REPORT: NET NEUTRALITY PREVAILS!!!

Net Neutrality Prevails In Historic FCC Vote

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Folks, I would like to say that I fucking called it! ^_^

For TL/DR types: The corrupt power barons who wanted to control the speed lanes of the Internet found themselves shouted down by over four million voices throughout the US. Politicians who opposed Net Neutrality kinda hunkered down--aside from obligatory whining--after they realized just how hot a topic this was.

The good guys won, folks!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/net-neutrality-fcc-vote_n_6761702.html

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to approve strong net neutrality rules in a stunning decision that defies vocal, months-long opposition by telecom and cable companies and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn joined Chairman Tom Wheeler to approve a rule that reclassifies consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

The FCC intends to use this new authority to ban "paid prioritization," a practice whereby Internet service providers can charge content producers a premium for giving users more reliable access to that content. The FCC also intends to ban blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. These regulations also apply to mobile access. More details about the plan are expected after vote.

"The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules," Wheeler said prior to the vote.

At the vote, Clyburn pointed out that "absent the rules we adopt today," ISPs would be "free to block, throttle, favor or discriminate ... for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all."

A few months ago, such rules were considered a pipe dream of net neutrality advocates. Last fall, Wheeler was reportedly still considering a "hybrid" approach to net neutrality that would have made major concessions to telecom and cable companies, who contend that strong regulations will hinder investment and innovation.

But President Barack Obama came out in support of Title II and tough net neutrality rules in November, and Wheeler had to contend with that position as well as millions of comments from the general public in support of net neutrality. Tech start-ups like Tumblr, as well as Silicon Valley giants like Google, also advocated for strong net neutrality rules.

The FCC decision is a major loss for Verizon, the company that initially sued the FCC in 2011 over rules that were considerably weaker than the new regulations. The new rules are also likely to be challenged in court.

Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade association, said in a statement that, "The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution."

The FCC's two Republican commissioners attacked the vote. Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision an "about-face" and stoked conservative fears by claiming, "We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President Obama told us to do so."

Those gathered in one FCC viewing room gasped and burst into laughter upon hearing Pai's remark.

Republicans have launched investigations into whether the White House unfairly influenced the FCC's decision, and are expected to pursue legislation, already introduced, that would gut the FCC's new authority. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has said he plans to hold off-the-record meetings with stakeholders in early March in an attempt to drum up support from Democrats for his bill.

"Popular victories like today's are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened," said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality. He added in a statement, "If the net neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why."

Wheeler denounced as "nonsense" the claims that the FCC has a secret plan to regulate the Internet. He added, "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept."

ROUND ONE: FIGHT!

FCC: "Tatsumaki Senpukyaku!"

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Douchebag ISPs: "UWAAAAAAAAHHH!Waaaah!waaahh! *thud*"

WINNER: THE PEOPLE.

I'm happy! This is great news! Glad to see Wheeler was decidedly NOT a dingo! WE ARE DINGO FREE, BABY!

However, it's not set in stone just yet. It can be challenged in court or overturned by new a President down the road. Still, definitely a win for FREEDOM today!

I can't believe we won but then again I should never doubt
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It's not over yet, though. Next come the lawsuits from the pissed off telecom corporations and the sneaky ass weakening of the FCC's authority through Republican sponsored legislation. This is an excellent start though! YAY!

Don't count our chickens before they hatch. Let some lawyer types scrutinise the new regulations and make sure that the fact are not conning everyone through a loophole in the small print for the shifty companies to exploit.

Good to see that the regulations are at least putting on a public face of Nn. We won the PR fight but now comes the long legal grind.

I almost want to call my ISP and just laugh saying "we won!!!". I just hope this sticks, I really hope it does.

Yay! Now instead of the internet being ruined by those greedy corporations trying to squeeze every penny out of their networks and consumers it can be ruined by lobbyists prone to rent-seeking behavior and a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who quite literally lack any accountability whatsoever for their actions!

Seriously, there are no good guys here. This law is so vague that the FCC has essentially just written itself a blank check to do whatever the hell it wants with the internet, changeable at a moment's notice. Even the EFF is pissed:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/02/dear-fcc-rethink-those-vague-general-conduct-rules

Seriously, I cannot believe what I'm seeing on the internet today. How could anyone possibly be excited about the prospect of these people:

having more control over the internet than they already had?

It's a victory, but the war is never over.

rgrekejin:
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Can you explain why you think the FCC is going to censor the internet when in the general guidelines it says that they punish impacts on free expression impacts on innovation and impacts on competition

The FCC guy also says that the internet shouldn't be controlled by either government or corporate (of course apart from shit like deepweb and the various shady activities on the internet such as CP)

Kardsymalone:

rgrekejin:
snip

Can you explain why you think the FCC is going to censor the internet when in the general guidelines it says that they punish impacts on free expression impacts on innovation and impacts on competition

The FCC guy also says that the internet shouldn't be controlled by either government or corporate (of course apart from shit like deepweb and the various shady activities on the internet such as CP)

First off, let me say that my primary concern isn't with the FCC censoring the internet. It's that utility-style regulation will eventually lead to utility-style lobbying and an utterly complacent system like that which exists in telecom and power, where prices ratchet in a single direction and companies have even less incentive to improve the product and it's delivery than ISPs do now. And if you think I doth protest too much, here are some recent examples of regulations originally meant for consumer protection being used to quash innovation and competition:

Television companies were recently able to sue and effectively shut down both Ivi and Aereo, innovative web streaming services that provided a DVR-like ability to record live TV. Although the Aereo loss was technically a copyright infringement lawsuit, Ivi lost in the end because of a regulator's refusal to allow it classification under the cable regulatory system (Oh look, it's the FCC again. Hi FCC!).

"Consumer protection" regulations are also being cited by taxi and limo companies whose existence is threatened by Uber and Lyft, causing degradation of the services offered by the companies in some places, and resulting in their outright banning in many others. Here's a good article on that, as well as on the concept of "regulatory capture", and how it relates to net neutrality.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2013/02/06/lessons-from-uber-why-innovation-and-regulation-dont-mix/

However, to answer your main point, I'd like to point out that although the FCC says that it wants to do all those wonderful shiny things *right now*, we still don't know what the entire actual law looks like, and I bet apples to acorns that there's no language tying the FCC's hands on that point. Take the link I posted in my first post - although all the talk today is about shiny happy stuff like "preserving net neutrality" and "protecting innovation and competition", if you look at the vague language of the general conduct rule (the power to review and punish "practices that harm consumers", with no definition being given for what exactly constitutes "harm"), the FCC has actually just given itself broad policing powers over the whole of the internet. Sure, they'll be on their best behavior for the first few years, but shit, man, you've seen the internet today. How long before someone decides that "offensive" speech and images are harmful to consumers, and need to be scrubbed away FOR THE CHILDREN! Or how long before someone uses this to surreptitiously try to silence ideological opponents? I mean, it would hardly be the first time a supposedly neutral government entity has been hijacked to intimidate or harass. And even if none of those things happen, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy still holds.

And really, I just want to take a moment and point out what you've essentially saying here: A politician has done a thing, and has told us that from here on out, everything is going to be rainbows and sunshine, and they'll take care of it. And we know that's true, because the nice politician said so. And as we all know, politicians never, ever lie. Not even ones from unelected organizations who, if anyone had ever heard of them before last month, only knew of them in their role as humorless television censor. :(

Holy crap, a political cause I took part in actually won?! Fuck yes! Something didn't go shitty. This whole year has been really good for me, and this is a solid highpoint.

Eh, in other news, the Australian opposition has decided to stop fighting the government's terrible (and expensive) new metadata laws, so I'm not that pleased with the state of the net.

Nothing quite like celebrating that there was a new 300+ page law recently passed that you know next to nothing about because it was not and has not been made public. You think there isn't a reason they didn't show this to the public before it was passed? Net Neutrality is a really bad solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But hey, the government now has the authority to tax and police the internet via a law they kept locked away from public eyes until well after it was passed. How could this possibly go wrong?

This'll last for a while, and then when the inevitable Republican president gets sworn in all of this will be for naught and the rules will be bent to serve corporate interest again.

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You're welcome.

XanCo:
But hey, the government now has the authority to tax and police the internet via a law they kept locked away from public eyes until well after it was passed.

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It's all well and good to hate on "dem evul gov'ment bastards" but it just looks like vapid ramblings when they're not backed up.

Cowabungaa:
This'll last for a while, and then when the inevitable Republican president gets sworn in all of this will be for naught and the rules will be bent to serve corporate interest again.

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You're welcome.

You think Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, and Yahoo are supporters of Net Neutrality because of altruistic reasons? Something tells me that this law will be serving plenty of big corporate interests out of the gate. If you want to see what's in store look at how Title 2 classification treated the telephone industry and brought us the Ma Bell monopoly.

As for the power to tax and police, Title 2 classification gives them those powers. It gives them massive amounts of regulatory powers, including the power to levy taxes just as they do with the power company, gas companies, water, etc. Sure Wheeler pinky swore that they would remain hands off but how long do you think that will honestly last? Again, this is a really bad solution to a problem that simply has not and does not exist.

Cowabungaa:

XanCo:
But hey, the government now has the authority to tax and police the internet via a law they kept locked away from public eyes until well after it was passed.

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It's all well and good to hate on "dem evul gov'ment bastards" but it just looks like vapid ramblings when they're not backed up.

Certainly. It's a widely-known and reported fact that the FCC's final version of the rules are 332 pages long, but they have not released the rules for public comment, and the FCC directly declined to do so when asked.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/26/389259382/net-neutrality-up-for-vote-today-by-fcc-board

The relevant bit:
"Thursday's vote comes after Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Ajut Pai asked 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."

That request was denied; we'll post the document here when it's available."

As for the authority to tax the internet, that's not true. What the FCC has actually done is reclassified the internet as a utility, which allows federal, state, and local governments to attach "utility fees" to internet service, like they do for cable and telephone service. Although these are not technically taxes, they're functionally identical from a consumer perspective. Almost every expert who has looked at the issue expects state and local governments to attach some kind of new fee to internet service, although how big those fees will be remains to be seen. What's more, now that internet is a utility, the FCC has no control over what fees state and local governments decide to attach to it - that part of the situation is out of their hands, so no promises they make with respect to it can be considered binding.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/feb/26/mike-lee/effect-net-neutrality-rules-taxes-uncertain/

As for their ability to police the internet, we don't know the full extent of that because, obviously, no one has seen the full law. But we've seen a portion of it, the "general conduct" rule, where the FCC grants itself power to review and punish conduct "harmful to consumers". What, exactly, constitutes "harm to consumers" is left vague and open-ended, and there are fears that this vague language could lead to future abuse by unscrupulous FCC employees with an axe to grind.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/02/dear-fcc-rethink-those-vague-general-conduct-rules

"The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution."

In other words

"WAAAAAAAAHHHHH!! They won't play with us:( you FCC guys are dumb! We will deny your authority now and only play with others who don't have pesky backbones!"

Today is a good day though (except it wasn't today)

XanCo:
Something tells me that this law will be serving plenty of big corporate interests out of the gate.

Sure, there's always winners. In this case, they're not the ISP and telecom companies, whom would happily screw over companies like Netflix too if they can. And whenever I hear about the nearly insane ICT situation over there in the States, those are exactly the groups that need to be reigned in.

As for the power to tax and police, Title 2 classification gives them those powers. It gives them massive amounts of regulatory powers, including the power to levy taxes just as they do with the power company, gas companies, water, etc. Sure Wheeler pinky swore that they would remain hands off but how long do you think that will honestly last?

Even then, so what? That hatred on taxes/fees over there will never stop confusing me.

Again, this is a really bad solution to a problem that simply has not and does not exist.

What problem? That of big telecom companies growing way too influential, jerking over the customer, strong-arming smaller companies, having way too much political influence and giving themselves the power to police and control content? We in Europe are seeing those things happen in the US, and by God am I happy we're jumping on on that shit (especially the Dutch) before it can get out of hand.

However, I am of course keeping a careful eye out for UK-esque things happening. I hope you guys won't go down that route, that would suck pretty badly. Seriously UK, what the hell. But reigning in telecom companies? Yeah, that's rad.

rgrekejin:
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That's quite informative. The conduct rules are definitely eyebrow-raising, and I'll be curious to hear about what's up with them when more information becomes available. The fees don't seem like much of a problem, it's not like ISP's are already price-gouging you guys for a relatively shitty IT infrastructure.

Cowabungaa:
What problem? That of big telecom companies growing way too influential, jerking over the customer, strong-arming smaller companies, having way too much political influence and giving themselves the power to police and control content? We in Europe are seeing those things happen in the US, and by God am I happy we're jumping on on that shit (especially the Dutch) before it can get out of hand.

Your problem here is thinking this is going to reign in big companies and protect the little guy which couldn't be further from the truth. This is only going to exist to put more control of the internet into government bodies. These same government bodies are largely influenced by these same corporations that you already complain are growing too influential. You think the smaller companies and consumers are getting screwed now just wait until this goes into effect. Those smaller companies and consumers will be getting screwed even harder because it's these big corporations who already have the politicians firmly in their pocket and they know that their smaller competitors and consumers don't have near the money or clout they do for the purposes of influencing the people in charge. So, yeah, reigning them in? Not even close.

Cowabungaa:
The fees don't seem like much of a problem, it's not like ISP's are already price-gouging you guys for a relatively shitty IT infrastructure.

Yeah, well, unfortunately, the fees are going to be on top of, rather than instead of, what we already pay. If my phone bill is any guide, my internet is about to get somewhere around 20% more expensive for the exact same service.

rgrekejin:

Cowabungaa:
The fees don't seem like much of a problem, it's not like ISP's are already price-gouging you guys for a relatively shitty IT infrastructure.

Yeah, well, unfortunately, the fees are going to be on top of, rather than instead of, what we already pay. If my phone bill is any guide, my internet is about to get somewhere around 20% more expensive for the exact same service.

Isn't one of the intended effects of this bill that telecom companies will lower their prices? And isn't it supposed to make service, in the end, better for the consumer? To stop telecom from getting away with providing poor service for outrageous prices. Not to mention that, if throttling and 'premium' speeds would end up being a thing you'd have to start paying even more for the services that you want. A thing that's halted by net neutrality laws.

If, however, it's not meant to increase competition then I'd argue that this law needs supplemented to make sure that happens.

XanCo:

Your problem here is thinking this is going to reign in big companies and protect the little guy which couldn't be further from the truth. This is only going to exist to put more control of the internet into government bodies. These same government bodies are largely influenced by these same corporations that you already complain are growing too influential.

What you're saying makes no sense when you compare it to what we're seeing. What you're saying is that indirectly, this law is going to gives big telecom corporations even more power. But they're fuming at this, they're being shackled, they despise this decision. Yet you're saying this is going to help them gain even more control. That's completely illogical, why on earth would they go completely up in arms and throw tens of millions of dollars against this coming into effect if, according to you, it'll help them?

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They hate this shit for a reason, and that reason is not that they gain in power.

Cowabungaa:

rgrekejin:

Cowabungaa:
The fees don't seem like much of a problem, it's not like ISP's are already price-gouging you guys for a relatively shitty IT infrastructure.

Yeah, well, unfortunately, the fees are going to be on top of, rather than instead of, what we already pay. If my phone bill is any guide, my internet is about to get somewhere around 20% more expensive for the exact same service.

Isn't one of the intended effects of this bill that telecom companies will lower their prices? And isn't it supposed to make service, in the end, better for the consumer? To stop telecom from getting away with providing poor service for outrageous prices. Not to mention that, if throttling and 'premium' speeds would end up being a thing you'd have to start paying even more for the services that you want. A thing that's halted by net neutrality laws.

Well... not really, no. The best possible outcome from the just-passed arrangement is a continuation of business as usual, plus a layering on of whatever fees your state and local government feel like applying. Net neutrality is basically the way the system up until now has always operated. The argument in favor of the current regulatory change was not that it would improve the system, only that it would prevent it from getting worse, giving the FCC solid legal footing to prohibit practices like throttling. So, the theory goes, net neutrality doesn't make the internet cheaper now, it just keeps it from getting more expensive in the future. Additionally, there was some concern about ISPs effectively censoring sites they didn't like by throttling their loading speeds down close to zero (although we're approaching conspiracy-theory level stuff at this point). Of course, you can't prove a hypothetical, so we'll never know how much more expensive internet service would have gotten had the FCC not chosen to reclassify it, and the boogeyman of censorship still looms, only now the censor is the government, and not a telecom corporation. As I said in my first post, there aren't really any good guys here.

As an aside, I'm not sure what the moral argument actually is against a process somewhat like throttling. I'm of course opposed to shutting down sites for ideological reasons, but I don't understand why we should treat different levels of data consumption all equally. When I pay my power bill, I pay for the power I actually used. When I pay my water bill, I pay for the water I actually used. I don't know why we're so insistent that the guy streaming 4k video through 3 devices should be treated the same as the guy who uses the internet for email and facebook. Charging corporations money to have their content all delivered at the same speed seems a bit fishy, but what's the case against charging people different amounts for internet access depending on how much they actually use the network?

Cowabungaa:
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Of course they spent money lobbying against it. It makes damn good sense for them to. They stand to make a lot more money if they don't have to buy influence with the people that find themselves suddenly in charge of the internet. Under the current system if they want to do something that might be legally grey under Net Neutrality they do it because it's legal and allowed. While under the new system they first have to grease the proper wheels/palms, they still do it though make no mistake of that. The fact remains that they will still be doing what they want because they will have the money and influence to mold and amend this new law to their liking over time. Small companies and consumers will be left ass out as the major players go on as they always have minus a few campaign donations here or the promise of a cushy private sector job there.

What we have effectively changed isn't the level of protection for the "little guys", no not at all that. What changes with this new law is now on top of the current system we will now have the government meddling into internet affairs. The government, typically men and women who's average age is right around "Dirt" who typically are typically so disconnected from the average American they couldn't pick one out of a line up. These same people who have zero working knowledge of technology will be the ones regulating the internet and you can believe that regulation will be strongly guided by the highest bidder. Hooray for the brave new world!

And why are we doing all of this why are we fundamentally changing the internet, and giving control of it to the government hoping they will regulate it in our best interests? On a purely hypothetical threat! We are doing all of this not because of anything that has happened already. No, that would make actual sense. We are doing this fundamental changing of the laws that govern the internet over what MIGHT happen someday down the road. It's absolutely absurd and made only more absurd by those cheering on these changes while not having the first inkling of what actually is contained in the 300 plus pages of law.

 

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