Need: Your Input to Save Net Neutrality!
Sisters, of all the challenges we face, this could be the greatest threat to our online connectivity and ability to empower ourselves and others with ICT skills, or the greatest opportunity for us to play a part in preserving and protecting it for the women and girls we are working to empower today! Please make your voice heard by the FCC before the July 15 deadline, and then comment on other submitted comments before September 10.
On January 14, The Washington D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Verizon in a net neutrality case, striking down portions of the FCC Open Internet rules that require telecom companies treat all Internet traffic equally. Newly appointed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, a former cable TV and cell phone industry lobbyist, has set the stage for the FCC to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to divide the internet into fast lanes for wealthy corporations and slow lanes for the rest of us. If successful, this would amount to nothing less than the corporate takeover of the Internet and the death of Net Neutrality.
There was a huge backlash against the vague and deceptive language in the proposal which resulted in the delivery of well OVER ONE MILLION signed petitions to the FCC by Avaaz.org and other petition sites, and people like you and me made so many calls to the FCC to protest that they had to shut down their phone system! Avaaz had delivered the petitions to the EU on April 3, and the EU voted for strong Net Neutrality rules. Adding to the public consternation over this proposal, in a foreboding incident rootsaction.org's petition form, which had generated over 40,000 petition emails to the FCC in the first 24 hours it was online, was shut down along with those of hundreds of other organizations.
The Avaaz petition page includes this statement from the organization:
"The richest 1% could now control what we all see on the Internet forever. It’s the apocalypse of the internet as we know it, and will erase the democratic promise of an information highway for everyone the founders of the world wide web imagined.
Together, Avaaz has built on that vision, using the web to fight corruption, save lives, and bring people-powered aid to countries in crisis. But the US and the EU are on the verge of giving the richest corporations the right to show content fast, while paywalling or slowing down everything else. Avaaz’s ability to show the world citizen journalist footage from Syria, or run campaigns to save our planet is under threat!"
Some might consider this to be overly inflammatory, but others see intent to communicate a real sense of urgency. If the original Net Neutrality provisions that protected the internet up till now had not been remanded by the Washington DC Court of Appeals January decision, an old adage would be appropriate in this context. "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." But now it is broken, and something needs to be done. FCC commissioners acknowledge the grave importance of getting this right in their comments (linked below). The free and democratic internet has worked well thus far, opening the way for a historic flood of innovation, communication between individuals, information transfer between health care entities, and effective and wide-reaching activist and income opportunities for those who previously faced great difficulties. It gave millions of us a voice in this world where before we had none. It made World Pulse possible. Those are all good things - why would anyone want to change that if not for pure profit motive? The internet has become much more and much larger than it was when the original rules were first implemented, and now that some of its founding principles have been legally nullified they must be updated. We just need to make sure the update doesn't eliminate everything that has made the internet work for us. We need to make sure the founding principle of Net Neutrality is not damaged, but expanded and protected.
On May 15, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considered a proposed rule that would, in part, create a new “pay-to-play” fast lane allowing wealthy corporations to pay an extra fee to get their content prioritized to users. Independent, grassroots sites like World Pulse and our own individual sites could wind up languishing in an internet "slow lane." Despite receiving over one million signed petitions and opposition from internet giants like Google, Netflix, Reddit and over 100 more internet companies...
In a 3-2 vote, the FCC voted to advance Wheeler's proposal to end Net Neutrality under the guise of protecting it.
Because of the massive public backlash against the proposed rules, Chairman Wheeler was forced to keep the door open to the change many feel we need – undoing Bush-era deregulation and reclassifying the Internet as a public utility, which they say is the only way to establish Net Neutrality regulations with that can be enforced. Not everyone agrees that this is the way to restore Clinton-era internet neutrality, and some research is wise to make sure we understand the problem and its possible solutions. I have learned much from the research I have done so far. Reading the statements of the FCC commissioners, written just after they voted on May 15, was very enlightening, and so are the information resources I have linked below.
We still have a chance to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear. I was under the impression that the May 15 decision would be final and the rules passed as currently written, but much to my relief I have found that this is not true, and that modifying the proposed rule is still possible. The FCC has established a four-month public comment period on the proposed rules: we have until July 15 to submit initial comments and until September 10 for reply comments. Here are links to statements made by each of the five commissioners:
Tom Wheeler Statement: Mr. Wheeler states unequivocally that he is for a free and open internet. Many distrust his statements based on his former occupation as a cable and cell phone company lobbyist. Regardless of whether his stance is deceptive or not, it does contain important information that may help guide our understanding and our comments in a helpful manner.
Mignon Clyburn Statement: Ms. Cyburn's statement is balanced and informative, making the issue and its current status clear and easy to understand. Her office evaluates proposals, listens to concerns voiced by interested parties, including consumers, then considers what changes to request so that commissioners can move to a position of support. She succeeded in making several changes before the vote occurred. In her conclusion she says:
"You have spoken and I am listening. Your power will never be underestimated, and I sincerely hope that your passion continues. As I said to those I met with outside of FCC headquarters, this is your opportunity to formally make your point on the record. You have the ear of the entire FCC. The eyes of the world are on all of us. Use your voice and this platform to continue to be heard."
Jessica Rosenworcel Statement: Ms. Rosenworcel states that she agrees with the proposal's opponents and why. Brief and important.
Ajit Pai Statement: Mr. Pai's excellent and informative statement includes a serious discussion of the legal and practical factors that need to be considered, his agreement with Ms. Rosenworcel that the May 15 vote was rushed, that the issue should be decided by the American people and not a handful of bureaucrats, and his own suggestions on how to effectively proceed from here.
Michael O’Rielly Statement: Mr. O'Rielly voted against the proposal for surprising and important reasons. He discusses the pitfalls of reclassifying broadband under Title II, including the slippery slope of years of legal wrangling before it could be implemented, along with other concerns. Again, an important and informative read.
The FCC has created a special mailbox to accept informal comments about the net neutrality proceeding. This is where the activist organizations have been sending their petitions when people sign. You might want to send an email to this special mailbox with your comments, in addition to submitting your comment directly to the FCC website.
Unfortunately only those with US addresses can comment, but those of you in other countries could be affected by this too, so if you want to weigh in, you could ask a friend in the States to file your comment for you. I suggest telling your story and letting the FCC know the difficulties you already experience with internet access and usage, and reminding them that decisions made in the US can set precedents that affect decisions made in other countries too. If nothing else, please comment on this post so that concerned American women who can comment to the FCC can discuss it with our sisters around the world and reflect on your opinions in advance.
I have provided links to a information from a variety of sources. Rather than rush to comment, I recommend that you take some time to carefully review the comments of the 5 commissioners and the articles below that express views from many different types of players - from internet companies to political pundits - and consider what you think would be an effective way to move forward with protective measures that will close the doors to inequality and possibly even censorship that the DC Court of Appeals decision in January left wide open. While I trust the "take" that the activists have adopted on this issue, we all need to inform ourselves and make our own decisions on what we feel is the best way to move forward before offering our suggestions to the FCC.
To submit your comment, all you have to do is go to http://www.fcc.gov/comments and click on the Proceeding number, 14-28, and you will be taken to a comment form where you will enter your email address, physical address and comment. There are other "proceedings" that are also relevant, and comments are already being added to them too, of which some have valuable information that will help you understand the issue. To read the comments for Proceeding 14-28, click on the "Filings in the past 30 days" link to the right of the proceeding name, "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet." At the time of this writing there are nearly 45,000 comments filed. Please be advised that the information you are required to enter in order to submit your comment will be publicly available, which also means that anyone can read your well thought through, well reasoned and practical suggestions on the internet!
Here are links to further information. This is in no way comprehensive, but most of these articles contain links to background information and further reading on the subject. If you feel you need more information, an internet search for Net Neutrality will return pages and pages of results for you to review.:
Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, coined the phrase "net neutrality." He discusses how the Federal Communications Commission's proposed changes could affect the average consumer. http://www.wbur.org/npr/306542099/what-do-net-neutrality-rules-mean-for-...
This article identifies and discusses the elements of the proposal, very good information: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/once-more-unto-the-breach-the-fcc-calls... Please note the parts where they state that the FCC is specifically asking for comments, such as First Amendment implications, the Pay-to-Play rule, etc., and remember to address those items specifically in your comment.
Details on the Washington DC Court of Appeals ruling that opened the door for all this controversy and a history of the events that have brought us to this point. Very important information for understanding the controversy: http://mashable.com/2014/01/14/fcc-net-neutrality-ruling/
Extensive collection of links, Tweets, TED talks and videos explaining the situation and making statements about the proposal: https://www.theinternetmustgo.com/bonusleaks/
This article reports that many internet start-ups are wary of the FCCs proposal and feel it will limit or even end their ability to innovate and compete on the internet: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/04/24/306542092/life-out...
This article delivers a review of the issue that includes the positions both sides are taking: http://6abc.com/technology/what-you-need-to-know-about-net-neutrality/66...
This one outlines five reasons NOT to protect net neutrality. Personally I do not agree with most of the reasoning and some of the "facts" mentioned here, and the tone makes it sound like Net Neutrality would be something new rather than what we have always enjoyed, but making an informed decision means looking at issues from every side, so I recommend reading it: http://mashable.com/2014/05/16/5-arguments-against-net-neutrality/
The Huffington Post shows how many back-room deals between large internet companies and internet service providers have already happened, driving home the point and making clear the reason why protecting net neutrality is so vital: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/21/internet-fast-lanes_n_5366283.html
Sisters, of all the challenges we face, this could be the greatest threat to our online connectivity and our ability to empower ourselves and others with information and connectivity technology, or the greatest opportunity for us to play a part in preserving and protecting it for the women and girls we are working to empower with ICT skills today! Please make your voice heard by the FCC before the July 15 deadline, and then comment on other submitted comments before September 10.
I have endeavored to sound this call to action by presenting as much information as I can without being overly alarming, but it is a crucial issue for all of us.
The bottom line is that this is about broadband providers being able to create another way to make additional profit from charging more for access to the internet without any new investment to expand service or speed, and for wealthy corporations that already have an unfair advantage over us to gain even more power and control. Too much of the wording in this proposal is vague and therefore able to be exploited in ways that would affect small players like us negatively. Without careful consideration before enacting any rules or legislation, this in turn could lead to grassroots, independent sites like WorldPulse.com—and OUR websites—being relegated to the slow lane.
This goes against everything that is great about the internet. This is a very tricky issue, and deserves our thoughtful consideration and action. We could be on the precipice of losing so much of what has given us a voice, a platform to speak our truth, and opportunities to improve our own lives and those around us. On the other hand, we could be contributing to a refreshed set of rules that preserve net neutrality while addressing the issues that have arisen as the internet has been maturing. It's terrifying and exciting. Here's our chance to influence a major decision that could affect us all by contributing our comments, and to show how capable women are of analyzing available information and offering sound, practical solutions. Here is yet another chance for Women to Weave the Web - Let's discuss the matter here and consider the options, then, with reasonable arguments backed up by our own stories, tell the FCC why we want a strong commitment to the democratic principle of net neutrality and nothing less!