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Save the Internet!

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Posted on May 5, 2014

Photo by GraciolliDotCom (CC BY 2.0)

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

(Page 2)

The problems at the FCC run deeper than Wheeler; the agency is littered with industry lawyers, executives and lobbyists who have gone through the “pernicious corruption of the revolving door” as Lee Fang describes in VICE. Fang writes:  “The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality.”

Fang describes people who worked for Comcast, TDS Telecom, Verizon, AT&T, industry groups like the Wireless Association (CTIA), the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the U.S. Telecom Association have been recently hired at the FCC.  The executives, lawyers and lobbyists from these Internet corporations and associations have worked against net neutrality for years and now inside the Obama-FCC.  The fox is definitely guarding the hen house. The people need to expose these foxes and delegitimize any action they take.

President Obama and the Democratic Party-controlled Senate which confirmed Wheeler and all the FCC Commissioners are to blame for the direction of the FCC.  Polls show Obama’s popularity sinking and increased likelihood of the Democrats losing the Senate. If Wheeler’s proposal becomes law, it will be the death knell for Democratic hopes of keeping their Senate majority and also result in big losses in the House of Representatives.  Obama’s legacy will include being the President who destroyed the free, open and equal Internet. Unless the Democrats join with the people and act now to stop the FCC, people will stay home or vote against them in the Fall. Obama could call Wheeler today and change the direction the FCC is going.

What Should Be Done?

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John Nichols writes in the Nation:

A free and open Internet is essential to modern democracy. But that freedom and openness will be maintained only if Americans use their great democratic voice to demand it.

It is up to us to prevent the further corporatization of the Internet and to keep it free, equal and open to all. It will take more than our voices, it will taking our bodies stopping the machine of corporatocracy. What are our demands?

1. Reject the proposal. This is the Obama FCC. Obama appointed three Democrats and two Republicans to the Commission, as required by law. The political apparatus of the Democratic Party needs to demand this proposal be rejected.

2. Reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service that can be regulated in the public interest. Under President Bush the Internet was redefined as an “information service” limiting the FCC’s ability to regulate in the public interest. This decision needs to be reversed so the FCC can properly regulate the Internet. Wheeler opposes this but said in response to opposition to his proposal that reclassification is on the table.

3. Put in place net neutrality regulations. The Commission should act consistently with President Obama’s campaign position – net neutrality. Acting opposite of what the people voted for undermines the democratic legitimacy of government on the critical issue Internet freedom.

Beyond these initial steps we need to do more to protect the Internet in the long-run. Robert McChesney tells The Real News that the Internet is controlled by a cartel: “We basically have three enormous companies–Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T–and a few other quasi-enormous companies that have more or less divvied up the market for internet service…” The result is the United States, formerly a leader in the Internet, now provides expensive, poor service to Americans:

By setting up this cartel, what we have in America today is Americans pay much more to get cell phone service, much more to get wireline broadband than people do in most other countries, and we get a much lower service. It’s one of the cruel ironies that here we are in the United States, the country that invented the Internet, the country that in 1999 or 2000 was light years ahead of most places in the world. We were at the top of the list in the quality of Internet service and the percent of the population that was online. And we’ve fallen now, so that depending on the ranking, we rank between 15 and 30, sometimes 35 or 40, on rankings from what you pay, the speed, the quality of the service. And it’s not an accident. This is what happened when very powerful corporations own the government, when they basically have the regulators in their pocket.

This cartel needs to be broken up; a handful of mega-corporations should not control the communications of hundreds of millions of people. The New York Times editorial board wrote recently that these monoply-corporations exist in large part because of public support, “the viability of those networks are based on decades of public investments in the Internet, the companies’ use of public rights of way and, in the case of some companies, a long government-sanctioned monopoly over telephone service.” They need to be required to act in the public interest first.

By reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, the FCC will be able to regulate it in the public interest.  We would like to take it farther and make the Internet a public service by law. Taxpayers developed the technology that has become central to communication in 2014.  By allowing corporate domination of this public utility, we are giving them power to minimize our Freedom of Speech in the Internet age.


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