Net Neutrality

Well, they did it. Trump’s Verizon  puppet at the FCC–after a campaign of disinformation and downright dishonesty–got his (and Verizon’s) fondest wish: they voted yesterday to dispense with Obama-era rules protecting Net Neutrality.

If you are one of the many Americans who is unfamiliar with this policy, or unsure why it matters, Vox has a comprehensive explanation; if you have less time, Paul Krugman recently offered a concise analogy. Asked for his thoughts on the impending vote, and on the policy, he responded that

… for a democratic society, and also just for a society that is open to new ideas, level playing fields are really important. One of the great unifying things that we did very early on in our country’s history was to establish a postal service, where the cost of sending a letter was the same no matter who was sending it, no matter how far you were sending it…

We’ve done very, very well with providers not allowed to discriminate among different users. This is something that’s very much not broken. Why try to fix it?

This assault on Internet equality is just one of the myriad Trump Administration efforts to remake our country into a plutocracy–to make America “great” for the powerful and wealthy.

It gets harder and harder to keep track of the wholesale de-regulation that Trump insists will unleash the productivity of the market–the rollbacks of environmental regulations that keep our air breathable and our water drinkable, the withdrawal of measures to protect students from fraudulent private colleges and sexual assaults, reversal of regulations preventing fossil fuel companies from despoiling protected lands….I teach public policy, so following all of these efforts to eviscerate the rules of fair play (and not-so-incidentally, anything Obama did or favored) is part of my job–and I can’t begin to keep up.

Before the election of this monumentally ignorant man, I was not a huge fan of robust federalism, or the argument that state “laboratories of democracy” would, or at least could, constrain unwise federal policies. As I’ve watched sensible state governments respond to Trumpism by protecting immigrants, decriminalizing marijuana, enacting stringent environmental protections and demonstrating that raising taxes actually promotes economic growth, I’ve warmed to the wisdom of that argument.

And now…

Washington State has followed the shameful vote against Net Neutrality with an announcement that it will fill the void and protect Internet users: 

On the eve of an expected vote by the Federal Communications Commission to roll back crucial net neutrality rules, Gov. Jay Inslee joined Attorney General Bob Ferguson, legislators, and business leaders to announce state plans to preserve an open internet and protect Washington consumers from internet companies that are not transparent about costs or services.

Inslee wrote a letter to the FCC earlier this month, in which he made a strong case for the retention of current policy.

All Americans, as a matter of principle, should enjoy equal access to the educational, social and economic power of the internet. Ensuring this important technology remains free and unfettered is critical both to our personal freedoms and to our country’s economy,”

Making Washington State’s announcement, Inslee conceded that the FCC’s vote will preempt states from ensuring full net neutrality. But he said states can take a number of steps to promote an open internet and strengthen protections for consumers–and Washington intends to take them:

Hold companies to their commitments not to block websites, throttle speeds, or impose prioritization pricing

  • Direct the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to establish a process for ISPs to certify that they will not engage in practices inconsistent with net neutrality principles.
  • Limit state-conferred benefits to ISPs that have made such certifications.
  • Limit applicability of UTC pole attachment rules to ISPs that are net neutral.
  • Review other state-conferred benefits such as easements and taxes.

Leverage the state’s power as a large purchaser of ISP and telecommunications services

  • Use the state government’s role as a big customer, and our ability to establish state master contracts used by localities, to incentivize Washington companies to adhere to net neutrality principles.
  • Pursue regulatory and legislative action to award contracts to vendors that meet net neutral business requirements.
  • Lead the exploration of a multi-state purchasing cooperative to procure internet service from providers that adhere to net neutrality principles.

Hold companies accountable for warranties made to consumers

  • Create a state-wide internet speed test. This will allow Washingtonians to test their own broadband speed at home, and submit the test to help appropriate state agencies determine what internet speeds consumers are receiving and where companies may be blocking or throttling.
  • Collaborate with legislators to strengthen our consumer protection laws to include the principles of net neutrality.

Encourage new entrants into the currently concentrated ISP market

  • Pursue legislation authorizing public utility districts and rural and urban port districts to provide retail ISP and telecommunications services.
  • Prohibit government-owned ISP services, such as municipal broadband networks, from engaging in blocking, throttling, or priority pricing for Internet services.

As one Washington state legislator asserted, state governments have the right to prevent a “reckless and power-intoxicated federal government from handing over access to the free flow of information to the largest corporations on this planet.”

If other states follow in Washington’s path, they will do more than protect an essential platform for American democratic discourse.

They’ll make a federalism fan out of this skeptic.

49 thoughts on “Net Neutrality

  1. This removal of protection of net-neutrality is yet another example of capitalism run amuck.

    What is wrong with our society that collectively we only see the way forward by using competition and never consider cooperation.

  2. Theresa,

    “What is wrong with our society that collectively we only see the way forward by using competition and never consider cooperation.”

    By considering cooperation we might have to join with people who have a different color, or a different religion, or a different nationality, or a different gender et cetera, et cetera. Who would want to do all that?

    Quit making things so difficult. It is a lot easier being a NAZI.

  3. And again; this Trump administration and their ongoing “deconstruction” of government and democracy take me back to the Goldsmith years in the Indianapolis City-County Building. I have reported before that the first order we got from “Little Hitler” (as he was known throughout the building) was to destroy every file and document from the Hudnut administration; huge trash bins were rolled into all City offices to accomplish this. We have no way of knowing what Trump has ordered in this regard but we have watched him destroy or repeal almost all protective bills from the Obama and previous administrations.

    Goldsmith’s second order was to ignore all laws, rules, regulations and ordinances because they can be changed (none were changed that I had to deal with) and, “IF IT AIN’T BROKE, BREAK IT”. Trump is moving much faster than Goldsmith and causing much more damage to this entire country and all territories. Unless and until the current Republican administration has all issues set in their favor and their personal coffers continue being filled to overflowing…nothing is going to change for the better for the majority of Americans. Trump is Lord and Master, whether his guiding light is Bannon or not, Trump rules and his stubby finger is moving closer to that nuclear button and we will have to begin paying to publicly express our stand against all of his actions. But remember, “Dogs bark but the caravan moves on!”.

    Even if we vote out Republican members of Congress in November 2018, we must tolerate Trump’s “deconstruction” until January 1, 2019, to begin attempts to change. IF, IF we continue the small inroads the Democratic party has made with the latest off year elections. Much damage can be accomplished by the entire bunch in over a year’s time – look what they have done in less than a year.

  4. So far, over a dozen states have joined Washington. Mostly progressive states. Obviously, Indiana is not on board, yet.

    This comment is comical though, “This assault on Internet equality is just one of the myriad Trump Administration efforts to remake our country into a plutocracy–to make America “great” for the powerful and wealthy.”

    Sorry, Sheila, we’ve been there for a long time. Trump’s anti-government agenda just gave the Plutocracy a shot of steroids. Our regulatory bodies in Indiana are a farce. Now they’re a farce on the national level.

    The “America first” agenda isn’t helping globalization one bit either. We need to become more democratic, not less. Globalization is very important to our planet and our future quality of life. Can you imagine if our military budget was partially replaced with productive units?

    Over 6,000 corporate lobbyists assembled the tax scheme and will rally around cutting entitlement programs. These lobbyists come from the Donor Class, not the Working Class.

    After 40 years of Neoliberal public policies, we’ve fattened up the fat cats even more at the expense of the 99%. There is no balance of power because we don’t have a large enough free press willing to hold the powerful accountable nor are the people informed to make good voting decisions. Albert Einstein told us this in the 40’s. 😉

  5. It’s probably an exercise in futility, but we should collectively send the WA suit as a model to the IURC.

  6. The AG in New York says he and several others will challenge the decision in court. Perhaps that will delay it, but probably won’t prevent it from being implemented.

  7. JoAnn,

    Thanks for the EARLY WARNING.

    By January 1, 2019 we probably won’t be able to effectively use the internet. Also, there’s a good chance by then, Trump will have found a convenient war somewhere. To effectively speak-out then will probably cause an arrest for wartime SEDITION, as was the case in W.W. I.

    There will be no better time than NOW.

  8. We’re going to have to be more CREATIVE. Voting, law suits, etc. are not going to be enough.

    Sorry to say, we’re going to have to FIGHT- BACK, hopefully, in a non-violent way. The quicker we understand that, the more chance we will prevail in the end.

  9. FCC did the ethical thing. The reasons are vast and complex. Give Infowars a veiwing , and let them explain it.

  10. The FCC did the right thing. The reasons are vast , and complicated. Veiw INFOWARS , and let the experts explain it.

  11. mark, “The reasons are vast…” Vast as in vast amounts of money and power. “and complicated.”
    Complicated as in deliberately confusing and full of half truths and lies.

  12. Mark,

    The FCC did the right thing. The reasons are vast , and complicated. Veiw INFOWARS , and let the experts explain it.

    Anything with Donald Trump’s print on it couldn’t possibly be the right thing. Because of that, I won’t bother to view INFOWARS. By the way, what makes an expert? Isn’t there’s all kinds of so-called experts appearing on FOX NEWS.

  13. We need to be creative like Tarana Burke who started the HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL MeToo movement. Maybe black women should take the lead.

    There has always have been “more than one way to skin a cat.”

  14. The FCC vote seems as mindless as promoting fossil fuel over renewables, encouraging industrial and energy producers to pollute more freely, providing tax “reform” that places more money at the top of the economic pyramid than ever before, undermining consumer protections, appointing know-nothing cabinet members, continual lying and campaigning, trying to discredit the investigation into Russian interference into our elections, undermining available health care for the population at-large, threatening our long-standing relationships with allies around the world, etc. What’s next?

  15. We need to remember, black women were leading behind the scenes during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. No one was more important than Ella Baker. She was a creative genius.

    From my website, http://www.StrategicPower.org:

    The importance of understanding from a systemic perspective was pointed out by author Robert P. Moses in Radical Equations (2001) where he quoted the civil rights leader, Ella Baker:

    “……to become a part of a society that is meaningful…..means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning–getting down to and understanding the root cause.”

    You can’t say it more clearer than that. Can you?

  16. Well Marv; whatever the makeup of Congress after January 1, 2019, we will still have many more issues than the Internet to confront, most with no other options to turn to. Taxes and medical care access and soaring costs, collapsing infrastructure and bridges across the nation, disaster relief, and the list goes on and increases almost daily. Vital as the Internet has become to most of us, and being totally deaf I rely on it as my primary source of communication for medical assistance, a few business transactions, family and friend contact as well as this blog and other sites which allow me to participate in opposing the current political malevolent leadership. Holding meetings and “word-of-mouth”, taking to the streets across the nation again; primarily there is the United States Postal Service which is self-sustaining and not part of this government. It will be much more difficult, if not impossible to stop, intrude on or make changes to millions of pieces of mail sent and received via hundreds of thousands of post offices located in cities, towns and villages through out this country.

    My Internet has been hacked, disrupted by lethal viruses and phished more than once; one episode of being phished sent 165 ads in my name for lower prices on Viagra. Two of the recipients were former Mayor Bill Hudnut and his former Deputy Mayor John Krauss. Via the Internet my friend;s bank account was hacked and cleaned out, my son’s credit card was accessed and hundreds of dollars of merchandise purchased in his name. These took a few weeks, via the Internet, to resolve.

    Less or more costly Internet access means we will have to put more actual effort and probably/possibly more money into our struggle to return this country to a safer, more normal level of life as we KNEW it before the Age of Trump hit us full force after January 20, 2017.

    We must fight for the Internet and maybe using other sources of contact to prevent hacking our efforts on the Internet is an option.

  17. JoAnn,

    I remember receiving a Viagra ad from one of my female friends. Same situation as yours. I was the first to notify her. But how many people didn’t bother to check it out.

  18. JoAnn,

    Communications is not where the answer lies. It’s strategy: We must DISCREDIT the Trump Administration as as soon as possible. That can only be done by attacking the ROOT CAUSE of the political disaster like Ella Baker had advised over 50 years ago. We’ve continued to fail in doing that. The N.A.A.C.P. attempted to do that more than 10 years ago. Immediately, their donations dwindled to a “drip.”

    Understandably, that brought a quick ending to their maneuver.

  19. I am not too quick to dismiss the possibility that New York’s AG will succeed with his suit to reverse the debacle of yesterday. I note, too, that Congress could still have a hand in dismantling what happened yesterday, so I think this not yet a fait accompli. It is time to keep this horror on the front burner in the hope it can be overturned, and if not, to agitate for going the way of Washington State and/or formation of a co-op to compete with the one percent’s takeover of yet another of our public information services. From a purely legal view, I would like to see the internet defined as a public utility and thus subject to public regulation, but that is a pipe dream at this point, when we are fighting for the very survival of free access. We must now agitate ever more fiercely than before to upend and reverse this horrid finding, so let’s do it.

  20. Yes, the Trump administration is our version of the Nazis taking control of the Reichstag.

    This is not an effort to install a plutocracy. It is outright fascism.

    Marv is right. We have to get rid of these evil swine NOW. SOMEHOW. SOME WAY.

  21. Vernon,

    You mentioned in JEST a few days ago about my recommending your book, “Racing to the Brink: The End game for Race and Capitalism.” I still do. But where we have a strong disagreement is that you believe the problem started in 1970 with a Supreme Court Justice taking the lead. What you have written is true. However, you’re only taking into account what has happened on the SURFACE. I don’t believe you have been a position to do otherwise.

    How could a sitting Supreme Court Justice take it upon himself to start a movement when he was only a political appointment of Richard Nixon? The ROOTS of this movement go all the way back to the testimony of General Butler’s Congressional testimony in the mid 30’s. However, the growth was delayed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and Adolph Hitler declaration of war. The movement picked-up again right after the end of the war.

    But what you have so excellently reported is years away from the “root cause.” And that’s why, when given a chance to tell us what to do, you couldn’t reply. Roots are generally below the surface as is the case at hand. And you haven’t dealt with that phenomenon, because you haven’t been in a position to TRACK the SUBSURFACE movement.

    Trees or movements do not grow without roots.

  22. Todd @ 7:33 I agree with your comments about the Plutocracy being in control for a long time. We have what is essentially the Neo-Liberal Economic plan of, what is good for Goldman Sachs, etc., is good for country.

    The Cable News Networks CNN, MSNBC and FOX are a 24/7/365 joke. They have very little news just all day editorial comment, skewed to their audience.

  23. Vernon,

    We need to start with your book, but we have to go deeper. That’s where the answers lie at this point in time. I believe Professor Einstein would agree with me, if he was alive.

  24. Monotonous; you are right about cable news broadcasts – they are repetitive and monotonous but they are all we have. I check periodically to see if the “Breaking News” on MSNBC is actual news or yesterday’s leftovers or “talking heads” who consider their views to be the news. But I also look out my front door on snowy days to see if it is melting yet and if the sun is shining; sometimes there have been changes taking place in both instances while I was not looking. Local news is the real joke of the day and all seem to be tilting to the right; they are like our utilities which are monopolies, no other options in sight. The Internet gives us a place to vent, to argue – generally in vain – but at times, venting is our only outlet for building frustration levels.

  25. Vernon,

    The reason we can’t get control of things is that the SUBSURFACE MACHINATIONS are controlling the SURFACE MOVEMENTS. You’re an engineer and I think like one. You have followed the surface and I have been following the subsurface starting in 1948. You have to be there at the beginning of a fascist-like movement or you will not be able to follow it because it mutates along its path. It’s a disease of the mind. And like all diseases you cannot successfully treat it without knowledge of the GROUND ZERO. That has always been a major problem in the treatment of AIDS.

  26. Marv and Vern – Of course everything has its antecedents, or roots, but we can only treat their effects if toxic today. We cannot undo what has happened or hasn’t happened in retrospect since we are only living today. History is linear and should be a guide but not a constraint on how we treat the history of history. Thus racism should never have happened, but it did and it persists, so what are we going to do about it today? Capitalism run amok today has its antecedents in the East India Tea monopoly and our own Gilded Age and is returning today (with legislative help), so what are we going to do about it – today? Somewhere on the spectrum our democratic institutions will collide with the ambitions of the one percent, militarists, religious extremists and psychotics (see both Trump and Pence), so the question goes beyond identifying root causes and becomes > What are we going to do about it – today

  27. Gerald,

    “Marv and Vern – Of course everything has its antecedents, or roots, but we can only treat their effects if toxic today. We cannot undo what has happened or hasn’t happened in retrospect since we are only living today. History is linear and should be a guide but not a constraint on how we treat the history of history.

    If you don’t understand the roots, you can’t take action now. History might be linear, but the problem we’re facing is non-linear. It is a domestic WEBWAR. It involves NODES and FRACTALS. If you don’t understand the beginning or ROOT CAUSE, you can’t take effective action.

    I’m just repeating what the Rand Corporation has released many years ago.

    “Networks and Networks” by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt (RAND, Santa Monica, CA, 2001).

  28. Maybe the federal government should provide the internet for free since it seems it had become a “right?” Let the Veterans Administration run it since they prove our government is so good at providing services, just ask any veteran trying to receive healthcare.

  29. A Great Lakes Net Co-op perhaps, comprised of IL, OH, KY, MI & MN, could encourage (read “pressure”) IN to climb aboard this particular bandwagon. As you pointed out, cooperation rather than competition could move this entire Midwest region out in front, ie, a progressive action. Now, wouldn’t THAT be something!

  30. So far I think most here would agree, this administration has lived down to expectations. The one saving grace has been our do nothing Congress which we can hope in the coming year will continue be paralyzed.

    The Cabinet has led the way down. When we get our chances to exercise democracy the first opportunity is to change Congress back to bipartisan and that’s only a year away. Hopefully they will continue for that long to be paralyzed and unable to dissemble the country.

    What voters in 2020 will have to be coached on is the reality that the Presidency, Vice Presidency and Cabinet are a package deal. We can kill that head of the snake devouring us once and for all.

    So far our terrible mistake has been unable to effectively kill our spirit. In fact there’s strong indication that it has been rekindled. What Trump’s swamp creature cabinet can do the next administration can undo.

    My biggest fear now is that the Obama economy will take us into and through 2020 which would make fixing our problems more difficult. If economic trauma is to be the the result of this administration I hope that it comes soon or, as with Cheney’s recession Republicans will be confused about the cause.

  31. Ironically, although Washington and the other states may be making a good case for the federalist-laboratory model of government as a constraint on reckless federal laws and regulations, it’s also creating a regulatory nightmare for the big ISP’s to have to navigate 50 different states’ regulations and market constraints. Look for the oligopoly to fiercely fight these as impediments to interstate commerce. If they prevail and I have little doubt they will, it will dis-affirm federalism as a guiding principle and relegate it to nothing more than an opportunistic tool of commerce.

    If there is one piece of the Washington regs that I wish Indiana could get behind, it is to provide low-cost high-speed broadband access to the rural areas of the state. Where I live the only option is 6M Gbps DSL service for $80/month. This is the equivalent of “dial-up” speed in the 90’s. I have seen school children hanging out at the tables in the evening at the gas station/convenience stores so they can use their phones, tablets and laptops, many of them working on homework assignments (25% of Hoosier K-12 students attend school in rural IN areas). There is no reason counties cannot be authorized to start or expand enterprises on the REMC model to deliver broad-band access to all citizens. All the campaign rhetoric about preserving our rural heritage is just the usual gas-baggery.

  32. Waiting for the next email from my internet provider: “Good news! You’re eligible for a faster internet etc. etc.”

  33. We’re seeing another example of taxpayer money funding the research and innovation that develops a product like the internet, and insulin as another example that is then turned over to private profiteers

  34. Oh, my word! I’m just now reading this, and I’ve a question for every commenter on this particular post.

    Is there anyone commenting today who does NOT have access to a cable ISP, such as Comcast or AT&T Fiber, AT&T DSL, or Verizon Fiber Optic? In other words, is there anyone here who does not have Internet access via a ‘hard-wired’ connection?

    I do not. I live approximately 8 miles north of the Indianapolis city limits, the 12th largest metropolitan area in the US, and no one on my street has access to any form or fashion of hard-wired Internet connection other than wireless broadband which costs me $250.00 per month for 50GB of usage. I pay for each gigabyte of Internet use per month while those with hard-wired cable internet connections enjoy unlimited data use including the broadband width hogs of Netflix, any streaming download events, and all gaming applications.

    Net neutrality does not mean equality of Internet availability. Internet broadband width is finite and for those lucky folks paying for unlimited Internet data plans, it only means there’s less broadband width available for us people who suffer the connectivity slow-downs when you arrive home from work and ramp up your Netflix, your live streaming tv shows, or your gaming interests.

  35. BSH you are of course correct the net neutrality has nothing to do with Internet access but Internet use from whatever access that you have.

    Is there POTs (plain old telephone service) or Cable TV in your neighborhood? If not that’s truly unusual and completely out of touch with modernity.

  36. Net neutrality — what we have here is a failure to communicate.

    Net neutrality is a technical issue that has morphed unfortunately into a political issue.

    For me, net neutrality remains a technical issue that few, if any, can address in an intelligent and cogent manner without dragging in politics.

  37. Gail:”We’re seeing another example of taxpayer money funding the research and innovation that develops a product like the internet, and insulin as another example that is then turned over to private profiteers”

    And that enabling is bipartisan.

  38. Pete, if there were any form or fashion of Cable or telephone landline connectivity for Internet service on my street, I would know. Trust me, Pete, I am way ahead of your thoughts. But, thanks for thinking of me.

  39. When you get your next bill from your service provider, look for ‘select deals’ for extra speed or free service for Netflix or Hulu and that will be your clue that Net Neutrality has been wiped out.

    Think of it this way, North Korea has the internet and the government allows some things to be seen by the end use but most end users will not have a clue that they are missing something because they won’t know about it. We will become North Korea with our internet service! Only a few of us (with deep pockets of course) will have access to the internet. Just like before the government demanded that all homes across the country have electricity, this will be our internet future. Time for pitch forks.

  40. CB @ 11:24 am >> Let the Veterans Administration run it since they prove our government is so good at providing services, just ask any veteran trying to receive healthcare.

    I am a Vietnam War Veteran and and can tell you I have received excellent care from the VA. It is certainly much better than the Market Controlled Medical Insurance Industry. I do not have some insurance person telling me or my doctor, my policy does not provide coverage. I do not get billed for big deductibles, co-pays or find out my medical provider is out of net work.

  41. For a discussion of how complicated the policy question about net neutrality is, see the post on the Volokh Conspiracy for November 28th. (Google “volokh AND net neutrality” and it should be number one in the list.

    And, for the most part and most people, VPN’s are likley to make net neutrality vel non (mostly) irrelevant.

    I’m not saying net neutrality would not be better–although the policy question really is not as simple as most of the “news” has it. But, as one discussion of NN and VPN’s say, “Let the game of cat and mouse begin!”

    Btw, there are a lot of lifetime subscriptions to great VPN services out there to be had at grotesquely low prices–many for 5 devices, which can be unregistered as they die.

Comments are closed.