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Aaron writes: "Three judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality. This could be the end of the Internet as we know it. But it doesn't have to be."

(illustration: Free Press)
(illustration: Free Press)

Net Neutrality Is Dead. Here's How to Get it Back

By Craig Aaron, Free Press

15 January 14


hree judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality.

This could be the end of the Internet as we know it. But it doesn't have to be.

The big news: A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order. This decision means that companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon - which brought the lawsuit - are now free to block or slow down any website, application or service they like.

These companies will rush to change the Web and line their own pockets at our expense - creating new tolls for app makers, expensive price tiers for popular sites, and fast lanes open only to the few content providers that can afford them.

It didn't have to be this way.

The FCC's rules were designed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or interfering with Web traffic. Instead of reversing a Bush-era decision that weakened the FCC's authority over broadband, and establishing solid legal footing, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued the rules in 2010 under the complicated and shaky legal framework the court rejected today.

The rules the court struck down left much to be desired, but they were a step toward preserving Internet users' freedom to go wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV - where they pick and choose the channels for you. They'll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else.

We could pay dearly for the previous FCC's weak political will and wishy-washy approach. But today's ruling leaves the door wide open to a better approach. It's not too late for the FCC to reverse its terrible decisions and repair its doomed strategy.

That's right. The FCC could make all this go away by simply reading the law correctly and reclaiming the authority it already has to protect Internet users for good. The agency had clear authority before the Bush administration abdicated it and the Obama administration failed to fix the mistake.

New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently stated that the FCC must be able to protect broadband users and preserve the Internet's fundamental open architecture. Now he has no other choice but to restore and reassert the FCC's clear authority over our nation's communications infrastructure.

There will be serious pushback from the most powerful phone and cable companies (and an array of hired guns and front groups). They will make threats, recycle all of their debunked myths about the Internet - and promise we can trust them not to do any of the bad things they've fought so hard to do.

For too long, the FCC has worked to fulfill the wish lists of the big phone and cable monopolies - instead of looking out for Internet users like us.

Now the free and open Internet is flat-lining. But Wheeler has the paddles in his hands and the power to resuscitate Net Neutrality. We'll know soon if he has the political guts to use them.

We need strong protections and sensible policies to ensure the Internet continues to thrive and prosper. But to make that happen the millions of people who have fought for Net Neutrality - and the millions more who have rallied against Web-censorship bills like SOPA/PIPA and outrages like the NSA's unchecked spying and surveillance - must rise up like never before.

Together we can fight back against these greedy Internet service providers. We can save the Internet we love. But we have to act now.

See Also: Federal Court Guts Net Neutrality Rules your social media marketing partner


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+52 # kbarrand 2014-01-15 10:03
Government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

We the people of this country are secondary.
+14 # vicnada 2014-01-15 14:38
Quoting kbarrand:
We the people of this country are secondary.

...because we the people of this country are also "sedentary". What, in any other age, would have cause outrage, protest, civil disobedience and activism has become channel surfing, nodding through commercials and waking up just long enough to call for pizza delivery. Corporations serve to keep our worlds comfortable and convenient. While we sleep, they reward themselves with what we so willingly surrender, namely, our consciousness and freedom. One day we will be rudely awakened to find we have been robbed blind.
+1 # Buddha 2014-01-16 12:46
So very well said. Occupy would have been much more difficult to crush if intead of 1-2K, it had 10-20K in each of the protests across the nation. But America's panem et circenses has most too distracted, our labor has us exhausted, and our labor market has us scared to rock the boat. So like sheep, we do nothing but bleet when the knife falls.
+34 # DaveM 2014-01-15 10:37
We are paying for Internet service. NOT for referral to ISP-favoried sites. Each of us with an Internet account has a contract with the provider which to my knowledge says NOTHING about "throttling" specific sites, subjects, or content of any sort.

In other words, should this actually happen, everyone with an Internet account is a potential plaintiff in a massive class-action lawsuit. Perhaps that will keep Verizon and others honest.
+24 # DaveM 2014-01-15 10:39
Imagine if your telephone took longer to connect when you called certain numbers, or certain geographical areas, or if you did not listen to an ad before dialing. It is no different. I doubt "the phone company" would last long if it did this sort of thing. And let us remember that Verizon is a provider of all sorts of services, not just Internet.
+27 # m... 2014-01-15 10:58
I have another legal avenue thought…

I will say the current decision could be overturned under the Public Trust Doctrine. Because, simply put, the Internet has been open/neutral for so long now that it therefore has a tradition of being open/neutral for all… It is now a RIGHT OF WAY… just like access to the beach and all land up to the mean high tide…
And, just like a wetland….
Just ask farmers around the country who left standing water on their own land long enough for migrating birds to take notice and use it regularly. Once so, then they had to forever leave the standing water there for the migrating birds under the law.
The Public Trust Doctrine is a very powerful Legal Doctrine… and Internet Neutrality just might now qualify for its protection.
+31 # m... 2014-01-15 10:44
Corporations decide EVERYTHING in America.

Because, in America, the National Religion is Money and the Doctrine is--- EVERYTHING IS A COMMODITY TO BE EXPLOITED BY THOSE WHO CAN EXPLOIT IT THE MOST SUCCESSFULLY…

Its just a matter of time before Three Judges decide the National Parks should be chopped up into lots for the Super Wealthy Corporate Class because that would represent Highest and Best Use in our new Corporatacracy. ..
+11 # Skippydelic 2014-01-15 10:52
Is an appeal to the Supreme Court planned?

Not that it would do any good, but...
+4 # m... 2014-01-15 20:33
Try writing to your (supposed) Representatives and demand this Court Decision/Net Neutrality be reviewed from the Legal Standpoint of a Public Trust Doctrine Issue…
+5 # RicKelis 2014-01-15 14:56
Appeal to the full D.C. circuit court and the SCOTUS is possible. The addition of 3 sane judges to the circuit court could bring about acceptance of the review request and bring about a more favorable outcome. This would be the first example of the benefits of busting the filibuster on judicial nominees.
+14 # Nominae 2014-01-15 15:44
As a former I.T. techie it used to drive me mad to see that, for instance, the country of Japan has internet service *27* times faster than that available in the U.S., and they get it for *less* money !

That offended my techie sense of "elegant design", because, after all, the U.S. invented the internet !

Silly me, however, this article finally "parts the curtain" over the dark secret behind *why* we lag so far behind other countries in hi-tech quality and price. Turns out it has *NOTHING* to do with the technology itself.

I shoulda known.
+1 # MindDoc 2014-01-15 20:23
...the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV - where they pick and choose the channels for you.

Will they call it AOL? They (and Compu-serve, Pipeline, etc) tried exactly this, to keep people on their ranch, rather than going off into the wilds of the world wide web. For some years many thought the Internet was synonymous with AOL - either go to the 'you've got mail' channel, or horoscopes, recipes, whatever they put on the menu. Channels. How'd that work out? Search engines soon became popular, then sites like Myspace, Facebook, Amazon and Youtube. People drive themselves now on the Information Highway. Billboards and tolls, but open.

Meanwhile, the U.S.,still lags most of the world in terms of access to affordable and fast broadband - suitable for real computers, not only small screens via wi-fi. (Today it is increasingly wireless which is "where the money is" and the Net Neutrality provisions did not even apply to *wireless* Internet providers)

So It's not so simple, and not good news. There are reasons these mega-corporatio ns are fighting to control access (by Americans) to the Internet, and thus limit an open Internet. Very important to follow up & to assert protections for 'the people' ,and clarify this matter of 'who owns the Internet'.The debate is also whether access is a 'utility' or an elective luxury service which charges dearly for access, to open information.
+4 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-16 00:18
We are rapidly becoming(??) a third world country. And the FCC has shown itself to be merely a lackey of the untrustworthy corporate actors such as AT&T , Verizon, Time-Warner etc.
-1 # Jingze 2014-01-17 13:34
Internet is an unnecessary luxury.

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