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The End to Net Neutrality
WEEKEND EDITION FEBRUARY 8-10, 2013
The Communications Trust's Plan to End Media Freedom
The End to Net Neutrality
by DAVID ROSEN
Verizon, AT&T and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are
spearheading a three-pronged attack against net neutrality, the open
Internet and other open forms of digital communications. If they succeed,
telecommunications will be further "deregulated" and, thus, further
privatized and monopolized. As a consequence, telecom services will get
more expensive, local requirements subordinated to the whims of huge
corporate monopolies, competition and innovation will suffer and U.S.
world ranking in terms of broadband speed will further decline.
Last year, many within the broad tech, Internet and media communities - as
well as ordinary citizens - organized to halt the Hollywood studios and
record companies from pushing new "anti-piracy" laws through Congress.
The battle against SOPA-PIPA is a model campaign for the next battle
against the Communications Trust to preserve net neutrality, an open
Internet and America's very communications future.
One front in the campaign to end net neutrality is being pushed by
Verizon. In 2011, it initiated a federal suit against the FCC's authority
to regulate digital communications. Currently, the FCC adheres to what is
known as the "Open Internet rules," an extension of the analog-era 1934
Communications Act. They require all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) -
like Verizon - to maintain "net neutrality" standards, thus treating all
data equally and barring them from slowing down or blocking websites.
Verizon argues that in the new world of digital communications, it is
morphing from an old-fashioned "common carrier" or distribution pipe into
a publisher, somehow analogous to CNN or the New York Times. It insists
that FCC regulatory practices violate its 1st Amendment right to edit,
prioritize or block its customers' access to Internet content. Many
reject this contention.
A second front is being pushed by AT&T and involves new Congressional
legislation that would essentially end all regulatory obligations. AT&T
insists, "this [traditional] regulatory experiment will show that
conventional public-utility-style regulation is no longer necessary or
appropriate in the emerging all-IP ecosystem." No accountability - problem
with your bill, too bad; slow bandwidth speeds, good luck; rural
customers, get f**ked; schools, hospitals, police stations, pay up or
To cover-up this campaign, AT&T's PR flacks recently promoted a new "$14
Billion" investment plan to upgrade its network. The nation's leading
media outlets - the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The
Washington Post, Reuters, Fox News, Los Angeles Times, Forbes and
Bloomberg - all gave it prominent coverage. None of the established media
asked the most obvious question: What have the telecoms, telco and cable,
been doing for the last 20 years?
Two decades ago the telecoms promised to build Al Gore's "Information
Superhighway" and were deregulated to do so. Since then, they've pocketed
an estimated $350 billion to build a post-modern digital telecom system.
What do we have today? A 2nd-rate communications system! Further
deregulations - toothless regulation - will likely only make things worse.
A third front is taking place outside the Washington beltway. ALEC "model
legislation" ending traditional telephone company accountability
requirements has been adopted by 23 states.
Today, a new era of vertical integration is taking shape. Cable companies
Comcast, TimeWarner and Cablevision have proven that integrating content
and distribution fattens the bottom line. The capstone of this new
business model is Comcast acquisition of GE's old content business,
NBC-Universal. Similar efforts seem to part of the long-term development
strategies of Apple and Google. One can only wonder if AT&T or Verizon
will move into the "content" business by acquiring Sony Entertainment or
Yahoo, both stumbling companies?
The telecom trust is moving to impose data caps to neutralize net
neutrality requirements and to end the Public Switched Telephone Network
(PSTN), the underlying telecom system. These efforts further the
consolidation of communications by the monopolies.
Last year people successfully organized to fight SOPA-PIPA legislation.
This year, public interest and other groups are organizing to fight effort
by telecoms to further privatize telecom service and block all regulatory
oversight. The AARP, Rural Strategies and others effectively resisted
efforts by telcos in Kentucky and Ohio to raise rates and limit service.
Groups in New York and Washington, DC, are organizing to take on the
telecom trust at both the state and federal level.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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