In search of public outrage

This one’s a bit off-topic, and mostly just for those of us from the USA.

Remember the 2008 elections?  The world’s moving so fast these days that that can feel like a long time in the past, but it shouldn’t be completely out of everyone’s memory yet.  When Barack Obama ran for President, one of the things he promised was to “take a back seat to no one” on Net Neutrality.  And he also pledged that there would be more openness and transparency in government.  But now the FCC is trying to sell us all out.

Instead of openness and transparency, they’re currently holding meetings behind closed doors with telecom corporations to decide what the rules will be.  Just as Congress did with copyright law from the 70s to the 90s, the FCC is currently in the process of allowing the very people that it is supposed to be protecting us from to write the rules!

This is a crime against the American people and needs to be treated as one.  Unlike a lot of political topics, Net Neutrality enjoys almost universal support among the American people.  This isn’t a liberal agenda topic or a conservative agenda topic; it’s something that We The People want.  All of us!  (Well, everyone except the telecom industry, who wants to be able to control how we communicate with each other online.)

Unfortunately, it’s starting to almost look like things are to the point where nothing but massive public outrage will get anything done.  But even though Net Neutrality is an issue that will affect all of us if we lose it, it’s not something easily visible.  Certainly not as easily visible as, say, a leaking oil well.  That’s visible enough to generate its own outrage.  Just point a camera at it, and suddenly all the turkeys in DC are falling all over themselves to demonstrate just how committed they are to fixing the problem.  That’s exactly what we need to have happen for Net Neutrality, but it’s not happening.

So I guess we’ll have to generate some public outrage of our own.  Get the word out.  The FCC is trying to hand the Internet over to the corporate predators it’s supposed to be regulating.  There’s a petition here that you can sign, directed at the White House and the FCC, but unless we get enough signatures to indicate serious public interest it won’t amount to much.  If anyone can think of a way to focus more attention on this issue, please put it into action.  Enough is enough.


  1. Ken Knopfli says:

    Enlighten those of us not from the U.S.A. and not in the loop:

    What is this all about?
    What exactly is being decided?
    What is going to be regulated?
    And will that influence users in the rest of the world?

  2. Mason Wheeler says:

    All right. For those not up to speed on the issue, Net Neutrality refers to the legal requirement that ISPs treat all data the same way. Their job is to deliver data that end users are transmitting from point A to point B, and that’s the end of it. But because Net Neutrality is mostly just common sense at the moment and not actually protected by law, some ISPs have been overstepping their bounds.

    Comcast, for example, is infamous for this. They’re originally a cable TV company who got into providing cable modem service, and in the last few years they’ve come under a lot of fire for inspecting what’s being transmitted and degrading or even outright blocking some video content. Comcast claims it’s because it takes up too much bandwidth and puts a strain on their services. Everyone else says it’s a blatant conflict of interest. (Remember, they’re primarily a cable TV company.) Net Neutrality regulations would make shenanigans like that illegal.

    What’s being decided are the rules for how Net Neutrality is going to work. Behind closed doors, with no one present to represent the public interest, only corporate lobbyists.

    What’s going to be regulated? Well, it’s hard to say because it hasn’t been decided yet, but based on who’s attending the meetings, the answer is probably “as little as possible.”

    And it will definitely influence users in the rest of the world if they’re communicating with a server in the USA, or over an Internet pipeline that passes through the USA, (or anywhere else that doesn’t have Net Neutrality,) and the company running it decides it’s in their financial interests to mess with the connection for whatever reason.

  3. Warren says:

    This is awful.


  4. Erik says:

    “Universal support”? When Net Neutrality is explained in the proper context — i.e., the government dictating what private (and publicly-held) companies can and cannot do *with their own equipment*, I’d really question on which side the “outrage” (why are you big-government types always outraged anyways) would lie.

    What do you have on your agenda next? “Book neutrality”? “Airwave neutrality”? (Oh, right…that’s already in the works.)

    Oh, and the FCC has *no* mandate to regulate the Internet. NONE. Your “they’re supposed to be regulating” statement is just something you made up.

    And “corporate predators”? “Crime against the American people”? Nicely colored (if completely irrational) language you use. Completely detracts from any facts you’ve presented. Oh, wait…you haven’t given one single rational basis for your argument. Proceed with the name calling then…

  5. Mason Wheeler says:

    Please, Erik. There are enough annoying flesh-and-blood men in the computer industry. Let’s not make the problem worse by adding straw men to the mix. I’m hardly a “you big-government type.” What I am is a reasonable person who understands that governments exist for a purpose, and that they do need to be capable of accomplishing their purpose.

    According to the Declaration of Independence, that purpose is to secure (protect) the rights of the citizens to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and other unnamed fundamental rights. It’s important to note that “Pursuit” is one of those words whose meaning has changed a bit in the last few centuries. Today it means “to chase after something,” almost exclusively. But in 1776, there was another important meaning. Jefferson wasn’t using the word as a verb, but as a noun meaning “that with which one occupies one’s time.” We’ve sort of lost that word. I think the closest term in the modern lexicon is “lifestyle.”

    Nobody finds anything strange in drunk driving laws, for example. Even if the vehicle and the alcohol are both your personal property, the government dictates that you are not allowed to use the two of them together, and everyone’s fine with that, because of the dangerously high likelihood that doing so will cause harm to others. That’s the government doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

    But when they try to regulate harm-causing behavior in a large corporation, all of you small-government types (how does it feel to be pigeonholed like that?) get all up in arms about it, despite the fact that corporations have more resources at their disposal than most individual people, and therefore a greater potential to cause harm. It’s as if corporations think they ought to enjoy all the benefits of personhood with none of the obligations that come with it. Why is that? I’ve never heard “you small-government types” provide any good answer to that question.

    The real world doesn’t work that way. With great power comes great responsibility. The FCC may not have a mandate “to regulate the Internet,” but it does have a mandate to regulate the behavior of American telecom companies and keep them from causing harm to people. And they’re currently in the process of abdicating that responsibility and selling us out. And that is an outrage and a crime against the American people.

  6. François says:

    For the same reason the Post Office is not supposed to read your letters and chose how fast or slow to deliver them depending on their content, for the same reason the phone companies are not supposed to eavesdrop on your conversation to decide the quality of service they’ll provide, for the same reason the ISPs should not be able to sniff your internet traffic to reduce your bandwidth following their own agenda (i.e. mainly harm competition).
    For those not in the know, it started with Comcast cutting bandwidth to people doing bit torrent transfers. They denied it at first only to be proven wrong and caught red handed.
    Yeah, they not only suck (our internet here in the US is more expensive and not as good as in Europe) and they lie. I certainly don’t want to give them a blank check.
    Go Mason!

  7. I think it is outrageous that some people in the US even question net neutrality.

    I pay for internet access on a monthly basis to get access to the internet as I please. Most of my TV, movies, music, telephony comes from the internet and I do not want my ISP to have any influence on what I do while on-line. I walked away from Comcast a long time ago because I did not like their lack of service and a blame it on the user attitude.

    This issue is equivalent to the multitude of “unlimited” contracts we have signed up for that have “reasonable” use clauses and data caps effectively rendering the “unlimited” word limited by the service provider’s interpretation of the word reasonable.

    Under the auspices of anti big-government types, corporations have been able to extort money from consumers while providing average/mediocre services or goods. I think we need to step aside for a moment and realize that the Government is OUR government and as such OUR Government must represent OUR interest. Yes it is a capitalistic system and I do not deny that companies are in it for a profit – but it should be a fair market where we receive what we are paying for. And net neutrality is a fair concept.

  8. Jim McKeeth says:

    Here is an example of the “opposite” of net neutrality – tiered internet access:

  9. Ken Knopfli says:

    This may just have some aspects of a blessing in disguise.

    Not everyone on the planet has the luxury of fast internet access. It is often reported that the BBC, YouTube, etc. have put a strain on internet backbones without carrying their share of the costs. Maybe folks and companies will start being more responsible with bandwidth.

    I personally find that especially the wave of non-tech-savvy users that came on-line the past few years do not understand it that someone else might not have the luxury of the same internet speed, and that it’s annoying to have to download 10meg videos that contain the same info that could have been typed into a 10k document.

    As to security, it is wise to assume everything you ever send over the internet is open and shall be there forever; and that anything with high-security encoding by today’s standards will be easily crackable some time in the future.

  10. Kenny says:

    I can see both side of the argument. From the consumer’s point of view telcos have a long history of practices designed to extract more money from consumer’s without providing any additional service. The original AT&T is the most notable example of this. For over a century it owned the network, lines and devices that made up the Bell System. Phones were leased to consumers and access was denied to would-be third party devices. The only innovations during this time were those that increased AT&T profits or increased their control over the consumer. The wireless and broadband operators of today are only marginally better than the old AT&T. Ask anyone if they understand the purpose of all the surcharges that are added to the bills they receive each month. Or why the $400 cell phone they bought because of advertised features has those features disabled by the service provider unless they are willing to pay an additional $15 a month for each one.

    From the service provider’s stand point, outside companies (even direct competitors) are providing services that put a strain on the service provider’s infrastructure. Its reasonable for them to expect compensation for the additional strain. The question is how? Limiting a consumer’s access to a service provided by third party hardly seems fair to either the third party or the consumer. The consumer has already paid for service. Extract more from them to access content or services you had no hand it creating? I think not. Likewise, the third party has already paid their own isp for a certain guaranteed level of service. It hardly seems fair to demand more or threaten to cut them off from your consumers. Offering your own services that compete with the third parties you want to extort is a blatant conflict of interest.