Net Neutrality Free Speech

At left in the foreground, a printer removes a...

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**Update below 12/20 at 9:38

Victor Hugo had it right…the printing press was the greatest invention of the times.

Human thought discovers a mode of perpetuating itself, not only more durable and more resisting than architecture, but still more simple and easy. Architecture is dethroned. Gutenberg’s letters of lead are about to supersede Orpheus’s letters of stone.

*The book is about to kill the edifice*.

The invention of printing is the greatest event in history. It is the mother of revolution. It is the mode of expression of humanity which is totally renewed; it is human thought stripping off one form and donning another; it is the complete and definitive change of skin of that symbolical serpent which since the days of Adam has represented intelligence.

In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, indestructible. It is mingled with the air. In the days of architecture it made a mountain of itself, and took powerful possession of a century and a place. Now it converts itself into a flock of birds, scatters itself to the four winds, and occupies all points of air and space at once.

I put this to you…would you say that the internet, in its most basic and important form, is second to the printing press as the greatest invention of the age? One could argue, with the recent release of Wikileaks, the use of the internet and apps like Twitter during the Iranian Elections, and the ability to connect with other people to share and discuss ideas…the internet has become, the mother of revolution. The internet is indeed a shape-shifter, changing its form and becoming like that flock of birds, spreading knowledge and information to the four corners of the world…occupying “all points of air and space at once.”  Hugo’s description of the printed word can directly relate to the written word, via the net.

Tomorrow, the FCC will hold a commission meeting and vote to pass the Net-Neutrality bill that has been brought forward by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. There has been lots of speculation about what the bill will actually say, but many believe that the recent embrace of the legislation by big companies…like Verizon and Google, et al., is a signal that the language protecting freedom of the net, will be vague at least. Put your tin foil hats on…and lets get through the “spin”…here we go.

How appropriate that the Federal Communications Commission has picked the darkest day of the year to vote on its new Net Neutrality rules. Unless they are dramatically improved at the 11th hour, the FCC’s proposal will go down as one of the bleakest moments in the history of the Internet.

We will look back years from now on Tuesday’s vote as a squandered opportunity, where old-fashioned D.C. politics, weak-kneed FCC leadership, and jaw-dropping short-sightedness sacrificed the most remarkable engine for economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech ever invented.

I’m not saying this is the end of the fight or that new and amazing things won’t happen online, but the FCC’s epic failure to get this right will make things unquestionably worse. Somehow, an FCC chairman cheered on by millions of Americans and backed by a presidential endorsement ended up making rules designed to win over AT&T, rather than you and me.

Net Neutrality’s supporters are being asked to compromise and cave so that the biggest phone and cable companies don’t make things uncomfortable for Julius Genachowski in the next Congress. So in the waning days before the vote, the chairman and his proxies have been spending their timeslandering the principled members of the commission and cajoling tech-company CEOs to remain uncritical unless they want their other priorities to be deep-sixed in the future.

Perhaps nothing better encapsulates the sorry state of things at the FCC than the pitiful PR campaign mounted by the Genachowski’s office to demonstrate support for his disappointing proposal. It turns out that most of the folks willing to stand behind the chairman are those who’ve been trying to kill Net Neutrality from the start.

The problem is that even though a law regarding the openness and freedom of net-neutrality is something that we and the government regulations should address,  to pass a bill with weak language will only make access to the internet free and equal for all, more convoluted.

Even Al Franken has put his own thoughts of Freedom of Speech and the FCC’s Net Neutrality…

As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.

This principle is called “net neutrality” — and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it.

[…]

Although Chairman Genachowski’s draft Order has not been made public, early reports make clear that it falls far short of protecting net neutrality.

For many Americans — particularly those who live in rural areas — the future of the Internet lies in mobile services. But the draft Order would effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections.

[…]

But grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we’ve been had. Instead of proposing regulations that would truly protect net neutrality, reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal, which would destroy it.

No chairman should be soliciting sign-off from the corporations that his agency is supposed to regulate — and no true advocate of a free and open Internet should be seeking the permission of large media conglomerates before issuing new rules.

I think that there are very important freedoms here at stake. The one person who seemed to have the ability to stand up and make sure that the language in the bill is not weak, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, has just made a statement to the press that he will not stand in the way of Genachowski’s proposal. With Dems’ Support, FCC Likely to Approve Net Neutrality Rules | News & Opinion | PCMag.com

Commissioner Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn will vote in favor of the FCC’s net neutrality rules at Tuesday’s open commission meeting, an FCC official said Monday. They had some suggestions about how to improve the first draft, some of which were incorporated into the rules to satisfy their concerns, the official said.

“The open Internet is a crucial American marketplace, and I believe that it is appropriate for the FCC to safeguard it by adopting an Order that will establish clear rules to protect consumers’ access,” Clyburn said in a statement. “The Commission has worked tirelessly to offer a set of guidelines that, while not as strong as they could be, will nonetheless protect consumers as they explore, learn, and innovate online. As such, I plan to vote to approve in part and concur in part the Open Internet Order during the FCC’s open meeting tomorrow.

PC World has a summary of the guidelines:

The FCC official, however, provided some insight into what we’ll find in the order. Specifically, the order provides three high-level rules: robust transparency requirements that apply to fixed broadband and wireless providers; a no-blocking rule that bans the blocking of lawful content and apps or services for fixed broadband providers and bans the blocking of Web sites or apps that compete with broadband providers’ voice or video telephony services for mobile providers; and a no unreasonable discrimination rule for fixed broadband providers. What else?

Tiered pricing: The order discusses the issue of broadband providers giving users choice for broadband service, and notes that this could be beneficial for some customers, the FCC official said. But it can also pose risks and is something that the FCC will be monitoring.

Paid Prioritization: This is something that would be evaluated under the unreasonable discrimination standard and would be unlikely to stand up to FCC scrutiny, the official said. The order explains the FCC’s concerns about paid prioritization and says it’s unlikely to be deemed reasonable. Theoretically, however, there might one day be a technology where it’s appropriate to incorporate paid prioritization, but that is left open and the bar is very high, the official said.

FCC Legal Authority: The main reason the FCC is addressing this issue right now is because an appeals court in April said that the FCC had no right to hand down a 2008 network enforcement action against Comcast for unreasonable network management. The FCC, however, rejects that premise and believes that the previous FCC – which handed down the action – simply failed to demonstrate enough of a connection between the statute that gives the FCC its authority and the specific action it took in that case. As a result, tomorrow’s order addresses a number of sections in the Communications Act that support the steps the FCC is taking on net neutrality.

Addressing Complaints: If someone files an unreasonable network management complaint against an ISP, what will happen? Anyone can file a complaint and the FCC will then decide whether or not to initiate an inquiry. The FCC official said any complaint the commission does take up will be addressed quickly under an accelerated timeframe so as not to drag on for months on end. Those who are found to be in violation of the FCC’s net neutrality rules could face fines or be forced to stop the offending behavior.

I am no lawyer, and being a medievalist, would prefer we stick with scribes ( 😉 joking of course.) I just am concerned with the issue that so many big communication companies are for this Genachowski plan. I am sure there are some readers who can give some input on this. I will end this post with a scene from the 1939 classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Update!!!! I feel that this rule is going to lead to censorship. As I said below…I think that the fees are just gravy. This will eventually become a way for the companies to censor the web/net that they offer. Think about it. When the companies start charging for extra services…or special services, then they could turn around and limit/control what is on those services…I really think this is the issue at its core.

Thank you to Zal for sending me this:

Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality — Tuesday Betrayal Assured

Late Monday, a majority of the FCC’s commissioners indicated that they’re going to vote with Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule.

According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow’s FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet.

The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it’s become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users.

Welcome to AT&T’s Internet

For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.

Instead of a rule to protect Internet users’ freedom to choose, the Commission has opened the door for broadband payola – letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

Instead of protecting openness on wireless Internet devices like the iPhone and Droid, the Commission has exempted the mobile Internet from Net Neutrality protections. This move enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others.

Instead of re-establishing the FCC’s authority to act as a consumer watchdog over the Internet, it places the agency’s authority on a shaky and indefensible legal footing — giving ultimate control over the Internet to a small handful of carriers.

Obama’s ‘Mission Accomplished’

Internet users deserve far better, and we thought we were going to get it from a president who promised to “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality.” Watch as he and his FCC chairman try to spin tomorrow’s betrayal as another “mission accomplished.”

Don’t believe it. This bogus victory has become all too familiar to those watching the Obama administration and its appointees squander opportunities for real change. The reality is that reform is just a rhetorical front for industry compromises that reward the biggest players and K-Street lobbyists while giving the public nothing.

It’s not the FCC chairman’s job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users.

More than two million people have taken action on behalf of Net Neutrality. Tomorrow, we’ll all get the carpet yanked from beneath our feet.

Net Neutrality is the freedom of speech, freedom of choice issue of the 21st century. It’s the guarantee of a more open and democratic media system that was baked into the Internet at its founding.

On Tuesday, Obama’s FCC is going to sell that out.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1939 \”A printing press!\”

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” (1939)

(Scene – Notre-Dame striking the hour as viewed from a first-floor printer’s window. KING LOUIS, FROLLO and PRINTER observe.)

KING: I’ve never heard a more beautiful Angelus. Who is the bellringer of Notre-Dame?

PRINTER: Quasimodo, your Majesty. The people simply call him ‘the hunchback’.

KING: Quasimodo? Hmph! What an odd name! And now, Master Fisher, let us see what reason my High Justice had for asking me to come to your shop. What do you call this apparatus?

PRINTER: The German inventor Gutenberg calls it a ‘printing press’, Your Majesty.

KING: And what is it for?

PRINTER: To print books, your Majesty.

KING: For whom?

PRINTER: For the people. They will learn to read when they can get books. I can print a volume like this one in a few weeks, and quite inexpensively.

KING: Imagine, Frollo, a few weeks. When I ordered my prayer book, it took them years to copy it out, and cost me a fortune. (Indicating illuminated book) This is more beautiful than the printed book. Nevertheless, the printing press is a miracle.

FROLLO: A horrifying miracle.

KING: Horrifying? This small press?

FROLLO: Small things have a way of overmastering the great. The Nile rat kills the crocodile. This small press can destroy a kingdom.

KING: Oh come, come, my High Justice, don’t exaggerate! (to PRINTER) What is that?

PRINTER: It is the first page of a new book, your Majesty.

KING: Let me see it. “On the Freedom of Thought”. Who wrote it?

PRINTER: Pierre Gringoire.

KING: Gringoire? Who is he?

PRINTER: A French poet, Your Majesty.

FROLLO: A heretic, Sire. To spread him is to communicate disease.

KING: How do you know? It may be a great blessing to France that people can get books and learn to read. To me, it’s a new form of expression of thought. (Sound of choir: KING looks out to Cathedral. During this speech we see shots of Notre-Dame.) Out there is the old form, all over France, in every city, there stand cathedrals like this one, triumphant monuments of the past. They tower over the forms of our people like mighty guardians, keeping alive the invincible faith of the Christians. Every arch, every column, every statue is a carved leaf out of our history, a book of stone, glorifying the spirit of France. The cathedrals are the handwriting of the past; the press is of our time. And I won’t do anything to stop it, Frollo.

FROLLO: Sire, we must break the press and hang the printer, for between them they will destroy our old and holy order!

KING: Oh, no, I’m not such a fool.

FROLLO: I for my part will protect France from these printed books as I will protect her from witches, sorcerers and Gypsies, the foreign race that is overrunning all of Europe.


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21 Comments on “Net Neutrality Free Speech”

  1. Eric says:

    In my opinion, net neutrality is kind of ironic since we all have to pay a fee to use the service. Other than that, I’m a firm support for neutrality considering it as a service not of capital pursuits but a suppository of worldly knowledge and the church door for all of us to hammer our grievances. We already pay for certain services online as well as a fee to use the service to receive these other services.
    From what I have been informed, companies like like Verizon wants to charge people fees for usage of services not endorsed by the host company. This is unacceptable; if anything, I would remove my subscription in protest if it so happened. This does not just be for communication services as well. What if Verizon starting charging you for games you play or the blogs you write on? It’s clearly a gradual suppression of communities and freedom of choice. Even if they declared a more affordable service, you will still have to play to use the online services not endorsed by the company who provided you the service to access the Internet. And if they start charging per file size, bandwidth or time, it will add up to extraordinary rates.
    Though I don’t hold much say in American society, I wanted to allow my viewpoint to be heard.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Thanks for your comment Eric, like I said I am not an expert, but I can see where this whole thing can lead. Once these big companies start charging for extra services, then who is to say they will not censor what they “broadcast” over the net…if you see where I am thinking this can go. What do you think about the possibility if this does pass, which it looks like it will, that eventually we will see censorship creeping into the scene?

      • dakinikat says:

        great essay and love the hunchback thing!

        Terribly OT but there is a Total Lunar eclipse tonight for any one with a clear sky and a love of late hours. you can stay up all night with NASA!!!

        • Sima says:

          Heh, I might do this. My hours have totally spun around and I’m on vampire duty again.

        • NW Luna says:

          Yes! Starts around 10:30 pm PST and goes into the wee hours. We are also lucky to have a very low tide tonight.

          So in honour of the Solstice Moon, our watery planet, and life forms in all their fascinating variety, some H sapiens will be dancing (cautiously to avoid squashing squishy sealife or crunching crustaceans) about the tidelands in headlamps and rubber boots tonight in my ‘hood. Warm clothing is desirable for all creatures not covered with scales, fur or shells.

          Maybe I’ll bring a libation made especially for moon, sea, and change of seasons, to hearten the fires of resistance and stubborness.

          Bright blessings to all as we slip through Solstice’s longest night and round again to the spiral of shortening nights and longer days.

          “Under the early Julian Calendar, the winter solstice occurred on 25 December. When the more accurate Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, the solstice slipped to the 21st, but the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ has continued to be held on 25 December. This date is also associated with the Roman Saturnalia festival, and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ (the birthday of the unconquered sun), as well as Nordic pagan festivals.”
          http://www.nmm.ac.uk/rog/2010/12/happy_solstice_2.html

      • HT says:

        Minx, I suspect the whole onslaught is to ensure that companies and governments can censor what can be viewed on the net. The charge per ap is just another plus, but not the real intent. We don’t want people to be informed outside of the propaganda parameters, now do we . People might just get a clue about what is happening to their liberties, and that would never do. /snark.

      • Eric says:

        Minkoff Minx; if it doesn’t infringe on human rights on freedom speech and choice, I would consider it. However net neutrality is a subject debated since the internet started. Some countries claim it for themselves, others want to keep it a domain of knowledge and discussion. Though most do claim it for themselves (I won’t name names but lets just say that country being run with corporate persuasion); those that get away are the corporations, they want it so they can use it as their own infinite ad space.
        Then after that, it’s just what-if options. What if that bill passes and allows censorship? What if there are loopholes companies and institutions can get around? What if they started adding exemptions for certain companies in terms of their marketing campaign?
        It’s not just capital gains we’re talking about here, we’re in almost a Mexican standoff between our (our society) need of capital gains through exploitation and our social freedoms most nations have accepted. And that’s one shootout that we’re all going to have to take sides on.

  2. dakinikat says:

    And speaking of Net Neutrality and Freedom of Speech:

  3. Sima says:

    I’m glad you posted about this, Minx. I used to follow the net neutrality fight when I had more time, now it just seems like I don’t have the time.

    However, I should make time. This is important. Many of us only have one provider available, although supposedly it’s a ‘free market’ with ‘many players’. We are at the mercy of that one provider. Can you imagine if they decide to block all, say, political blogs unless we pay a greater fee? Sheez.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      I think that the fees are just gravy. This will eventually become a way for the companies to censor the web/net that they offer. Think about it. When the companies start charging for extra services…or special services, then they could turn around and limit/control what is on those services…I really think this is the issue at its core.

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    Wow, thank you Zal for this link! I went ahead and updated the post above.

    Timothy Karr: Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality — Tuesday Betrayal Assured

  5. Seriously says:

    You’d think that this would be the one issue O’s supporters would have the sense to fight over, considering they have something at stake here.

    But, knowing them, they probably think they’ve got it all worked out and they’ll pay off Verizon to cut off their opponents and what could possibly ever, ever go wrong?

  6. TheRock says:

    GE still owns the president and needs to protect its investment, so the NBC spin doctors are out trying to soften the blow…..

    Asshats.

    Hillary 2012

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40756299/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets

  7. Fannie says:

    If I remember right, it was AT & T, at the Democratic Convention in 2008, handing out backpacks loaded with Koolaid. I don’t trust them.

  8. bandit says:

    You’re misusing terms. Corporations can’t censor because they are providers. The gov’t can only censor because it doesn’t provide.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      But what about when corporations that provide the service, decide not to offer that particular service because they do not like or agree with what is being said. To me, that is censorship.

    • Eric says:

      Well, looks like our generation might end up degenerating to the 1920’s and pre-industrial social society where race is not just how much cash you put out and who you support. Instead of kings and queens this time, we have people with money and they know how to end their political opponents.
      Wait a sec; the last time I checked, it was the World Wide Web. Why is this an American issue? Though it is an issue with American corporations, I think this should be settled by a larger community; like lets say the United Nations? Can’t we declare the internet with the same status as Antarctica, cannot be claimed by anyone?

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        True Dat!

        Eric, money is the main reason. And I have to tell you that many of us on Sky Dancing feel the same thing. It is really becoming a lot more apparent now. Some of the big corporations, and I have to tell you the the US Government is a big ass “corporation” I am doing research on the issue of Chromium 6 in drinking water and it is appalling to say the least…But back to the big corporations, they are the ones who control the cash, the campaign contributions, the lobby and the politicians. And it seems that the people are the ones getting the shaft. I have noticed that it does not even limit itself to party lines. Both the GOP and the Dems have there hands in big corp pockets.