Thousands ask Congress to overturn net neutrality rules

1 Apr 2015 | Author: | One comment »

Americans Send 1.6 Million Letters to Congress to End ObamaNet.

A number of messages to lawmakers purporting to be from average constituents who oppose the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules don’t appear to have come from people within their districts, according to the company that manages the technology for some House members. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (L) and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai visit before testifying to the House Judiciary Committee about Internet regulation in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.

When it comes to enshrining sensible and permanent public policy in regard to the Internet, Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says there is “magic in the making,” and that by working with his colleagues in the U.S.Free-market proponent American Commitment said Tuesday (March 31) that legislators have received more than 1.6 million letters asking Congress either to weigh in on net-neutrality with a compromise proposal or try to defund the Federal Communications Commission’s Title II implementation. The notes have identical wording to those organized by a group called American Commitment, which is led by Phil Kerpen, a former top aide at the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity. On February 26, the FCC voted to alter the rules under Title II of the Communications Act in order to regulate our computers just like utility and phone companies. It is this extreme power grab that convinced American Commitment, a free-market advocacy group, to mobilize over 500,000 citizens to send letters to Congress sharing their concern about the rise of “ObamaNet.” In total, 1,621,614 letters were mailed to Capitol Hill.

That gives me great confidence going forward that we will prevail.” USTelecom and Alamo Broadband filed separate suits last week in federal court asking that the rules be set aside because the agency acted beyond its authority. Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment, told Townhall he was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring. “I have never seen such an overwhelming push back from the general public against the federal regulatory action,” he said. “We’ve seen just a stunning response. He went on to say that “the big winners will be America’s consumers and innovators and our economy as a whole,” according to a text of the speech made available by the FCC. “We will finally have strong, enforceable rules that assure that Internet remains open now, and into the future.” Wheeler appeared before five different Congressional hearings over the past two weeks. Designed for rotary phones and essentially one monopolistic company in 1934, the basis of these rules has nothing to do with an Internet invented several decades after this legal structure was introduced eons ago.

The revised rules don’t directly ban plans such as T-Mobile’s (NYSE:TMUS) Music Freedom, a plan offering subscribers unlimited music streaming without it counting toward their data caps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., expressed concern that Republicans were turning the rules “into another wedge issue to attack the president.” Before that hearing, Wheeler had appeared at three other House hearings and a Senate Commerce oversight hearing in the previous two weeks. It’s still a behemoth designed for something totally different than our modern Internet and represents a direct attack on the business model which has given the United States the most advanced and robust Internet infrastructure in the world.

He referenced the experience in his speech, thanking officials for asking him to appear there. “It’s great to be here, and I’m not just saying that because I spent five of the previous eight weekdays testifying before Congress,” Wheeler said. Butterfield (D-NC), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, became the first Democrat to announce he supported congressional action against the FCC regulations. “It’s pretty astonishing what the FCC did here to end two decades of successful free market internet policy and instead say we’re going to regulate the internet like a public utility like a 1930’s law designed for the old phone system.” Kerpen points to another factor that may be driving Americans’ powerful and passionate responses. But he said that other groups had mounted similar campaigns, and borrowed the pre-written text available on his website. “We’re aware that other groups used identical language in their campaigns and we cannot speak to those efforts,” Kerpen said. “We verified our data through postal address verification and follow up phone calls. He told the crowd that “the Commission’s Open Internet Order rests on a basic choice – whether those who build the networks should make the rules by themselves or whether there should be a basic set of rules and a referee on the field to throw the flag if they are violated.” A Rasmussen Reports poll from last year asked participants, “Are you worried that the FCC regulating the internet will lead to content control and politicization?” Sixty-eight percent said ‘yes.’ “We’ve long argued that once you put federal bureaucrats in charge of the economics of the network, it’s only a matter of time before they try to control the content as well,” Kerpen said. “I think that is a widely held concern.” He said Congress has yet to respond to the campaign, but expects that as they move from the oversight phase into more serious legislative action, members will start addressing the letters.

These letters are likely to speak on behalf of all Americans who cherish their freedom and reject the current administration’s apparent obsession with controlling key aspects of their lives. Because despite what supporters of this new system say, net neutrality is not contingent on utility laws destined to cause harm to our Internet-based economy. About 4 million comments flooded the agency in its nearly yearlong review — and many arrived amid alarmist rhetoric on both sides about regulation and the future of the Web.

American Commitment was a key player in that tussle, claiming responsibility for more than half of all comments criticizing the FCC in the final months of the debate. Internet video services target young adults and other consumers who “cut the cord,” people who disconnect from pay-TV service in favor of more affordable video content via the Internet. In Florida, the FCC’s new regulation could reverse the rapid growth and development seen in the state’s thriving tech industry, which provides more than 270,000 jobs.

The group soon drew the attention of the Sunlight Foundation, which in December detailed its ties to a series of outside organizations, some of which are affiliated with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. In 2012, the Sunshine State ranked in the top five nationally for employment in several major sub-sectors of tech, boasting the third highest total for engineering services employment and the fourth highest for Internet and telecommunication services employment. What’s more, these jobs are some of the highest paying in the state, offering salaries that are over 85 percent higher than Florida’s average private sector wage.

The rapid development of Florida’s tech sector speaks to the larger tech industry’s unlimited potential for spurring much-needed economic activity. Applying utility-style regulation to broadband puts this potential for growth at great risk, as investment and innovation is expected to diminish under such an inept regulatory framework. Another derided net neutrality supporters as “extremists.” A third criticized Obama for having “publicly instructed the FCC, which is supposed to be an independent agency, to reduce the Internet to a government-controlled utility.” Speier’s office noted the similar emails and then calculated that about 98 percent of the messages had come from constituents that her office had never heard from before.

The congresswoman’s team set about trying to reply to some senders, and a few of the constituents replied that they had never signed up to send emails criticizing net neutrality. While many consumers watch TV in homes, analysts say that Verizon’s wireless network would let them watch live sports, breaking news or a favorite show on the go. Lockheed also flagged the notes, saying in its memo that the “source of these messages … is not clearly/currently identified.” In later updates to lawmakers, the company said it still hadn’t identified the source, but had set up a filter to capture the messages.

Forthcoming cost hikes will strike directly at the number one reason why lower-income Americans access the Internet at lower rates than others: affordability. This is identity theft, but instead of impersonating for financial gain, the originators of this theft are striking at the heart of our representative democracy, “This is identity theft, but instead of impersonating for financial gain, the originators of this theft are striking at the heart of our representative democracy,” Speier said. AT&T (NYSE:T), meanwhile, has been pushing a sponsored-data business model, where data charges are billed to a sponsoring company and not to AT&T customers, who basically use an app for free. Republicans must step back from their seeming intention to gut the regulatory authority of the FCC, and Democrats need to step back and take a clearer look at what has given us the marvel of the modern Internet. The Internet didn’t get to its current state of wonder and brilliance through partisan politics or outdated law — in fact, it was a bipartisan effort between Congress and the Clinton Administration that gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

It’s time for Congress to step in and provide us with a solution that will protect the openness of the Internet while also promoting its continued development and evolution. Martin Chavez is a senior advisor to the Hispanic Telecommunications & Technology Partnership (HTTP), an organization representing 19 national Latino civil rights and social mobilization organizations. Verizon Wireless has nearly 103 million postpaid customers — those billed monthly, including some 86 million smartphone subscribers, as well as tablet users.

Verizon also sells FiOS TV and video services via a landline fiber-optic network. “Verizon has the potential to be disruptive because whatever play they have will be aimed at their 100 million-plus customers who are all over the U.S. and who are outside its FiOS territory,” Wolk said. But a streaming service could be “crazy expensive, given bandwidth caps,” he said. “Unless they (Verizon) start selling unlimited LTE plans, all that video gets very, very costly.” Like Apple, Verizon is in talks with content companies. Media companies have been leery of undermining their business relationships with pay-TV distributors like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), which pay programming fees. Cable TV companies have pushed a new “TV anywhere” model that requires consumers to log in as pay-TV customers to view programs using an Internet connection. Nielsen and other market trackers are working on new tools to measure mobile viewing, whether via in-home or public Wi-Fi, or out-of-home cellular networks.

There may be subscribers willing to pay for the incremental service, but whether it’s enough to justify the costs that Verizon might incur in launching and operating the service is another matter.”

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