So… Now Net Neutrality is In??

All of a sudden President Obama is jumping on the Net Neutrality band wagon?

I don’t get politics.

I really don’t. Perhaps it’s because at the core of everything in me, I think that (most) people are generally good and don’t want or have any desire to screw over the person sitting next to them. Maybe I’m naïve… or just stupid. Who knows.

A few years ago when SOPA had the internet up in arms, everyone was screaming about the internet, content rights, and net neutrality. Its counterpart, PIPA was just as bad; and thankfully, both of them died in committee. Through all of this, though, lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Time Warner and every other cable provider have been spending big… and I mean BIG… dollars in Washington trying to keep the FCC from applying Title II telecommunications reclassifications to ISP’s.

Effectively, Title II classification would make all ISP’s a broadcast service and therefore, a utility, falling directly under the governments regulations. However, there’s a catch..

The problem is that the internet is both a telecommunications service and an information service. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 covers both, but there’s a huge loop hole. While the act does make provisions for the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunication – and includes electronic publishing – it does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service. The distinction comes into play when a carrier provides information services. A carrier providing information services is not a ‘telecommunications carrier’ under the act.

Over the past few years lobbyists have been throwing money at law makers, trying to get them to allow for HOV lanes on the internet. For example, a few years ago, Comcast wanted Netflix to pay a premium to have their content streamed over the internet or Comcast would throttle Netflix content.

Netflix said, “no.”

It didn’t want to pay for a virtual HOV lane on the internet. So, Comcast followed through and throttled their traffic, making the service pretty much unusable. This caused a huge problem for Netflix. Their stock tanked as users complained and left. In the end, Netflix relented, and paid for their HOV lane, and Comcast stopped throttling their traffic. The stock recovered and all was right with the world.

Net Neutrality would make this type of extortion illegal; and would require ISP’s like Comcast, Cox and Time Warner to treat all traffic like the 1’s and 0’s that they are.

President Obama appointed the most recent FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler hasn’t had a great deal of success in addressing Net Neutrality. A federal appeals court struck down the previously proposed rules for net neutrality in January of 2014. The FCC has been trying to play politics since then and really hasn’t wanted to touch the hot potato that this has become.

In the end, both sides of this issue – the lobbyists opposing net neutrality and the content providers and the public who laud it – are pushing the FCC to make a decision. As Sean Connery said, “in the end, there can be only one.” At the end of the day, someone has to make up their minds – is everything just ones and zeros – or is some internet traffic more expensive to transmit?

At the end of the day, it’s really all about money.

The ISP’s want to be paid for the kind of traffic that flows more often over the internet – streaming audio and streaming video – from services like Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio, Hulu, and Netflix. They see users moving all of their entertainment needs and wants to the internet as hard wires have a much farther reach than signals broadcast over the air. In other words, the change in infrastructure, equipment, type of traffic and the supply and demand for it… the entertainment and telecommunications lobbies want to be compensated for all of that. They want to tax the users and make them pay for their habits.

I recently saw an article that showed a Tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. He called Net Neutrality “ObamaCare for the Internet.”

I disagreed and tweeted back that Net Neutrality is really the internet’s Declaration of Independence.

net neutrality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [internet traffic is] created equal, that they are endowed by their [content] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are [equality], [perpetuity] and the pursuit of [unmetered Bandwidth].

I’m willing to give a bit on the “unalienable rights,” part. If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I really did that off the top of my head, but the point is clear – all internet traffic should be treated the same, and none of it should be throttled or metered based on what kind of content it comprises.

Now, what Tom Wheeler decides to do… no one knows yet. I think I see him sitting on the sidelines watching which way the wind is blowing. He is clearly either a professional politician or is just afraid of standing up and making a decision.

The country – no… the WORLD – is watching Mr. Wheeler. What you decide will likely shape the next century or two. I know you want to get it right and you don’t want to create issues or problems for yourself, but it’s time to do the right thing. Put your big boy pants on and take a stand for Net Neutrality.

Do the right thing.

While I tend to be a conservative politically, I am not rich. I don’t want to pay MORE of a premium for the content I am already consuming. As entertainment – music and video – moves from broadcast and cable TV to the internet via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other on-demand services, I don’t want to have to pay more than I already am (which, by the way, is as much of a premium as it really needs to be for all of the movie channels, on demand channels and pay-per-view channels that are available and are used) for the stuff I ALREADY HAVE. In the end… the content providers are going to pass the cost of the HOV lane on to the consumer…

I work for a living! Cut me and my checking account a break and say yes to Net Neutrality!

What do YOU think? Am I too invested in this? Am I right about content being all ones and zeros and all ones and zeros are created a like? Is your internet bill really a UTILITY bill as defined by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Why don’t you chime in, in the Discussion area below and let me know what you think? Anyone who surfs the internet likely has some kind of opinion about this. I’d love to hear yours…

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  • Timothy Chan

    Just ones and zeros? Well that can’t be right as there certainly are different levels of traffic. Perhaps your VoIP calls can be flagged as regular traffic rather than prioritized packets and let’s see how you will like that. QoS is needed because of different applications of the network. As it’s based on use, it should be controlled and people should pay for an increased service level. To claim that all traffic is equal is bad form. Entertainment is not a necessity and hence if you want it, you can pay extra for it. If it’s in the education sector, then exceptions should be made and/or the cost of technology should be transferred to the students as part of their tuition. Outside of that, it’s business and market forces will keep pricing agile with supply and demand.

    Edit: With digital convergence, it may be difficult or impossible to know if even a portion of your copper line or cell calls might be running over the Internet.

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