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Ear to the Ground

FCC Backs Net Neutrality

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Posted on Sep 21, 2009
Flickr / brewbook

Mobile access to the Internet, including networked applications, is becoming ubiquitous.

Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski proposed two rules Monday that would preserve the Internet’s status quo of openness and equality. If the rules are adopted, Internet service providers—including mobile carriers—would be barred from restricting or blocking access to “lawful” content.

The rules, which the GOP opposes, could have widespread impact.

ISPs have been pushing for a multi-tier system, claiming that services like YouTube tax their networks too heavily and therefore should have to pay. They would like to charge Google and other major players a tithe in order to ensure that those big sites and services remained readily accessible; smaller sites that couldn’t pay up would be stuck in the slow lane. A multi-tier system would be a windfall for service providers, which already charge end users hefty monthly fees for Internet access.

In the U.S., those fees mostly pay for unlimited access. But some companies have sought to crack down on those who heavily use their services. Comcast got in trouble with the FCC for secretly throttling heavy downloaders. The case is still in court, but the FCC would like to block Comcast and other companies from taking such action against heavy users. That prohibition is part of the FCC’s proposed rules.

There is a caveat. Genachowski’s use of the word lawful leaves the door open for ISPs to crack down on file sharers who eat up a lot of bandwidth trading copies of movies and software. Banning illegal activity isn’t an outrageous idea, but it does wade into murky water where the Internet is concerned. Do you let ISPs block access to a site about marijuana because marijuana possession is illegal? What about child pornography? Who would make these decisions and who would hold companies and individuals accountable?

The proposed rules are in keeping with past principles, but they are significant in that they would cover wireless providers. The “smart phone” market is booming, and with it mobile Internet use. All those iPhones put a burden on AT&T’s data network, but, it should be noted, the company charges a considerable monthly fee for unlimited access.

The FCC recently made headlines by investigating Apple’s rejection of a Google iPhone app. Apple has in the past required developers to cripple their iPhone applications in order to relieve the strain on AT&T’s network. Other applications, such as Google Voice, just got the ax.

The FCC proposals don’t say whether that’s OK. They do give an indication of the commission’s thinking and would guarantee you mostly unfettered access to the Internet, whether you’re on your computer or your phone.  —PS

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By lucie lanes, September 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As I’ve been reading various comments, I agree with some of them where they state they have some mixed feelings about this idea being both good and maybe not so good. As long as it does not interrupt too much of the ISPs. Of course, we may not know that until the basic “trial and error” take place.

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By StuartH, September 22, 2009 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Net Neutrality is absolutely critical to the future.

Many people have become aware that corporate control over media
organizations has stifled the free flow of information and dialogue in the
marketplace of ideas to the point where serious and honest debate seems
nearly impossible. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the internet is at present, the only
alternative that is keeping the near domination by the MSM from becoming
absolutely and completely total. 

The fight by the corporations to figure out some way of wheedling into a
position to control content in the name of private enterprise, is about getting
that last measure of control.

If the First Amendment is not brought forward into the internet era, through
Net Neutrality and other fundamental rules of the road, then the First
Amendment will become as quaint an artefact of history as the quill pens with
which it was written. 

People can then go about complaining about the MSM to themselves as they
grumble about it, but there won’t be as much ability to actually participate in
developing real alternatives.  That option could be gone pretty quickly.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, September 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

The Corporate Wars continue.

The latest battle in the Corporate Wars puts Google against ISPs like Comcast.

This is nothing. Wait until Google launches their Operating System in direct competition with soon to be released Windows 7. There’s already a battle between Google’s Chrome and IE7. What about Firefox?

It seems nobody likes Google. At least none of the big monopolies. I guess Google is just too damned innovative and good, and *gasp* they offer their services for free. Well, sort of. Why should ISPs provide access to things like Gmail, when they have a perfectly fine email browser built in to their own system and their own ad services?

I have two email accounts with Comcast. I am able to have all of my Comcast emails forwarded to Gmail without ever having to go on Comcast’s email browser. That’s lost revenue for them, even though Comcast doesn’t require me to have an email account with them, it’s still lost revenue for them. All because of advertising.

There are many anti-trust lawsuits being waged against Google. But Google is free and is compatible in whole or in part with everything, unlike their competitors. So, just how do they do it?

Google now has their own mobile phone operating system, available on T-Mobile. I’m sick of Sprint and sick of my HTC Touch with Windows Mobile 6. Perhaps it’s time to switch. Anybody want to buy a used cell phone?

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