Depending who you read and what you believe, the current regulations for net neutrality in the United States are killing innovation or making it possible.
It also matters what you mean by “choice,” it turns out.
On July 12, nearly 200 advocacy groups, internet companies, artists and organizations rallied for the Net Neutrality Day of Action. The Federal Communications Commission received hundreds of letters and statements that day alone. In fact, the FCC has received more comments on the proposed regulations to roll back net neutrality protections than on any other proposed change they’ve ever suggested.
The record it broke occurred during the last round of comments on net neutrality, back when the commission decided to classify internet service as a public utility.
The way things stand now, companies like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other ISPs cannot force websites like Facebook, YouTube, Netflix or others to pay more to ensure their users don’t get “throttled” when visiting their sites. ISPs can’t legally charge tolls for better service, the equivalent of using express lanes at toll booths while everyone else has to pay a cash fare.
Opponents of net neutrality say it’s a solution in search of a problem.
Except it’s happening right now: Verizon has admitted throttling Netflix on July 20, claiming it capped users ability to stream videos as part of a “video optimization test.” Verizon told Ars Technica this was just a temporary thing and customer shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. When the news site did its own testing, it found the complaints are accurate.
“On a Verizon Wireless iPhone, we got a 10Mbps download speed on fast.com, which is Netflix’s speed test tool. On Ookla’s Speedtest app, we got nearly 82Mpbs download speeds on the same Verizon LTE network,” the site reports.
And that’s just one incident.
Back to the internet engineers. In their comment to the FCC, they suggest that the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, and other members “appea(r) to lack a fundamental understanding of what the internet’s technology promises to provide, how the internet actually works, which entities in the internet ecosystem provide which services and what the similarities and differences are between the internet and other telecommunications systems the FCC regulates as telecommunications services.”
Why does net neutrality matter to musicians?
“Imagine logging on to your favourite band’s website, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn’t afford (or didn’t want) to pay a toll to powerful internet service providers. All artists deserve the right to use the internet to cultivate listeners, and fans deserve to make their own choices of how and where to access legitimate content,” according to the Future of Music Coalition.
The Friends of the American Federation of Musicians call net neutrality one of their most important issues. It allows the internet to stay “open and free for all,” allowing musicians and other artists to “distribute their work without interference from internet service providers.”
Radio Survivor writes that net neutrality means every internet radio listener should be able to access her local college radio stream as easily as iHeartRadio. Every podcast fan should be able to download an obscure show about tabletop games just as quickly as an ESPN show. Any online audio listener shouldn’t find it harder to get independent DJ mixes, shows or streams than content from a bigger company that paid for the privilege of disproportionate access to your ears.”
What does the opposition have to say?
The Consumer Choice Center says that true internet freedom “can only be acquired through a competitive free market.”
Any kind of regulation from the FCC will “go against a consumer-driven market and hurt small businesses and consumers more than big businesses,” the group writes. “While regulations aim to create equality for entrepreneurs, regulations are set to help create monopolies by creating barriers for small businesses to enter the market,” according to David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the group. “Attempts from government to create barriers to a resource that is so incredibly decentralized will only create issues when there are none. The focus of the government, as always, should be to free up markets so that entrepreneurs and innovators can create the best products for the consumer.”
Oddly enough, the emailed statement from the Consumer Choice Center linked to this Tech Crunch article that’s overwhelmingly support of the Net Neutrality Day of Action.
Then there’s AT&T.
As reported by The Verge, AT&T looked like it was participating in the day of action. A banner on the company’s page said it supported “an open internet.” It even provided pre-written messages for use on social media.
But what AT&T wants is for Congress to pass a law on the open internet. One message read: “While I support the FCC’s work to get rid of the rules that were harming the internet economy, I believe the only way to permanently guarantee an open internet is by Congress creating a law.”
Another, more subtle, message: “There is a right way and a wrong way to preserve the concept of an open internet. I am in favor of protecting the open internet with legislation.” And come to find out, Comcast and Verizon did similar things on the same day.
It might not matter. (Sigh.)
The FCC’s public comment period on net neutrality is open until August 17. But on July 18, the White House basically gave Pai and his fellow commissioners the green light to do whatever they wanted.
According to The Washington Post, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary for the administration, said “We support the FCC chair’s efforts to review and consider rolling back these rules…and believe that the best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty.”
If you’re so inclined, take action now: John Oliver’s www.gofccyourself.com is still up and running, making it easier to provide comments. Add your name to the more than 10 million others supporting net neutrality.