Saturday, April 26, 2014

If only we had elected this guy president

Asked whether he thought the Federal Communications Commission and Congress needed to preserve the Internet as we know it, the senator from Illinois said, “The answer is ‘yes.’ I am a strong supporter of Net neutrality.”

“What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites,” explained Obama, who warned that with such a change in standards “you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites.”

Obama’s bottom line: “That I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

Or maybe even this guy, four years ago.

So was President Obama when, in 2010, the White House declared that, “President Obama is strongly committed to net neutrality in order to keep an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice, and free speech.”

Or even this guy, four months ago.

And President Obama certainly sounded right in January, 2014, when he said, “I have been a strong supporter of net neutrality. The new commissioner of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, whom I appointed, I know is a strong supporter of Net Neutrality.”

But it seems we got tricked; we elected, and re-elected, an Obama who appointed this guy.

If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

Late last night Wheeler released a statement accusing the Wall Street Journal of being “flat-out wrong.” Yet the Washington Post has confirmed, based on inside sources, that the new rule gives broadband providers “the ability to enter into individual negotiations with content providers … in a commercially reasonable matter.” That’s telecom-speak for payola payments, and a clear violation of Obama’s promise.

This is what one might call a net-discrimination rule, and, if enacted, it will profoundly change the Internet as a platform for free speech and small-scale innovation. It threatens to make the Internet just like everything else in American society: unequal in a way that deeply threatens our long-term prosperity. 

There doesn't appear to be any ambiguity in the reaction to the proposal, that's for sure.  It may in fact be even worse than it initially appears.  Worst of all, those of us who support net neutrality may have to start sucking up to a few of the largest tech companies in order to save it.

No matter what may develop, there is only a short time left to save net neutrality as we know it.  That means a lot of loud complaining about this new rule to Wheeler and the FCC, just to see if public opinion can still make a difference.

It's the same federally as it is locally: as a concerned citizen you must take action.  I dislike having to repeat myself over and over again to my elected (and appointed) officials just as much as you do, but they don't seem to listen.  So make sure they hear you.

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