The time has arrived for Americans to show support for Net Neutrality.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally opened May 23rd the public comment period on its plan to eliminate a fair and open internet by eliminating Net Neutrality.
The all-important communications regulatory panel published its 75-page draft proposal, tentatively adopted May 18, which does away with Net Neutrality. Publishing the draft proposal formally opened the public comment period. Americans, who have repeatedly shown overwhelming support for the Net Neutrality rule, have until August 17 to once again display that support by logging comments on the FCC public record.
To make a public comment go to the FCC’s comment site here. In the box on the left, at the bottom click, “Express.” You can also click on “New Filing” but that takes you through a series of other, unnecessary and bureaucratic steps. From the “Express” link you will need to fill out your name and address and log your comment. Please know: it’s on the public record and the FCC will record your name and address.
You may notice nearly 2.6 million comments already logged. Unfortunately, those comments – perhaps due largely to the efforts of HBO comedian John Oliver – won’t be registered on the public record because they were made prior to the formal comment period. If you logged your input previously, do it again.
And, then, there is this. Speaking of which, you can also support groups working to ensure Net Neutrality remains the law of the land. Fight for the Future is one of the groups. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is another. Others exist, too.
Net Neutrality refresher
As a reminder, Net Neutrality is the phrase used to describe an internet to which all users have a fair and equal, if not necessarily free, access.
In the U.S. the concept is based on rulings by the FCC which establish the internet as a public utility and, therefore, subject to government regulation just like other public utilities like the telephone, electricity service, water service, interstate trucking and others.
A common carrier, as defined by the FCC, is any company or entity which provides a telecommunications service to the general public. A contract carrier, on the other hand, provides service to a select number of clients or customers. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 specifically classified the telephone companies, for example, as common carriers. (This may be shocking to some of you but the internet did not exist in 1934.)
Outside the telecommunications industry, airlines and bus companies are considered common carriers. Oil and natural gas pipelines are common carriers. Public utilities – electrical companies and water companies – are common carriers.
Common carriers are those companies and entities which provide a service for the common benefit of the general public. They certainly are entitled to earn revenue in return for their service but the U.S. government regulates how much common carriers can charge the public as a safeguard against price gouging or other public exploitation. It’s a sound, decent, fair system.
When President Obama finally issued in 2014 his position on net neutrality he said exactly what many advocates for a fair and open internet in the U.S. have been advocating for years: ISPs should be classified as common carriers.
“Simply put: No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee,” said Obama at the time. “That kind of gate keeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth.”
The major ISPs have long fought for the opportunity to charge higher prices for higher Internet speeds; to, in essence, create fast lanes and set up tolls booths if consumers want better internet service. The U.S. is the only nation in the world where such a debate is even being considered. The government of most of the world’s nations long ago stepped in to require ISPs to provide Internet at the fastest speeds available. (Brazil adopted an Internet Bill of Rights, guaranteeing every citizen free and unfettered access to the internet – as well as the right to data privacy.)
In fact and simple best-interests-of-all-internet-users, treating the ISPs as common carrier is the only way to ensure the internet using public won’t be exploited and internet fast lanes won’t be created for the rich at the expense of the public and the greater good. The Internet is a public utility.