network neutrality, hobbled

FCC’s Network Neutrality plan — being put into place because Congress failed (is this becoming a redundant phrase?) to put together a proper bill is only half way acceptable: mobile (or wireless) is to be exempted from net neutrality. This is bad for a number of reasons. First, from Save The Internet’s Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality; Tuesday Betrayal Assured article:

For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.

Instead of a rule to protect Internet users’ freedom to choose, the Commission has opened the door for broadband payola – letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

Instead of protecting openness on wireless Internet devices like the iPhone and Droid, the Commission has exempted the mobile Internet from Net Neutrality protections. This move enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others.

Truthout elaborates here: FCC Set to Approve Corporate-Friendly Net Neutrality Rules

After Congress failed to pass legislation on net neutrality earlier this year, the FCC has been faced with the task of developing the policy, while lobbyists for both sides of the argument pressured the five-member commission to create lenient regulations on their behalf. The final plan laid out by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would prevent high-speed Internet providers from blocking or favoring legal access to web sites on their networks, but would also allow them to charge for specific services, such as video content.

Internet companies such as Google and Amazon have been creating online TV offers that would enable consumers to forgo cable subscriptions and, instead, pay smaller fees for a more advanced package, Reuters reported. But because high-speed Internet access is a crucial element of an online TV package, cable companies could easily violate FCC rules and slow or block traffic to the web sites offering those services, giving consumers little option than to keep their cable subscriptions if they want to be able to watch TV.

The FCC rules would also give wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon more leeway in blocking or favoring applications or services, unless those applications are direct competitors, like Internet phone service provider Skype. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) spoke out against the impending regulations Saturday, stating on the Senate floor, “If corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet … there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech.”

On the other hand, if you’re not a geek, if you’re just a happy camper using your iPhone, or Android, or whatever cool toy (no dissing here, cool toys are awesome, and the point is you can play with them without being a geek), all this fuss over the FCC may seem somewhat esoteric. In which case, you really should read the letter sent to FCC by Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple. He really lays it out all out in a thoughtful (and knowledgeable) letter to the FCC: Steve Wozniak to the FCC: Keep the Internet Free

The early Internet was so accidental, it also was free and open in this sense. The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away. Please, I beg you, open your senses to the will of the people to keep the Internet as free as possible. Local ISP’s should provide connection to the Internet but then it should be treated as though you own those wires and can choose what to do with them when and how you want to, as long as you don’t destruct them. I don’t want to feel that whichever content supplier had the best government connections or paid the most money determined what I can watch and for how much. This is the monopolistic approach and not representative of a truly free market in the case of today’s Internet.

Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway. What if we paid for our roads per mile that we drove? It would be fair and understandable to charge more for someone who drives more. But one of the most wonderful things in our current life is getting in the car and driving anywhere we feel like at this moment, and with no accounting for cost. You just get in your car and go. This is one of the most popular themes of our life and even our popular music. It’s a type of freedom from some concerns that makes us happy and not complain. The roads are already paid for. You rarely hear people complain that roads are “free.” The government shines when it comes to having provided us pathways to drive around our country. We don’t think of the roadways as being negative like telecommunication carriers. It’s a rare breath of fresh air.

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