Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Open Internet" for Whom?

The FCC approved its “Open Internet Order” on 12/21/2010.

Paul Venezia, in InfoWorld 12/21/2010, says it appears to be another law written by and for the businesses it purports to regulate, to give them much more of our money, for much worse service.

According to Al Franken, writing on 12/20/2010, the order will
• effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections
• Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason. For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn't nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area).
• The FCC has never before explicitly allowed discrimination on the Internet -- but the draft Order takes a step backwards, merely stating that so-called "paid prioritization" (the creation of a "fast lane" for big corporations who can afford to pay for it) is cause for concern.
• the draft Order would have the effect of actually relaxing restrictions on this kind of discrimination.
• Comcast -- this Internet monolith has reportedly imposed a new, recurring fee on Level 3 Communications, the company slated to be the primary online delivery provider for Netflix. That's the same Netflix that represents Comcast's biggest competition in video services. Imagine if Comcast customers couldn't watch Netflix, but were limited only to Comcast's Video On Demand service. Imagine if a cable news network could get its website to load faster on your computer than your favorite local political blog. Imagine if big corporations with their own agenda could decide who wins or loses online. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist.

Likewise, this open letter from freepress to the FCC commissioners points out that the FCC order has several problems:
1. permits paid prioritization
2. exempts wireless connections from neutrality rules
3. is full of loopholes
4. permits “specialized services” rather than an open Internet
5. fails to assert its legal authority to protect consumers
This letter was dated 12/10/2010, regarding the proposed order. It is signed by leaders of many humble organizations.

The FCC website doesn’t appear to have the text of the rules just adopted; all the related links appeared to be broken: as of 2am 12/22/2010, clicking any of the related links on gave “Oops! This page appears broken. DNS Error - Server cannot be found.” The document was supposed to be at

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