A couple weeks ago, thousands of OpenMedia supporters joined with open Internet advocates and legal experts at Free Press to challenge the Internet slow lane plan being pushed by U.S. Big Telecom giants. Free Press’ team filed a legal challenge in response to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s July 15 deadline for initial comments on proposed net neutrality rules that stand to end the Internet as we know it.
After filing the claim with the FCC, Free Press also published the document on their website. Coming in at over 150 pages, the media reform group has called it “The Definitive Case for Net Neutrality”. While we invite those of you with an appetite for “legalese” to take a close look, here are two key high-level takeaways for those of you who want to be spared the full 150 page experience.
First, to squash the threat of slow lanes on the Internet, and guarantee authentic net neutrality, we have only one choice: reclassify broadband Internet as a Title II common carriage service. Or, to put it simply, we need to pass laws that allow the Internet to be treated the same way as highways, where no company (or other gatekeeper) can say which types of traffic can drive on which roads, and when.
Net neutrality and the information superhighway (Original image from Online MBA, “15 Facts about Net Neutrality”)
Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, as Free Press’ S. Derek Turner points out, decision-makers in Washington D.C. are deathly afraid of it. Why? As Turner explains, it’s “...not because of any flaw in that policy, but because for the past two decades some of the most powerful communications companies in America have waged a campaign to demonize common carriage.”
That’s right: U.S. Big Telecom giants hate that they can’t control what we do online, and are doing everything they can to create gatekeeper powers that will allow them to jack up prices and make the Internet look more like cable TV. The last thing they want is to reclassify broadband - instead they are pushing for a set of rules that would allow them to install slow lanes on the Internet.
The second thing you need to know is that net neutrality is good for investment in our networks. At different times in U.S. history, broadband Internet was actually classified as a Title II common carriage service. And during those times, investment in broadband networks by major telecom companies was 55% higher than it has been since net neutrality rules were weakened (for an explanation of how and why the FCC and Congress changed these rules over the years, we recommend this article by The Verge).
As soon as the rules changed, BAM! Investment in upgrading broadband networks died. Why? Because when telecom giants have to treat all content equally, they have to keep up with what Internet users everywhere want. And this means keeping up with every viral video, every new web service, and every innovation the Internet can dream up! In contrast, without laws that ensure all content is treated equally, they lose all incentive to ensure their networks can keep up.
So, if you’re feeling up for it, do check out Free Press’ amazing challenge. But, in the meantime, know this: the battle for the Internet has just begun. On one side, we have powerful, arrogant companies like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, who will stop at nothing to jack up your bill and make the Internet look and feel just like cable TV. And on the other side, we have what our friends in the fight for net neutrality are calling “Team Internet” – tech companies, legal experts, and Internet users everywhere. And, if you’re still reading this, we’re pretty sure we know what side you’re on.
In the few weeks that remain until the FCC reviews rules for the open Internet and prepares their final decision, we need you to do your part, and join Team Internet today by signing up at https://OpenMedia.org/Slowlane.