- During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised to "Support
the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition
on the Internet."
- Perhaps not given a worse record than his fiercest critics
feared, worse than George Bush, across the board on both domestic and foreign
- -- failing to deliver promised change;
- -- being the standard bearer for the corrupted political/business
- -- governing like a crime boss in league with Wall Street;
- -- disdaining democratic rights, freedoms, and the rule
- -- betraying working Americans;
- -- proposing social services cuts instead of increasing
them when they're most needed;
- -- denying budget-strapped states vitally needed aid;
- -- ignoring growing poverty, hunger, homelessness and
- -- expanding militarism, imperial wars, and state-sponsored
- -- violating human rights and civil liberties; and
- -- providing open-ended banker bailouts, an array of
pro-business measures, and the greatest ever amounts of military spending
at a time America has no enemies.
- Will Net Neutrality fare better? As the last frontier
of press freedom, it gives consumers access to any equipment, content,
application and service, free from corporate control. Public interest groups
want it preserved. Giant telecom and cable companies want control to:
- -- establish toll roads, or premium lanes;
- -- charge extra for speed and free and easy access;
- -- control content to stifle dissent and independent
- -- co-opt this essential public space for profit; and
- -- subvert digital and political democracy.
- Founded in 2002, "Free Press is a national, nonpartisan,
nonprofit organization working to reform the media (by) promot(ing) diverse
and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism,
and universal access to communication."
- It says Net Neutrality "means no discrimination
(by) prevent(ing) Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing
down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination."
- Giant providers want it privatized to "discriminate
in favor of their own search engines (while) slowing down or blocking services
by their competitors. (They're) spending hundreds of millions of dollars
lobbying Congress" and the FCC to defeat Net Neutrality and jeopardize
the Internet's future.
- Its loss will stifle innovation, limit competition, and
control, restrict or prevent free access to information. "Consumer
choice and the free market would be sacrificed to the interests of a few
- The Internet will resemble cable TV with providers deciding
"which channels, content and applications are available," and
at what price.
- At stake is whether digital democracy or corporate control
will prevail. For media scholar Bob McChesney, it's "a defining issue
(at a) critical juncture (window of opportunity) to create a communication
system that will be a powerful impetus (for) a more egalitarian, humane,
sustainable, and creative (self-governing) society."
- Media reform activists agree that a corporate-free and
open Internet must be defended at all costs. The stakes are that high.
This battle must be won, but no law mandates it, and under George Bush
and the Republican-controlled Congress, several proposed ones were quashed.
- HR 3458: The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009
- Introduced on July 31, 2009, it's "To amend the
Communications Act of 1934 to establish a national broadband policy, safeguard
consumer rights, spur investment and innovation, and for related purposes."
It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration.
- On October 22, 2009, Senator John McCain (with no cosponsors)
introduced S. 1836: A bill to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission
from further regulating the Internet." In other words, to prohibit
Net Neutrality, an idea McCain calls a "government takeover."
It was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- The Center for Responsive Politics and Sunshine Foundation
found that from January 2007 - June 2009, McCain was the largest recipient
of telecom and industry lobbyist contributions, getting $894,379, including
amounts for his presidential campaign. During the same period, 244 members
of Congress got $9.4 million, second only to what the pharmaceutical and
health products industry gave, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
- On October 23, 2009, a Federation of American Consumers
and Travelers news release announced that:
- "An aide to Sen. Byron L. Dorgan said the North
Dakota Democrat will reintroduce his "Preserving Internet Freedom"
bill, which he last sponsored in 2007." The bill "is intended
to support and help codify new net neutrality principles announced Sept.
21 by" the FCC.
- FCC to Establish New Net Neutrality Rules
- On September 21, an FCC press release headlined:
- "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Outlines Actions
to Preserve the Free and Open Internet....in a speech today at The Brookings
- He called the Internet "an extraordinary platform
for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity (that has) unleashed
the potential entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small
businesses across America. It is vital that we safeguard the free and open
Internet." The way forward will be debated pitting consumers against
powerful industry groups wanting full control and the profit potential
it holds. In the end, new rules will be crafted, hopefully to fulfill Obama's
promise, but so far with no assurance.
- Previously, the FCC embraced four open Internet principles
giving consumers access to:
- -- lawful Internet content;
- -- applications and services of their choice;
- -- legal devices not harmful to the network; and
- -- whatever network, application, service, and content
providers they wish.
- Two new ones are now proposed:
- -- preventing providers from discriminating against content
or applications, "while allowing for reasonable network management;"
- -- ensuring providers are transparent about their management
- On October 22, Genachowski affirmed the six principles
(applying to all Internet accessing platforms) in announcing a "Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)," stating:
- "With today's Notice, we seek public input on draft
rules to preserve an open Internet - the next step in an ongoing and longstanding
effort at the Commission....In examining the issue, the Commission has
provided abundant opportunities for public participation, including through
public hearings and requests for written comment, which have generated
over 100,000 pages of input in approximately 40,000 filings from interested
companies, organizations, and individuals."
- "Throughout this extensive process, one point has
attracted nearly unanimous support: The Internet's openness, and the transparency
of its protocols, have been critical to its success....Because of the historically
open architecture of the Internet, it has been equally accessible to anyone
with a basic knowledge of its protocols," including for commerce,
speech and "an immense variety of content, applications, and services
that have improved the lives of Americans....The Commission has a statutory
responsibility to preserve and promote advanced communications that are
accessible to all Americans and that serve national purposes."
- Up to now, the "Internet Policy Statement"
helped preserve Internet openness, but it's time "to build on past
efforts and to provide greater clarity regarding the Commission's approach
to these issues through a notice-and-comment rulemaking....to help address
emerging challenges to the open Internet." Comments are sought on:
- -- the six principles in draft language;
- -- the need for "reasonable network management;"
- -- "managed" or "specialized" services;
- -- how and to what extent they should apply to "non-wireline
forms of Internet access, including, but not limited to, terrestrial mobile
wireless, unlicensed wireless, licensed fixed wireless, and satellite;"
- -- enforcement procedures to ensure compliance.
- A new FCC web site, openinternet.gov, was launched to
encourage public input, with no assurance the agency or Congress will heed
- Nonetheless, Free Press policy director, Ben Scott, said:
- "After years of hard work, we are pleased that the
FCC has begun this crucially important rulemaking on Network Neutrality.
A well-crafted Net Neutrality rule can assure that the open Internet continues
to serve as a great force for economic innovation and democratic participation
for all Americans. (The agency is taking) an important step toward securing
the open Internet and a victory for the public interest and civil rights
organizations, small businesses, Internet innovators, political leaders,
and millions of people who have fought to get to this point...."
- "We welcome a new era at the FCC in which decisions
made in the public interest withstand the cynical lobby of special interests
from a few big phone and cable companies," and those in Congress who
support them like John McCain and the man Free Press calls the "Congressman
from Comcast," Robert Brady (D. PA), because of his "long-standing
history of supporting (its) policies" to the detriment of consumers.
- Potential FCC Net Neutrality Loophole
- Free Press' Tim Karr fears it may undermine Internet
freedom if not addressed and corrected, and a group of six prominent law
professors agree. They include:
- -- Jack Balkin, Yale Law School;
- -- John Blevins, South Texas College of Law;
- -- Jim Chen, University of Louisville School of Law where
he's also Dean;
- -- Larry Lessig, Harvard Law School;
- -- Barbara van Schewick, Stanford Law School; and
- -- Tim Wu, Columbia Law School.
- They've all "spent many years devoted to research
on the architecture of the Internet and its related policies (and) published
widely on" Net Neutrality.
- On November 2, they emailed Chairman Genachowski to "flag
what (they) believe are two (serious) ambiguities in the Notice that (they)
hope can be addressed early to provide a clearer foundation for comments:"
- For nearly a century, this has been a central concept
in telecommunications law and policy. Nothing should be done to subvert
it, so a clear definition is essential. So far, it's "surprisingly
- "Reasonable Network Management"
- It's a significant ambiguity because what's not reasonable
is "key to the entire rule."
- The professors "seek to understand whether, by (NPRM's)
language, the Commission seeks comments on what the standard should be,
or whether (it) proposes not to have one."
- They ask why "the FCC would not want to provide
some guidance on the applicable standard for reasonable network management,
lest....the exception swallow the rule," and want clarification now
to prevent it. Otherwise, these ambiguities will "provide generous
opportunities to try to work around the Commission's efforts in this area."
In other words, subvert Net Neutrality, not affirm it.
- To be effective, FCC rules and congressional legislation
must be unambiguous and strong with clear standards in the public interest,
especially regarding content.
- Free Press Policy Brief on the FCC's Proposed Net Neutrality
- Free Press calls the NPRM "a very important step
in the right direction," but some elements need clarification to "preclude
ISP's from preventing their customers from sending and receiving lawful
content, running lawful applications, or connecting lawful devices to the
network." Also to assure them free choice among network, applications,
service, and content providers.
- If properly crafted, new rules will establish a legal
framework to require nondiscriminatory treatment of all Internet traffic
under reasonable, fair network management standards. Yet significant ambiguities
may subvert final ones because of loopholes that must be avoided.
- So far, it appears that the FCC "is very committed
to protecting the open Internet with rules that have meaning and teeth....This
is clearly a very good start (that) lays a good foundation for a final
rule that will serve as an unassailable, yet appropriately flexible, firewall
to protect and preserve the open Internet." With precise clarification,
established standards "once enacted will withstand scrutiny in the
courts" and be a victory for digital democracy. But not easily against
powerful interests determined to subvert it, so therein lies the struggle
- Disturbing Implications of The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
Agreement (ACTA) for Net Neutrality, Consumer Privacy, and Civil Liberties
- Launched on October 23, 2007, America, the EU, Switzerland
and Japan began negotiating a new intellectual property enforcement treaty,
ACTA. Other nations as well, including Canada, Australia, Korea, New Zealand,
Mexico, Jordan, Singapore, and the UAE. Ostensibly for counterfeit goods
protection, critics say it's more about Internet distribution and information
technology rules to subvert Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedoms.
- Powerful interests want stronger global intellectual
property rights, and are pursuing them through the:
- -- WTO;
- -- World Customs Organization (WCO, "the only intergovernmental
organisation exclusively focused on Customs matters);"
- -- the G 8;
- -- the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO)
Advisory Committee on Enforcement: WIPO is a UN agency "dedicated
to developing an accessible international intellectual property system which
reward creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development...;"
- -- the Intellectual Property Experts' Group's (IPR) protection
and enforcement efforts to "achiev(e Pacific region) free and open
trade and investment."
- So far, few details are known, yet ACTA is being secretly
fast-tracked to completion.
- Concerned Americans got some information through Freedom
of Information (FOA) requests. Canadians also through Canada's Access to
Information Act (AIA).
- Of concern are provisions endangering consumer privacy,
civil liberties, legitimate commerce, restrictions on developing nations'
rights to choose their preferred policy options, and, pivotal for this
article, a free and open Internet.
- The US Trade Representative's (USTR) Fact Sheet and 2008
"Special 301" report shows an intent to create tougher intellectual
property enforcement standards than under the Agreement on Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). If successful, they'll
override national sovereignty, be binding on ACTA members, and give them
enough power to enforce global compliance.
- The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure
(FFII) is "a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European
countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public
benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards."
- In 2008, Brussels rebuffed its request for ACTA documents
- "the documents contain negotiating directives for
the negotiation of the above mentioned agreement. These negotiations are
still in progress. Disclosure of this information could impede the proper
conduct of the negotiation."
- In appealing the ruling, FFII accused the EU of "a
gross violation of the basic democratic principles (these nations are)
supposed to stand for." In a November 10, 2008 press release, it said:
- "The EU Council of Ministers refuses to release
secret (ACTA) documents. (This) secrecy fuels concerns that the treaty
may give patent trolls the means to extort companies, undermine access
to low-cost generic medicines, lead to monitoring all citizens' Internet
communications and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing."
- In May 2008, Wikileaks obtained a leaked four-page document
titled, "Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
- "If adopted, (ACTA) would impose a strong, top-down
enforcement regime, with new cooperation requirements upon (ISPs), including
perfunctionary disclosure of customer information. The proposal also bans
'anti-circumvention' measures which may affect online anonymity systems
and would likely outlaw multi-region CD/DVD players. The proposal also
specifies a plan to encourage developing nations to accept the legal regime,"
with perhaps consequences for those refusing.
- The document covers:
- -- legal measures to encourage ISPs to cooperate with
right holders to remove infringing content;
- -- material on anti-camcording laws; and
- -- network-level filtering to enforce a three-strikes-and-you're
out rule. That is, consumers found three times to have infringed copyrighted
content will have their Internet connections terminated.
- These provisions way exceed current treaty obligations
by imposing binding copyright demands requiring:
- -- ISPs to police copyrighted material and deter unauthorized
storage and transmission of alleged infringed content;
- -- terminate Internet access of alleged "repeat
infringers" or be liable;
- -- remove alleged infringed material;
- -- enforce digital rights management (DRM) rules relating
to systems that identify, track, authorize and restrict access to digital
media - to protect and enforce copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other
forms of intellectual property; and
- -- impose global US Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA) rules relating to intellectual property that will impose censorship,
subvert free expression, and undermine innovation.
- IP Justice is "an international civil liberties
organization promoting balanced intellectual property laws and free expression."
It addressed ACTA as follows:
- Its "text will be 'locked' and other countries who
are later 'invited' to sign-on to the pact will not be able to re-negotiate
its terms....few countries will have the muscle to refuse an 'invitation'
to join, once the rules have been set by the select few conducting the
- Other IP Justice concerns are over:
- -- secret negotiations;
- -- an undemocratic process;
- -- the exclusion of public interest groups;
- -- using questionable data,
- -- the burdens imposed on public and private interests;
- -- criminalizing ordinary consumer activity;
- -- free expression;
- -- privacy issues;
- -- due process rights;
- -- the need for flexibility to address technological