After countless petitions, meetings and even redecorating the FCC grounds with cats, the FCC finally voted for strong Net Neutrality rules! We could not be more thrilled but we also know its exciting but confusing, so we want to clear up anything we can.
The organizations in this AMA are:
Public Knowledge https://www.publicknowledge.org/
Free Press – http://www.freepress.net/
Spitfire Strategies – http://www.spitfirestrategies.com/
Fight for the Future – www.fightforthefuture.org
Common Cause – http://www.commoncause.org
Demand Progress –https://demandprogress.org/
We each have our own strengths from grassroots to policy, so go ahead ask us anything!
We Do Exist!: (http://imgur.com/a/Amvai?)
Have you read the 322 or so pages of this new policy? Has anybody? I’ve seen people on reddit and social media saying that they voted on it without making it public. How can anybody be certain about what’s in it if we haven’t been given the chance to read it?
[Fight For The Future] My understanding is: the way the law is written, whenever the FCC releases draft rules they have to open up a public comment period, which takes weeks or months.
So if they released it before the vote, they’d need to open up another comment period. Then if they made changes and released it again, another comment period – an infinite loop. Given the law as it stands, there’s always one last phase where they have to go heads down and vote on a rule.
Yes, that means that nobody outside a tiny number of people at the FCC has read the final version. And yes, it’s crazy the law is written this way.
That said, there are several people in the community of groups that have been working on this who were in constant conversation with the people drafting these rules and have a good idea of what’s in them. That includes Free Press, as well as experts like Barbara van Schewick. So once we got close to the vote, and had good intel that the rules were pretty strong, it would have been crazy to ask them to be released.
It would’ve given Comcast and friends another 8 weeks or maybe more to regroup and figure out a way to block the rules. (And we’d still not be in a position to know exactly what the final rules were until after the vote, due to the problem above.)
Next up: bring American regulatory agencies up to modern standards of transparency! Who here wants to work on that? (Gah, not me)
Also, re: the 322 pages of rules, I’ve heard the actual rules themselves are just a few pages. Things like: “no blocking”, “no throttling”, etc. The rest is context, legal justification of the rules, stuff like that.
All the details matter of course, but it’s not really the case that there are 322 pages of mystery rules.
Another really sleazy thing that some critics of the FCC (including Commissioner Pai himself) have done here is they’ve taken aspects the way the FCC has always worked (and they know this) and then pretended to be absolutely shocked that it’s acting this way now.
One example of this was the fake outrage at President Obama saying what he thought the FCC should do (many presidents have done this, including Bush, Reagan, Clinton, and Nixon). Another example is this snafu about transparency, or about “322 pages of rules”.
It’s not that the FCC shouldn’t be more transparent, but it’s sleazy of these guys, who know the process well, to pretend that it doesn’t always work this way.
How is your organization planning for the inevitable law suit the major ISPs are anticipated to file to overturn the FCC reclassification? What can consumers do in the mean time to solidify support to keep the net neutral?
[Public Knowledge DC] The first step in planning for the lawsuit was to make sure the rules and order were as bulletproof as possible. A lot of our work over the last year as been to make sure that the way the rules were crafted were as strong as the rules themselves. Assuming the FCC’s rules are what they signaled they are (no one has seen them yet), we will start morphing our arguments to FCC into arguments to the DC Circuit. But we won’t quite know how to formulate arguments until an ISP actually decides to sue.
As to what consumers can do, it may sound cliche, but every voice counts. When the inevitable pushback comes from the big ISPs, just stay loud and remind Washington that users are keeping watch and WANT this, and will back them on this.
[Save Our News] We’d add that yesterday’s outcome was a demonstration of just how much every voice matters. In May 2014, the FCC was set to surrender core net neutrality principles by allowing paid prioritization.
The unprecedented outpouring of public sentiment changed that.
Never doubt the power of people to organize for change – we don’t win every battle, but when we win, we win big.
In layman’s terms, what did this ruling accomplish?
[Public Knowledge DC] It merely restored the ability of the FCC to ensure that the internet continues to operate the way users have come to expect – you have a connection, you are able to access what you want at the same speed without interference from the broadband carriers that you pay to connect you.
This was the de facto status of the internet until a court ruling in 2010. Comcast was blocking access to certain sites, and when the FCC told them not to, they said “you can’t tell us what to do” – and a court decided that was true. That opened the door, legally, for Comcast to do whatever they wanted to whichever sites they wanted, whether for $$$ reasons or just on a whim.
So the last 5 years have been a hard scramble to reestablish that authority to the FCC – not the govt taking control, but merely a cop on the beat so that if they see providers bullying or playing favorites, they can step in and remind them they have to play fair.
[Save Our News] Yesterday’s Open Internet order granted the strongest net neutrality protections ever to broadband users – whether they connect via wired broadband or mobile connection.
What does that mean?
Your internet service provider may not interfere with your access to the lawful sites and services of your choice. It may not strike special deals with web content providers to selectively speed up, slow down, throttle, or block specific content.
In short, control over your Internet experience rests with the users, where it belongs.
Now that the internet is classified as a public utility, what’s to stop the FCC from censoring content they deem inappropriate?
[Free Press] Well, the Internet isn’t exactly classified as a public utility now. Broadband access services are now classified under Title II of the Communications Act, which some people assume means utility because that’s how landline telephone service regulated. But it’s the same for cell phone voice service, and we don’t really think of those as utilities at all, right?
Anyway, to answer the second part of your question, the move from the FCC yesterday put rules in place that prevent ISPs (Comcast, etc.) from blocking, throttling or engaging in “paid prioritization” (which is where you can pay to have your content delivered more quickly). It doesn’t give the FCC any authority to censor content at all.
[Public Knowledge DC] The parts of Title II that the FCC left with authority over broadband doesn’t deal with content. Open Internet/Net Neutrality rules are about keeping an eye on Internet Service Providers, or the folks who give you access to the net, not content. It deals with traffic flow, not traffic decency.
Also, the public utility label is a misconception. Title II deals with services that are not public utilities before this ruling, like mobile voice. That’s just a label opponents are using to scare folks.
[Fight For The Future] Well, Title II was just what we needed to do in order to ensure that net neutrality regulations would hold up in court. It wasn’t an end in itself. And the rules we got don’t use all the FCC’s Title II powers. They just do the minimum to make sure ISPs don’t mess with your Internet. No blocking. No throttling.
But the short answer to your question is: us! If they started doing that, the same forces that got these net neutrality rules passed (including the reddit community) would band together and stop them. I mean, the FCC could do all kinds of batshit crazy things. But they won’t, because we’re here.
In general, are you and fellow net neutrality advocates, satisfied with the rules put in place by FCC? And to add to that question, are there any parts of the new rules which you are dissatisfied with?
[Public Knowledge DC] we are satisfied with the rules as they have been described publicly by the FCC. They have given us every indication that these are robust rules based on strong authority. That being said, the details really matter and we won’t be able to see the details until the FCC releases the full text of the order.
That probably won’t happen for a few weeks. The dissenting votes need to get in their written dissents, and then the FCC needs to formally respond to them.
[Fight For The Future] Ditto re: details. It seems like there are some rules we could’ve gotten in there and didn’t. But things turned out waybetter than expected.
After all, getting solid rules at all was widely considered impossible in DC circles.
Does this stop the ability of ISPs to enact data caps on people? I would cry if Verizon data caped my internet. I game like all the time. Also, if this vote failed, could ISPs charge individual users to have their most visited site load faster?
[Public Knowledge DC] It does not, but it does create a process at the FCC where this practice can be challenged as unreasonable. Public Knowledge has long encouraged the FCC to actually collect information on these data cap policies because they can be used in a harmful way. A challenge under the new Net Neutrality rules is a possibility, but this is why we needed rules and a cop on the beat.
Since the FCC’s ruling maintains the open Internet what do you feel will be done to help expand competition/access to affordable High Speed Internet? Would unbundling be an option?
[Public Knowledge DC] Overlooked yesterday was a second FCC ruling that expands access, the Community Broadband ruling. This was where the FCC approved petitions from local officials in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC to overturn state restrictions the local government building high speed networks. This is huge for access! The incumbent private companies were not building out. When this happens, its great to see local governments create economic development projects (sometimes public-private partnerships with ISPs) to make sure their citizens have access to high speed broadband.
Hope we see more local governments take charge and help their citizens!
[Fight For The Future] Yeah, municipal fiber is a really important fight, one that we’re excited about. Unbundling makes a ton of sense to us too (and we had it, until Michael Powell’s FCC sold us all out!)
But we’ll need to build towards that. That’s a big lift.
What’s the worst case scenario for this now? Can defeat be snatched from the jaws of victory? Next week, next year, in ten years?
[Public Knowledge DC] Public Knowledge has a blog post up (https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/what-happens-now-with-net-neutrality) that talks about the different ways net neutrality opponents will challenge these rules.
The silver lining is that nothing happens without a public process in Congress (in the near future) or at the FCC (if there was ever an FCC opposed to net neutrality). This means the public can rise up to oppose repealing the rules at every turn.
If we learn anything from this last year is, the people’s voices matter in policy debates when we speak up in VOLUME!
[Michael Khoo] Like any important principle, we will have to fight to protect it because big telecom will never go away. There are many hearings in Congress planned on net neutrality already. We will have to be vigilant and the groups who fought for this will continue to organize and need support. But having such a large majority of the country on our side will hopefully reduce the extent of the attacks.
How is the status of Net Neutrality in other countries?
[Public Knowledge DC] It varies greatly country by country. In hearings and discussions, the EU was often used as the example however the set up there is not perfect. Further, within the EU there are differences and some work better then others.
What is a good response to idiots referring to Net Neutrality as “ObamaNet”?
[Public Knowledge DC] PK’s Harold Feld had a good response to this: https://www.publicknowledge.org/press-release/public-knowledge-condemns-fcc-commissioner-pais-elitist-insult-to-american-
The plain facts speak for themselves. More than 4 million Americans pushed Chairman Wheeler to reconsider his first proposal in May. Tech startups and small businesses have filed in droves insisting that reclassifying broadband as Title II and adopting strong net neutrality rules is key to their ability to continue to create new jobs and new technologies. Civil rights organizations and consumer organizations have emphasized the critical importance of reclassifying broadband and adopting strong net neutrality rules to civic engagement and economic opportunity. Polls show that Democrats and Republicans alike support strong net neutrality rules.
Additionally, every President in the last 30 years has weighed in publicly with the FCC on issues of national importance. President Obama has not violated the independence of the FCC by making his support for strong net neutrality rules under Title II public.
It is insulting to the American people, who have participated in the net neutrality debate in unprecedented numbers and spoken with unmistakable clarity across the political spectrum, to call Chairman Wheeler’s proposal “Obama’s Plan.” It’s not “Obama’s plan,” it’s the plan of 4 million Americans.
[Exec Director of Demand Progress] Wheeler actually put it really well yesterday when he said, to paraphrase, “Net Neutrality is no more regulation of the Internet than the First Amendment is regulation speech.”
[Fight For The Future] Well, there’s a lot of mistrust of Obama out there, and I think that’s valid and we need to respect it. That said, this “ObamaNet” stuff is way off base. Brad Feld’s response is the best I’ve seen so far. He’s a notable startup investor who’s participated in many of the fights against overblown Internet regulation (like SOPA). And I think he’s both empathetic and respectful of the conservative perspective on this, while also delivering a thorough debunking of these “ObamaNet” claims.
I also think a good response is to keep things simple and speak to our core values. The FCC rules are about protecting the Internet, freedom of speech and diversity from the telecom monopolies. (and ignore the really crazy stuff like Obamacare)
What do you think was the reason that the vote was so close?
[Fight For The Future] Pai and O’Rielly were “Team Cable” lost causes from the beginning. Pai was a top lawyer for Verizon before he went to FCC.
[Save Our News] It is a sign of our highly politicized process that common sense principles to protect competition and debate online become partisan hot potatoes. But the problems are pretty specific to Washington, DC. In fact the 2005 Open Internet Policy Statement was a 5-0 vote. The issues haven’t changed – but the level of political gamesmanship has soared.
Outside the DC Beltway, Open Internet principles are overwhelmingly popular across the political spectrum.
[Public Knowledge DC] Partisan lines. It was straightforward good policy for consumer protection, but frankly, these things don’t happen in a political vacuum.
[Free Press] Because the commissioners are appointed by the President, there are always 3 members from the political party in power and 2 from the minority party. Most votes at the FCC are unanimous, because they are on noncontroversial items. But on any of the big ones, they usually split along party lines.
Does Title II impose the ISPs to respect customer privacy? For instance AT&T has a broadband service in certain cities which has an additional monthly fee to not monitor your internet activity.
[Public Knowledge DC] potentially yes. Title II has broad privacy protections built in. We won’t quite know how those protections apply (and how they might apply to the AT&T privacy fee) until we see the text of the order.
How does this net neutrality problem affects me as someone outside the US and how can I help?
[Public Knowledge DC] Every nation’s network is different, but hopefully the rules passed by the FCC yesterday can serve as a model for other countries to help protect the open internet.
[Fight For The Future] +1 on that. I live in Brazil right now, and I just had a conversation this week with a policy expert here who said that a victory in the US will make it easier to pass good net neutrality rules in Brazil.
An activist friend in Europe said something similar, a few months back, when things looked grim. If you happen to be in Europe, go here: savetheinternet.eu
What do you say to people who are in favor of Net Neutrality but worry that expanding the FCC’s authority could have unintended consequences in the long run?
[Demand Progress] It seems possible that any ruling can have unintended consequences. For Example, FCC classified broadband Internet under Title I in 2002. It’s up to public watchdogs to make sure that the Internet is protected.
[Fight For The Future] Yeah! Building Internet policy is a process. We have to let the Internet grow and do it’s thing, and intervene very narrowly and strategically when problems come up.
The looming prospect of Comcast shaking down the entire Internet and slowing down most websites–to favor others–was an existential threat. We needed to act.
[Public Knowledge DC] You’re citing an EFF article from 2011. You missed that EFF now supports this ruling. Check out:https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/11/white-house-gets-it-net-neutrality-will-fcc-0
Is there any precedent for net neutrality ?
[Public Knowledge DC] The concepts behind net neutrality can actually be traced back to roman law. The core idea that some types of private infrastructure (think bridges, ferries, rail roads, telephone networks) are so important that they have to treat everyone equally has gotten us far.
[Fight For The Future] To pile on, in case this was was the question, we’ve had net neutrality rules in place in the US for much of the history of the Internet. Verizon sued to get the rules struck down, so we didn’t have them for much of this year.
In other words, net neutrality is the way the Internet has always worked, and net neutrality rules are not a new thing.
Does Net Neutrality mean I get MORE cat videos? I like cat videos…
[Exec Director of Demand Progress] You also get cat banners flying over the Comcast HQ in Philly: http://www.ibtimes.com/grumpy-cat-claws-comcast-net-neutrality-supporters-fly-massive-banner-over-1831188
[Public Knowledge DC] YAAAS! Because this will promote more competition and allow an equal playing field making it so Grumpy Cat can’t cut a deal with ISP to be a priority and be your only options for cats!
I keep hearing about discrimination and litigation. Who is the one that gets to say they are being discriminated? How long would that process take if something like Verizon blocking network on FIOS accured, or when people get threatening letters from the provider that tell them they have used to much data or tell them to stop using certain websites (ie bit torrent) or else they will cut off service? How would usin Title II to make it easier to complain?
[Public Knowledge DC] It is likely that any user who thinks that their ability to reach the internet, or any internet service (like reddit or your blog) that thought it was being discriminated against could bring a complaint. We haven’t seen the text of the rules yet, but in 2010 the first step was to send a letter of complaint to the ISP in question. It gave them notice that you thought they were discriminating and that you were going to file a formal complaint in 10 days if they didn’t stop. If, after 10 days the ISP had not stopped, you could file a formal complaint with the FCC.
Title II makes it a bit easier to complain because it gives you decades of older complaints to point to as examples for why the discrimination you were worrying about is bad. But more importantly, it makes it more likely that the rules themselves will not be thrown out by a court.
I’m skeptical of just about any government regulation. From what I can tell it very rarely ever results in a net gain for the consumer. As we all know it internet video is a major bandwidth consideration. I believe the last figure is 35% of all bandwidth. So with that said if the providers cannot limit what type of bandwidth is transferred across the network infrastructure which they paid to install, aren’t those video users taking up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth from other users. Additionally, what about smaller providers in rural areas who might already be physically limited in the amount of bandwidth that are capable of providing? Are you not afraid this will lead to further consolidation of the provider industry in effect lessening competition and providing consumers with less choice?
[Fight For The Future] The users pay for that bandwidth. They should be able to use it how they want. Also, bandwidth gets massively cheaper each year, but your cable bill never goes down.
Bandwidth isn’t the big cost here. The hard part is wiring all those homes. And then the problem is, once you do, you’ve got a dangerous amount of market power over the internet as a whole, without the right rules.
[Public Knowledge DC] Re: video consumption, those people pay for faster speeds. The regulations don’t prevent different tiers of speeds – it just says that you get what you pay your provider for, and they don’t get to make the judgment calls.
While we wait to see the rules and then lawsuits stuck on the bench – so to speak – are we protected under any rules or is it the wild west? Are the current rules rendered null and void by this vote? I heard people say in testimonies that we were living with out rules and we have been fine. Is that true?
[Public Knowledge DC] “Net neutrality” was the de facto “wild west” atmosphere as the internet grew up. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that internet service was taken fully out of the “Title II” zone. To compensate, the FCC wrote what was called the “Internet Policy Statement” which attempted to preserve the critical net neutrality protections of nondiscrimination, non blocking, transparency, etc.
Those were kind of assumed by everyone involved – ISPs included – to be the authority for maintaining NN for a while, through a number of conflicts. Then one day, when Comcast was accused of blocking Bittorrent, they decided to sue the FCC saying that the FCC couldn’t tell them what to do because the “statement” wasn’t a strong enough authority. The court agreed with Comcast and so in 2010, the FCC began to scramble to write real rules to restore the authority to enforce principles everyone had already assumed were in place.
The initial rule-making they came up with attempted to compromise what the ISPs wanted with what consumer groups wanted by invoking the weaker Title I/706 authority. And so the rules of nondiscrimination and nonblocking and transparency were again in place for another four years – until the court essentially said “nice try, but legally, what you really need to do is use Title II for the best rules.” And so… At long last that is what the FCC has decided to do.
But, all that is to say, there has been a grand total of maybe several months where there were “no rules” in place over the past 20-some years. It is just the other side deliberately misrepresenting the (obviously) complicated legal history.
FOR MORE FUN!!! http://whatisnetneutrality.org/timeline
Does it bother you that the awesome news you bring were overshadowed by the media frenzy around the dress? The timing was bad luck.
[Public Knowledge DC] No! While it’s not the greatest use of the internet that dress and it’s spread to millions of people shows the power of the internet. If we did have a two tiered internet, either the dress would never have been seen or a richer designer dress would have arrived on your news feed first.
But seriously, what was more bothering is the fact that some people saw it as gold and white!
Why did this happen now? The NN true believers have always been skulking around, but how did this all of a sudden come to pass?
[Demand Progress] A LOT of things led up to this moment! I guess the simplest answer to explain the timing is Verizon. In 2005, the FCC issued of Open Internet principles. When it was codified in 2010, Verizon sued. A court in DC agreed that the rules were based in faulty legal authority in January of 2014. That led to the rule making procedure which ended in the vote yesterday.
[Free Press] I would say there was nothing all that sudden about it. This was a victory ten years in the making.
But last January, when a court threw out the last existing Net Neutrality rules on the books, we had an opening to actually push for the solution we won yesterday.
Reclassifying under Title II was always the right answer and after the court threw out the rules a powerful coalition formed (including many of the groups here) to fight for it. We mobilized millions. The public lead the way and then companies, comedians and politicians followed.
To quote Malkia Cyril from the Center for Media Justice: “What happened? The people happened, organizing happened.”
[Michael Khoo] In one sense, it happened because ISPs wanted an end to the defacto net neutrality we’ve enjoyed since the Web was founded. They saw the prospect of making money from paid prioritization and fast lanes and pushed for it. We pushed back harder.
[Public Knowledge DC] This was also summed up well in these words from our SVP Harold Feld “It did not happen because some powerful person or special interest wanted it. It did not happen because John Oliver made a funny video. It happened because hundreds of lawyers, grassroots organizers, and policy advocates persuaded over 4 million people to stand up for their rights and demand that the government act to protect them from the unrestrained corporate power of broadband access providers. It shows — to everyone’s surprise — that government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth.” https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/the-fcc-is-gonna-give-me-an-open-internet-for-my-birthday-tell-congress-not
What do you really think the opposition has against Net Neutrality?
[Michael Khoo] Not to be too glib, but there is a lot of money to be made by cable companies if there is no net neutrality.
[Free Press] I think a lot of the opposition comes from misinformation campaigns. The rest of it comes from a simple reality of Washington: the cable and phone companies are among the top contributors to political campaigns. They hate Net Neutrality, because it limits their ability to extract even more money from consumers (keep in mind that some of these guys have profit margins of like over 90%). If they hate it, they tell politicians to hate it too.
When folks who aren’t receiving campaign contributions hate it, it’s because they don’t understand it. Explain to them what it actually means, bring the facts to the table, and suddenly they are on board.
[Public Knowledge DC] To build on what Michael said, cable companies like Comcast can (1) charge big established companies with deep pockets a lot of money for higher access (the “fast lane” problem) and/or (2) prioritize the content that they own or have a vested interest in while degrading competing content guys (ex: Comcast has ownership in Hulu, which competes directly with Netflix, GooglePlay, etc., and so can give preferential treatment).
How will NetNeutrality affect the future of OneWeb and the SpaceXGoogle space internet?
[Public Knowledge DC] to the extent that either will qualify as US broadband access service providers (and I’m not sure either one would), they would be prevented from discriminating just like any other ISP. However, this is where that “reasonable network management” stuff becomes important. It could be that these services could impose restrictions on users that other ISPs could not, if those restrictions were really tied to technological limitations of their network.
Obama won’t be in office forever. What happens if the Republicans win in 2016 and they hold the 3-2 edge in the FCC? Can they undo everything?
[Fight For The Future] I think the answer is: yes, and we’ll have to stop them from doing that.
[Public Knowledge DC] Theoretically, yes, but the outpouring of support for Net Neutrality has even GOP members of Congress trying to figure out how to create rules on their own terms.
Politicians know people want net neutrality rules. The people have to continue to speak loudly so that any legislation matches what the FCC just did. Or they must speak loudly in any FCC effort to turn back from these rules.
Check out the comments from AT&T… They are counting on people walking away from this issue…