Washington, DC (October 29, 2020) - During Tuesday’s FCC open meeting, I was tweeting about the failures and falsehoods in the agency’s latest open-internet vote — a decision that involves so much more than just Net Neutrality rules, and that’s all about the Trump FCC’s unlawful abdication of its responsibility for broadband policy. The agency just released the final order, so this explainer recaps that Twitter thread and the Free Press research it came from. During tumultuous times it can be hard to focus on internet and media policy issues like these.
Five years ago, the movement for internet freedom won an important victory when the Federal Communications Commission reclassified the internet as a common carrier, making it like a utility that everyone should have equal access to without discrimination. That was quickly reversed in 2017 under the new chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, who deregulated the internet giving the government no authority to oversee the internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T. I speak with Josh Stager of the Open Technology Institute about the ongoing fight to protect the internet and what we need to do next.
Janice Bowling, a 67-year-old grandmother and Republican state senator from rural Tennessee, thought it only made sense that the city of Tullahoma be able to offer its local high-speed Internet service to areas beyond the city limits. After all, many of her rural constituents had slow service or did not have access to commercial providers, like AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. But a 1999 Tennessee law prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Bowling wanted to change that and introduced a bill in February to allow them to expand. She viewed the network, which offers speeds about 80 times faster than AT&T and 10 times faster than Charter in Tullahoma according to advertised services, as a utility, like electricity, that all Tennesseans need.
By Ali Breland for The Hill. Hundreds of tech companies and groups, including Twitter, Airbnb, Reddit and Vimeo, are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep the Obama-era net neutrality rules. In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated on Cyber Monday, the companies touted the growth of e-commerce as “a testament to the power of the free and open internet to encourage entrepreneurship, drive innovation, make our lives easier, and to support a healthy economy.” "The internet is increasingly where commerce happens," the letter said, noting that Americans last year spent nearly $3.5 billion on Cyber Monday.
We are in a countdown towards the passage of Internet rules that will keep the Internet open for generations to come -- and we couldn’t be happier. The FCC is about to do the right thing and vote to reclassify the Internet as a public utility at its next meeting on February 26th. But the cable companies are pushing back and doing everything in their power to block our success. As Internet consumers, we’re already overcharged and under-represented. Our lives depend on an open Internet. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #Not1More, and #Fightfor15 all rely on the open Internet to mobilize a powerful public voice against police brutality, deportation, and for the rights of low-wage workers. That’s why the Media Action Grassroots Network and our partners are hosting actions across the country to say to Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner: #DontBlockMyInternet
Advocacy groups representing low income Californians, consumers, and diverse media voices urged the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reject the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable in filings made with the PUC late yesterday. The merger would combine the two largest providers of both cable and Internet service into one giant corporation that would dominate the marketplace here in California and across the country. The California PUC, which oversees telephone and broadband Internet service in the state, is currently reviewing the merger to determine whether it is in the public’s interest. “This merger is a terrible deal for Californians, particularly for communities of color and low-income consumers,” said Paul Goodman, Legal Counsel for the Greenlining Institute.
The Federal Communications Commission has long been accused of having a close relationship with the industry it regulates. The accusations are usually leveled because of the revolving door that has seen FCC officials leave the agency to work as lobbyists for telecom companies, and lobbyists for telecom companies leave to work for the FCC. Internal FCC documents obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request we filed last April sheds a little more light on the revolving door and the cozy relationship between the regulators and the industry it oversees. The 600-pages of documents, which include emails and letters, are especially noteworthy because they pertain to discussions revolving around rules for net neutrality, which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — he's a former lobbyist for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and Nextel — is expected to unveil and enact in the coming weeks.
The British Labour Party has begun to make the case that market fundamentalism, or neoliberalism, is not necessarily the best way for society to operate. Specifically, it's been trying to show that private enterprise is not always superior to public enterprise. Beginning with Margaret Thatcher, British governments have denuded the U.K. of almost all public enterprises, from British Airways to the Royal Mail. The Labour Party Opposition wants to remind Brits that some entities actually make more sense under public auspices. Fortunately for them, I am in a position to offer my Labour comrades foolproof evidence for their gambit. Two words: Rogers and Bell. The best case for public enterprises, bar none, is interacting with these vast operations, in so many ways the quintessence of modern corporate capitalism. One deals with them, of course, only in life-and-death circumstances, when there is absolutely no alternative. Like when you lose your cellphone, as I foolishly did. I'm still shaken from the experience. About four years ago, Bell was driving our family so crazy that we switched all our home devices to Rogers. Of course that made no sense either since Rogers also drove us up the wall with its cable service, as we were handing over a small fortune to both telecom giants without a clue what we were actually paying for.