate individuals into a movement. Dismissives argue that social media-fueled movements are too fragile and their participants too uncommitted to achieve much.

Record 9 Million Comments Flood FCC On Net Neutrality

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

By Mike Snider for USA Today – The U.S. government has received more than 9 million public comments on rolling back net neutrality regulations, a record response to this hot-button issue that both sides argue plays an essential role in who gets Internet access. More than 9 million comments — the largest influx ever — have been filed with the Federal Communications Commission about the agency’s proposal to reverse the net neutrality rules it passed in 2015. The first public comment period ended Monday, and now a one-month rebuttal period is underway. Already, about another million additional comments have been submitted. Those totals were boosted by last week’s online ‘Day of Action’ conducted by tech companies and liberal privacy rights organizations that support the net neutrality regulations, as well as opposing comments from those in favor of overturning the rules. Big tech companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft argue rolling back the rules will give Internet providers too much flexibility to favor some content and to charge more for others. That fear ruled the day two years ago, when the FCC passed rules preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from throttling or blocking content online, and prohibited ISPs from prioritizing content, including their own, over other content, possibly for payment.

FCC Admits No Documentation Justifying Shutting Down Comments After John Oliver Net Neutrality Segment

From fightforthefuture.org

By Staff of Fight for the Future – Agency refuses to release hundreds of pages of documents related to alleged incident. Congress must demand answers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) admitted last night that it has no “documented analysis” to back up its claim that a DDoS attack took down the agency’s public comment website immediately following a viral John Oliver segment about net neutrality in May. The news comes in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Gizmodo – but the FCC refused to release more than 200 pages of additional documents related to the alleged incident. Fight for the Future, a nonpartisan digital rights organization that played a lead role in the massive net neutrality day of action on July 12, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director Evan Greer (pronouns: she/her): “At this point even supporters of Ajit Pai’s plan to gut online free speech protections have to be wondering: what is the FCC hiding?

Librarians Read FCC Title II Riot Act

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By John Eggerton for Broadcasting Cable – The American Library Association says the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler got the reading of the law right when it imposed strong net neutrality rules under Title II (common carrier) authority. It said 120,000 libraries and their customers would be seriously disadvantaged by getting rid of the rules banning blocking traffic and degrading (the FCC’s terminology is actually “throttling”) traffic, and says paid prioritization is inherently unfair, especially for libraries without the money to pay for such prioritization. But the ALA breaks with some Title II fans in arguing for capacity-based pricing and excluding private networks from net neutrality rules. On capacity-based pricing of broadband service, it says ISPs “may receive greater compensation for greater capacity chosen by the consumer or content, application, and service provider.” And on private networks, it says: “[T]he Commission should decline to apply the Open Internet rules to premises operators, such as coffee shops and bookstores, and private end-user networks, such as those of libraries and universities.” Neither the 2010 Title I based net neutrality rules nor the 2015 Title II-based rules applied them to private networks. So that would be staying the course.

Digital Media Companies: Net Neutrality Rules Help Us Compete

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

By Sara Fischer for Axios – Why it matters: Many news publishers believe the current net neutrality rules help them survive in an economic environment that already favors tech and telecom companies that distribute content over media companies that create it. In comments to the FCC, Digital Content Next CEO Jason Kint argues on behalf of nearly 80 online publishers that the rule prohibiting internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast from blocking a consumer’s ability to access lawful content should remain clearly intact. He also argues that the regulation banning those providers from striking financial deals to give priority to certain content on their networks should remain intact. DCN’s position that the rules ensure that all types of content can get to consumers is generally echoed by the Internet Association, which represents tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix. Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast support the FCC’s efforts to roll back the rules, saying the current rules went beyond the agency’s authority.

Why Net Neutrality Is A Working-Class Issue

A protest to defend net neutrality in Washington, D.C. on May 18. (Free Press)

By Bryan Mercer for In These Times – You might have noticed your browsing experience was interrupted by a call-to-action on Wednesday, July 12. Amazon, Netflix, Etsy, OKCupid and hundreds of other sites covered their loading pages with banners and images asking you to save the internet. Millions of us joined together to protest the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), heeding the call from grassroots activists across all corners of the web. Led by President Donald Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the FCC is working to roll back rules that ensure the free and open flow of information on the internet. The body is attempting to undo the partial classification of the internet as a utility (meaning something every person has the right to have), and to massively expand the rights of Big Cable to lie about speeds and other services in order to make huge profits. These efforts pose a threat to net neutrality, the principle at the foundation of the internet that internet service providers treat all traffic equally. Net neutrality supports the open and free flow of information—without discrimination and without favoring content or services. Make no mistake: Net neutrality is one of the defining workers’ rights and civil rights issue of our time. We all know the internet is driving changes in culture, politics and the economy. It is also one of the key spaces where workers can organize—and where mass movements for racial and economic justice blossom and build power.

AT&T Pretends To Love Net Neutrality, Joins Tomorrow's Protest With A Straight Face

Protestors organized a "light brigade" outside the White House on Thursday night to promote net neutrality. (Photo by Nancy Scola/The Washington Post)

By Karl Bode for Tech Dirt – You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger enemy of net neutrality than the fine folks at AT&T. The company has a history of all manner of anti-competitive assaults on the open and competitive internet, from blocking customer access to Apple FaceTime unless users subscribed to more expensive plans, to exempting its own content from arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps while penalizing streaming competitors. AT&T also played a starring role in ensuring the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality rules were flimsy garbage, and sued to overturn the agency’s tougher, 2015 rules. So it’s with a combination of amusement and awe to see the company’s top lobbying and policy head, Bob Quinn, pen a missive over at the AT&T website proudly proclaiming the company will be joining tomorrow’s “day of action protest” in support of keeping the existing rules intact. According to Quinn, the company still opposes the FCC’s popular 2015 consumer protections, but wanted to participate in the protest because that’s just how much the sweethearts at AT&T adore the open internet…

10 Things AT&T Could Do To Actually Support Net Neutrality

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By Craig Aaron and Candace Clement for Free Press – We’re still picking ourselves off the floor from all the laughing we did when AT&T issued a press release this afternoon announcing that it was joining the “Day of Action for preserving and advancing the open internet.” As co-organizers of this day of action and people who have been fighting for internet freedom for more than a decade, we’d be thrilled to finally have AT&T’s full-throated support of Title II protections for Net Neutrality. Because that is, indeed, what it means to join the Day of Action that more than 80,000 companies, websites, organizations and internet users have pledged to take part in tomorrow. If only it were true. In reality, AT&T is just a company that is deliberately misleading the public. Their lobbyists are lying. They want to kill Title II — which gives the FCC the authority to actually enforce Net Neutrality — and are trying to sell a congressional “compromise” that would be as bad or worse than what the FCC is proposing. No thanks. AT&T has spent more money than maybe anyone except Comcast and Verizon to undermine the open internet and destroy Net Neutrality. It has hired hundreds of lobbyists.

The FCC Must Protect The Open Internet — Millions Of Americans Agree

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By Michael Copps And Gloria Tristani for The Hill – Since its creation, the internet has operated under a simple principle: All traffic, regardless of its content, should be treated equally. It’s this idea that allowed the internet to change the world, the way we communicate, and the way we do business. It’s what allowed college students to develop two of the world’s biggest companies, presidential candidates to upend the political process, and universities to open up their courses for anyone, anywhere to study. And now it’s under grave threat. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plans to eliminate net neutrality protections. Without these protections, big internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will be free to block or slow down content as they see fit. These net neutrality rules are incredibly popular with Americans from all walks of life. According to a recent poll conducted by Civis Analytics, 77 percent of Americans support keeping the strong net neutrality rules we already have and more than 80 percent agree with the principles of net neutrality. Net neutrality also found overwhelming support across income and education levels, race, and gender.

ISP’s Across The Country Call For Net Neutrality

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By Ernesto Falcon for EFF – The 2015 Order famously outlined clear net neutrality rules. But those rules only passed muster because the Order also explicitly classified broadband service as a “common carrier” service, regulated by Title II of the Communications Act, rather than an “information service” regulated by Title I of the same Act. And that classification has several corollary effects, because Title II isn’t just about net neutrality. It is also meant to curtail the anti-competitive conduct from incumbent monopolists like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. In essence, as common carriers, they are not able to use their power to control the Internet experience, and they are not able to directly harm their competitors in the broadband market. That’s why these small ISPs are worried. Chairman Pai wants to reverse the 2015 decision to reclassify broadband as a “common carrier” service, thereby eliminating the protections Title II offers. If he succeeds, not only are Section 201 and Section 202 — the core provisions that support network neutrality — on the chopping block, but also a whole host of other active provisions that protect competition in the broadband market. Small wonder the big cable and telephone lobbies are happy to pay lip service to net neutrality — so long as the actual rules aren’t based on Title II.

Mozilla Poll Again Shows Net Neutrality Has Broad, Bipartisan Support

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By Karl Bode for Tech Dirt – So we’ve noted for a long time that while net neutrality is framed as a “partisan” issue, it really isn’t. Data has consistently shown overwhelming, bipartisan public support for the concept and the rules, in large part because of the way most people have been treated by marginally-competitive TV or broadband providers. But to help sow dissent among the public, large ISP lobbyists (and the lawmakers paid to love them) have been immensely successful in framing this as a hotly contested subject, usually by portraying the effort, incorrectly, as a “government takeover of the internet.” A new survey from Mozilla and IPSOS once again highlights this cap between reality and common media and policy wisdom. The survey found, unsurprisingly, that over three quarters of Americans (76%) support net neutrality. When it comes to the supposed “partisan division,” the survey also found that 81% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans are in favor of it: So again, this narrative that countless, angry Americans see net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet” or “incredible government over-reach” tends to be the pervasive wisdom you’ll see in the press and in most ISP policy rhetoric…