A Grassroots Win: FCC Approves Net Neutrality

Thanks to those Naked Capitalism readers who supported, through your petition signatures, e-mails, calls, and donations, the push to preserve net neutrality and keep the major telecom and cable incumbents from giving preferential access to content providers with the financial heft to pay for it. Over time, that practice would be certain to drive smaller sites like ours into a death spiral of lower attractiveness, lower visibility, and lower traffic.

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the nuts and bolts of the FCC’s ruling:

The Federal Communications Commission set aside two decades of laissez-faire policy Thursday to assert broad authority over the Internet, voting to regulate broadband providers as public utilities and overruling laws in two states that made it harder for cities to offer their own Web service.

Both rulings were setbacks for big telecommunications and cable companies that have invested billions of dollars in their networks and wins for Internet companies that have enjoyed explosive growth as people spend more time online. The moves reflect an evolution from regulators treating the Internet as a technological innovation that needed to be nurtured to a powerful commercial venue with rival constituencies that need to be balanced.

The commission pledged to use a light touch, and the immediate practical effects of the decisions are limited because companies, regulators and users all agree in principle that traffic shouldn’t be blocked….

The FCC has tried for the better part of a decade to find a middle path of using guidelines or rules to enforce net neutrality without going so far as treating broadband as a regulated service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

A court decision left the use of Title II as the only means for the FCC for preserving net neutrality. FCC chairman and former cable lobbyist Thomas Wheeler was clearly reluctant to go that route, but the tremendous, grass roots organizing to keep the Internet open forced his hand.

Keep in mind that even though left-leaning groups did the bulk of the campaigning, the tech community, which includes many libertarians, also weighed in supporting the use of Title II to curb pipeline owners’ potential to abuse their oligopoly position.

From Steven Rosenfeld at Alternet:

The joint efforts of many progressive groups—such the ACLU, CREDO Action, Common Cause, Free Press, MoveOn, the National Organization for Women, Center for Media Justice, and many others—and Internet companies such as Netflix, Twitter and Mozilla, created a persuasive coalition of customers and users. While Internet providers offer an array of plans with different speeds and components, the fastest service providers were increasingly gaining monopoly control, a New York Times analysis said Thursday.

“For genuine high-speed Internet service most American households now have only one choice, and most often it is a cable company,” the Times said. “The new rules will not ensure competition from new entrants, ranging from next-generation wireless technology to ultrahigh-speed networks built by municipalities. Instead, strong regulation is intended to prevent the dominant broadband suppliers from abusing their market power.”

As David Segal of DemandProgress wrote,

The FCC just passed Title II Net Neutrality rules thanks to your work and that of a broad coalition of activists. It’s a challenge to describe just how unlikely this victory appeared as recently as a few months ago.

As we told the Huffington Post: Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened. If the Net Neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why!

And from Lee Fang at The Intercept makes clear that despite the efforts of Obots and the Democratic party to claim this victory as their win, the Administration was not supporting this campaign. The Venezuelans have a saying for what happened: “Getting in front of a mob and calling it a parade.”

For Internet start-ups and political activists alike, the efforts by the ISP industry to move away from net neutrality represented a transformation of the Internet, from a place in which all voices were equal to a world of big incumbent websites and corporate media-dominated information sources. “The question came down to, who ultimately controls this Internet? Is it going to be these powerful corporations?” says [Tim] Karr [of Free Press]…

Now, with the FCC voting to reclassify Internet access providers under Title II of the Communications Act, net neutrality rules are stronger than ever. The credit for such a seachange, say activists who agitated for the decision, belongs to a mix of online and traditional activism.

Pro-net neutrality protesters quickly made headlines by storming hearings, confronting Wheeler at public events, and carrying out a string of stunts designed to raise public awareness.

Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice, stresses that the strength of the net neutrality movement relied on the diversity of its coalition. She says Color of Change, National Hispanic Media Coalition, immigrant rights’ groups, activists from Black Lives Matter and communities of color “took it to the streets, to the doorstep of the ISPs.”

“What happened? The people happened, organizing happened,” Cyril says.

Karr, who has worked on net neutrality advocacy for over a decade, also emphasized the role of a large coalition, “from librarians to free speech advocates,” with a shared interest in Internet freedom. “It also took a host of different tactics,” he says. “Protests in Philadelphia, protests in San Francisco, people making videos on YouTube — not coordinating in some centralized fashion, but many groups using their own creative strength and reaching out to their own constituents around this goal of convincing the FCC to reclassify Internet access providers under Title II.”…

Following Obama’s first election win in 2008, the president retired his grassroots “Organizing for America” army of volunteers into a wing of the Democratic National Committee, and reportedly pressured activist groups not to publicly criticize his administration.

So that old 1960s slogan, “power to the people” might not be dead.

The ruling will be challenged in court, but the Title II designation has the firm legal foundations and thus has good odds of surviving.

Again, I want to thank all of you who chipped in on this effort, even in a small way. This success shows that large-scale organizing can and does make a difference.

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  1. kimyo

    317 pages seems a lot more like ‘we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it’ than any sort of internet freedom.

  2. diptherio

    I have to admit, I’ve become so cynical that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Did we finally win something? For reals? Excuse me while my head explodes…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Vigilance is the price of freedom. Cynicism involves doubts about motives, but Obama has been around long enough to know he will only be dragged to the adequate course.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Not everyone is as crummy or as uncreative as Obama. A smarter person never would have tried this nonsense, recognizing Americans like perceived freedom. Even after his Internet fueled rise, Obama didn’t think to stop this. I imagine he largely appoints people and is only hands on for military operations where they have to do what he says.

    2. Chris

      The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.

      – George Bernard Shaw

  3. par4

    This is, more than likely, a temporary win. The vote was 3 to 2. Republicans O,Rielly and Pai voted against it.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Agreed. Like Roe v Wade, and NY fracking moratorium, public citizens ought to plan to keep fighting in order to keep this result of the ruling, year after year, especially knowing that the vested interests will never give up fighting to colonize our commons, and will do their best to wear people down to a weak trivial memory of resistance before sinking the fangs in!

    2. Scott Dunn

      I disagree with the notion that this is a temporary win. Even if by some miracle, the Republicans manage to capture the White House and change the composition of the FCC board to tilt the scales, it will not be easy.

      As the parent post mentions, the legal foundation for the FCC’s actions are quite sound. More than 10 years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia laid it out for all to see:


      The FCC had been classifying ISPs who own the pipes as “information services” without authority to do so, and Scalia noticed. If the recent order by the FCC is overruled by a new FCC ruled by Republicans, a successful challenge will be swift.

      Really, there is no going back now. The fact remains, if you own the pipes, you’re a common carrier.

  4. Brooklin Bridge

    Same reaction as Diptherio. I’m assuming that no matter how firm the legal grounds, a way will be found to successfully bury or sideline or reduce or thwart this law now or over time (we now have one of the most corrupt judicial systems in the so called “developed’ world) in so far as it reduces the rent extractivity of the cattle people from it’s rightful owners, big business, and must therefore -in some way probably written on a note at the bottom of some bales of payola – be unconstitutional.

    There is no way the sweetest kind of profits that exist for big business – extracted by the process of corruption – are going to be given up without a wholesale war of dirty fighting which clients of cable companies will pay for.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You need to look at the SOPA/PIPA victory in the early 2000s. Another against the odds, grass root effort. And the results held up until the recent effort to roll net neutrality back.

      You also forget that there is a large contingent of corporations, as well as policy experts, who are on the side of net neutrality. This is not just individual users v. Comcast. The US has terrible broadband speeds as a result of the terrible conduct of local internet oligopolies and Silicon Valley types as well as enterpreneurship experts are clear that the US is putting itself at a serious competitive disadvantage. And the cable and telecos are smaller in economic heft than the forces arrayed against them (although this being key to their profits, they are guaranteed to devote more in the way of resources to this fight).

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        I’m happy to be wrong and your point that powerful forces are aligned in favor of Net Neutrality can’t be argued, so point well taken. But if this specific legal battle is indeed secure (or fairly safe), for the reasons you point out, then for the same reason the larger question of Net Neutrality, particularly over time, is another matter and relies on the fragile assumption that the interests of the big players continue to align with those of the people.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          During the past ten years, two events related to Net Neutrality were especially notable:

          In June 2006, long-time Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens (Republican) called the Internet ‘a series of tubes‘. At that time, he was the Chair of the Senate committee that was supposed to oversee legislation of the ‘Internet tubes’.

          […] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

          Ted Steven’s cluelessness helped wake Silicon Valley up to the fact that they needed to start educating legislators about the technical issues involved in Internet-and-software-related policies.

          Fast-forward to June 2014, when John Oliver (and his staff) produced an absolutely brilliant explanation of ‘cable company f*ckery’, and helped viewers understand why Net Neutrality matters for ‘the world’s electronic cat database’ and the rest of us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU

          Big players aligning with ‘the people’ is probably less important than making sure that people – including ministers, mayors, bricklayers, lawyers, cops, judges, teachers, and mechanics – understand what Net Neutrality means for their lives, and their telecom bills.

      2. diptherio

        I have to say, I think it’s probably more realistic to chalk up this victory (and the SOPA/PIPA wins) to the corporate interests that happened to be aligned with consumers’ interests in this case. Let us not forget our Gilens and Page: mass interest groups and public opinion have no independent effect on policy outcomes. Not saying that all our petitions and letters didn’t help, but this decision likely reflects the respective influence of the opposing corporate interests involved rather than any concern for the common good.

        One robin doesn’t make a spring and one victory for the masses doesn’t equal a democracy. (Yup, still a cynic)

        1. Vatch

          The FCC commissioners probably wouldn’t have noticed that some corporations and oligarchs support net neutrality if there hadn’t been a public uprising. Remember the FCC’s initial proposal for a tiered internet? That would have become the official policy if vast numbers of people hadn’t protested.

          1. diptherio

            You sure about that? I think that the corporate interests for net neutrality probably hire lobbyists, too. Pretty sure Wheeler would have heard from the corporate advocates of NN regardless of any public outcry.

            And btw, I first saw that tiered internet proposal back in the early aughties–this was just the most recent attempt at getting it through. And let us not forget, nothing is ever over–just because we won this fight today doesn’t mean they won’t try it again when conditions seem a little more ripe; like during a Republican administration, say.

            And I would expect, at the very least, that we’ll see continual efforts to chip away at NN, just like we’ve seen with SS. And also, how are all those other services that the FCC regulates doing? Radio and TV prove that being classified as a utility doesn’t prevent rent-maximizing behavior and corporate domination.

            I’m not trying to rain on everybody’s parade, just trying to keep some historical perspective and not over-hype it. Remember that Suskind quote from Water Cooler yesterday? The Wall Street bigwigs get their way because they refuse to be satisfied with even the biggest of victories. We need that attitude as well.

            As Freddy put it, “I want it all, and I want it now!”

            1. Vatch

              I’m definitely not sure about this. But lobbyists do a lot of their work behind the scenes, and the officially proposed version of a set of regulations is often something that is preapproved by the lobbyists with the most clout. The FCC had to retreat from their initial proposal.

        2. hunkerdown

          Lest we forget our Gilens and Page… if there were no money on the side of net neutrality, corporate lanes would have been a quietly done deal long ago.

  5. Carolinian

    No Yves is right. Force of numbers can carry the day against corporations and their money. It’s the same reason Social Security (so far) has prevailed despite the disingenuous big finance campaign to destroy it. When something is really popular the plutocrats have to back down.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      And this is where our cynicism works as a tool for the .01%. Even in a system that is as profoundly undemocratic as America’s one dollar, one vote, very real political constraints still exist because of the narrative of the US as a democracy is still pitched. Just because you have bought every politician from POTUS to Mayberry dogcatcher still doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, always. Americans identify their government as democratic and are sold that idea, it’s foundational and intrinsic to the whole American self identity. But conversely, the more cynical we become the less constrained the .01% will be this mythology, as the corruption is normalized. Corruption obviously causes cynicism, but it also feeds on it and exploits it. Maybe the most useful thing Obama has accomplished for the .01% is to tarnish and devalue optimism or empowerment or transformative aspirations. The epitaph–and perhaps if you’re cynical, the intended lesson–of the Obama presidency is in the end surely “No, We Can’t”.

      1. hunkerdown

        The more cynical we become, the less value the .01% have to offer us. Let them go Galt and bark orders amongst themselves.

        But hey, anything to keep the sewf-esteem up and keep the elites alive so that pwecious bourgeois caweewists can have their turn at the whip hand.

    1. Septeus7

      He’s right. A victory for total censorship of all content not deemed “legal content” i.e (torrents, wikileaks, chans, bitcoins, aka anything the government doesn’t like). Remember folks the Neutrality language applies for “legal content” and “unlawful content” such “hate speech and terrorist supporting speech(i.e. anything that doesn’t support the regime)” is banned under these rules for “general conduct.”

      The government decides what violates “general conduct” (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/20/usa-internet-neutrality-idUSL1N0VU01W20150220) such as:
      “(a) Whoever–
      (1) in interstate or foreign communications–
      (A) by means of a telecommunications device knowingly–
      (i) makes, creates, or solicits, and
      (ii) initiates the transmission of,
      any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or
      other communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or
      indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person;

      This is the part where so-called general conduct cause is code for complete and total government censorship of everything as a Shill Army of eternally “Triggered” Tumblrinas will be appointed to find everything as “abusive” and “threatening.” Goodbye all comment sections and forums. Say to Hello to the internet junior anti-sex league.

      You are guys were completely conned on this one with your idiotic notions of packet equality and anti-throttling nonsense: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceFQsX8N0g4.

      Say hello to metered everything. You have all been conned big time but none of this could have been avoided. You will all come to understand this after a few years if this stands which is unlikely because it unlikely to survive the courts. But if this goes through I won’t be able to say I told you so because I will like be in federal prison for distributing “unlawful content.”

      You have forgotten golden rule of kleptocracies such as ours: “One way or another the consumer must be screwed and the shitizens silenced.”

      In the end the government will say “shut up slaves and enjoy your Netflix and GMOs or else.”

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Get a grip. Your comment is ill informed, to say the least.

        Click on the section regarding the US. This section is all about hate speech. There’s been an ongoing effort to try to get the FCC to address that. But anti hate speech policies, like ones on college campuses, have not survived legal challenges on First Amendment grounds. The ACLU and even the American Bar Association is against restricting free speech under “hate speech” grounds. Anyone sued under that provision would have high odds of getting the ACLU or other free speech group to take the case. And the Supreme Court history here is clear and well settled.


        And a Congressional insider who is knowledgeable about FCC regs wrote me:

        “Doesn’t strike me as credible. Neither does Denninger’s complaint.”

        1. andyb

          Yves: the problem that you fail to recognize is that now the camel’s nose is under the tent when before the entire camel was in a restricted pen. The excesses of government regulation are legion and too many delimit freedoms we once took for granted that were sacrosanct. I fear that sites that expose government corruption, malfeasance and the ever increasing false flag events will be outlawed under some pretext.

      2. Larry Y

        Where are all these anti-regulatory types getting their talking points form? Ron Paul is parroting the same nonsense as Jim Boehner. It’s not just knee-jerk; it’s like the boy crying wolf.

        The EFF has libertarian friendly but informed (history, technology and legal) opinion: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/07/deep-dive-defense-neutral-net

        Basically, we should just all roll over for corporatism and “deregulate” monopolies, utilities, and telecom – especially big corporations, from all public democratic oversight. We all know that these corporations are such promoters of dissent and free speech, just look at FOX or MSNBC, or even better, CNBC and Fox Business News.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Social Security has survived multiple attempts to privatize it. Arguably, some of the worst damage has been done through various redefinitions of inflation downward. And we still have the possibility of chained CPI. And who was pushing that really really hard in the 1990s? Janet Yellen.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Are you saying that attacks on SS have come more from government than big business? If so, is there a real distinction? And I’m almost sure that you yourself have commented on occasion (I’ll go try and find the links if you want) that we are not out of the woods on SS attacks yet. Like the Postal service, they (big business and finance through their stooges in government) will just keep at it. We are still in the midst of a race to the bottom, and as such the problem for people is that the big players have both time and resources to chip away.

        Anyway, being cynical or suspicious of wins is hard to kick but you’re right, they do happen.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        Arguably, some of the worst damage has been done through various redefinitions of inflation downward. And we still have the possibility of chained CPI.

        Yes, but are not these attacks aimed at weakening SS an integral part of achieving the ultimate goal of privatization once SS has been sufficiently damaged?

        1. diptherio

          Imho, a slow gutting is only marginally better than outright privatization. They don’t need to privatize it if they can just cut it back to practical non-existence. Maybe then they’ll push for a privatized supplement to SS and pitch it as a benevolent arrangement. More than one way to skin a cat (or a social safety net), as they say…

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Either way the plutocrats win. In one case by an amazing infusion of stolen cash (even better than legally shooting at us in the health care insurance barrel), in the other case by the success of the ideology that as welfare, SS deserved to be reduced to rubble and that the cash stolen from legal agreements with the working public can subsequently be used for more and better corporate tax breaks.

      3. diptherio

        So while attempts at outright privatization have failed, the system has nonetheless been continually cut back–so not really a victory for the people, in the long run, with SS. I mean, it’s something, sure, but it ain’t much.

        The problem that we citizen activists always face is that when we win one battle our orgs tend to lose steam and dissipate, whereas the opposition just hangs out and waits for another opportunity. Started a group to oppose the landfill? Great. It was successful? Even better. But prepare yourself to have to refight that same struggle again in a couple of years, and a couple after that…and over and over until one time you fail to stop them. The corps can just pay people to keep trying to force things to go the way they want them to, while concerned citizens have jobs and families and lives to attend to. Much as I hate to say it, in political battles between volunteers and paid staffers, the people getting paid tend to come out on top–eventually, if not right away.

        It’s the classic collective action problem. Mancur Olson wrote a pretty good book about the dynamics involved. I think it’s a problem that can be overcome, but I don’t think we’ve figured out how to just yet.

        1. Vatch

          The problem that we citizen activists always face is that when we win one battle our orgs tend to lose steam and dissipate, whereas the opposition just hangs out and waits for another opportunity.

          That’s a real problem. Perhaps now is a good time to remind people to contact their senators and Congressional representative and ask them to oppose the TPP and the TTIP. People should also contact their senators and oppose HR 37, which has already passed the House of Representatives, unfortunately.



        2. hunkerdown

          The problem is that we aren’t permanently disabling our adversaries. That’s why the assholes win almost all the time: Americans are conditioned against using their momentum. Remember de Tocqueville and conserve this momentum. Time to legalize home servers.

    2. Carolinian

      I didn’t say the plutocrats had backed down or given up….just that they had not succeeded. And while the SS changes in the 80s did make some of us pay more in payroll tax that money has, theoretically, continued to be regarded as an obligation to the SS system even if in the near term it was folded into the general budget. This mixing of SS and the budget is a change that took place, I believe, in the 60s, not under Reagan.

      More generally my point is just that the public can be roused on certain issues and the bought politicians can’t be completely indifferent to public opinion or they face ejection–even in our current feeble version of democracy.

      1. Ulysses

        “and the bought politicians can’t be completely indifferent to public opinion or they face ejection”

        I would dearly love for that to be the case! The evidence of my own lying eyes, however, tells me that it is not. Only when a substantial faction of the elites happen to share the same interests as ordinary people does “public opinion” play a significant role in a national politician’s mental calculus. Every politician knows that 99.9% of the people feel that the wealthiest 0.01% of the people aren’t pulling their weight in promoting the common good. Yet no national politician will ever do anything to offend the wealthiest “donor class” who fund their campaigns, and their comfortable lecture-circuit/lobbyist lifestyle after leaving office.

        In this net neutrality struggle, many billionaires were on the same side as many ordinary internet users against the big cable companies. This meant that “public outcry” was actually reported in the media, and that politicians and bureaucrats were forced to deal with it.

        Very often we see a different dynamic, where a few billionaires are able to create the illusion of a “public outcry” over something– through their control over the MSM and “astroturf” groups. Over time the relentless propaganda actually influences public opinion to some extent, yet even wildly unpopular notions are still routinely flogged as “common sense” by the Villagers inside the Beltway.

        We must never confuse the result of billions of dollars in focus-group testing of a “message,” and manufacturing consent through relentless propaganda in the MSM, to sell something favored by at least some faction of the elites, as “responding to public opinion!”

  6. MartyH

    I would LOVE to believe that the write-ins from real ordinary people tipped the scales. I’m a bit more cynical than that.

    Comcast, TWC, and the phone companies were up against their biggest customers on this one. The fact that that the customers (Google, Amazon, IBM, Facebook, et al.) lobbied quietly doesn’t meant that there wasn’t a big ($$$$$) lobbying campaign in progress.

    A tip of the hat to all who wrote in and our heart-felt thanks. But so too to the Giants for whom this was a battle to protect their precious Earnings per Share. In a battle between Titans, the “public” was accidentally (IMHO) served by the best interests of the winners.

    1. Bart Fargo

      Agreed. We’ve heard so much about the millions the telecom industry spent lobbying against net neutrality, but Silicon Valley – particularly Google – also spent millions lobbying in favor of it (though they spent less, and over a shorter period of time, than the telecoms). It’s not that I think grassroots organizing hasn’t had an effect, particularly in making strong arguments for using Title II authority, but if there weren’t multibillion dollar corporations on the side of net neutrality, the FCC wouldn’t have decided the way it did. If anything the surprising decision suggests that Silicon Valley has become as strong a lobbying force as the telecom industry, and so it will be interesting to see how this plays out during the long battles in Congress and in court over the coming years. It helps that for the time being SV are on the same side as common sense and popular opinion in this fight…but that won’t always be the case on other issues.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, Wheeler really really really did not want to use Title II. The history on this is pretty clear. But you can’t ignore 4 million submissions, overwhelmingly in favor of net neutrality, during the comment period.

  7. JTMcPhee

    As with dilbit pipelines (like KXL) and other delivery options (“exploding trains” and other pipelines), so with “net neutrality:” a short pause while the corporate work-arounds become apparent, long after they become fully functional.

  8. Dirk77

    “This success shows that large-scale organizing can and does make a difference.” It also shows how much exhausting work is needed to get just one popular bill passed properly. This is how it is if El Generalissimo were running things, not in a democracy. After reading this blog and others for many years now, I am slowly concluding that all private donations to public officers is bribery. A necessary (but perhaps not sufficient) change to the Constitution is to allow only public supported elections. I would like to think there are simpler ways to turn things around but I don’t see it.

      1. bob

        What exactly was achieved? It seems much more like a PR stunt. They announce “net neutrailty” then let TW and comcast merge, then come out later with the real nuts and bolts of the “achievement” which is still being drafted, by the telecoms.

        The more details I read, the less impressed I am. Part of this “announcement” was that local muni ISP’s would be allowed. Yay! But, no that’s not what was announced. They announced that local broadband projects that were already in the works, facing regulatory problems, would be helped, and that in the future, new projects would be looked at on a case by case basis.

        This changes NOTHING. No law to back it up, and the only possible remedy is to seek an audience with the king in the future. Just get another 4 million people, working without pay, on your side.

        1. Dirk77

          But a little gain is still a gain. Someone has got to fight the good fight until…well, I don’t know. Until, say, no college professor can teach this economic philosophy and not be lynched by his students.

  9. MLS

    I’m perhaps a little less optimistic about this ruling; I think you sum it up well with this line, Yves (emphasis added):

    curb pipeline owners’ potential to abuse their oligopoly position.

    That is, where is the problem here that the FCC is solving? I am not aware of any systemic issue where ISPs are throttling the little guy. To wit, there are millions of tiny websites out there that focus on any number of issues, and by and large the ones with the best content get the page views. The internet has innovated pretty well with the low level of regulation thus far, so what are we trying to solve for here?

    I am a little concerned that this ruling does introduce additional taxes and fees on broadband service (I haven’t seen anyone argue against this) and down the road the very real possibility that the costs of heavy data streaming by someone like Netflix gets passed on to all broadband consumers rather than just the ones that are streaming the data. Public utility rulings have a history of entrenching monopolies and limiting competition, so I will be very interested to see where the FCC goes with this. My guess is this probably ends up in the courts.

    1. hunkerdown

      Specious. They went for big guys first because they have more margin to shake loose. I mean, c’mon, if you’re going to genuflect to onanistic “business” gratia “business”, you could at least not disingenuously propose that ISP-content conglomerates would waste the time of shaking down all those small operators and risking that they organize or speak out of turn.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The insider was directly involved in a significant way in the SOPA/PIPA fight and was a close personal friend of Aaron Swartz. Let us say he is also in a position to know now.

  10. dingusansich

    Net preference?

    Early in the 2008 presidential race, the Bay Area swooned over Barack Obama. In his first official trip here, the relatively unknown candidate was greeted by shouts of “Mr. President!” Technology executives feted him at their mansions. Local papers described the buzz as “deafening.” Obama would go on to raise more than $38 million in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

    Question: Where’s more money, Philadelphia (Comcast headquarters) or Silicon Valley?

    Noise from the mob, er, the public didn’t hurt. It might have been necessary. The cynic doubts it would have been sufficient. Until the public pays for elections, matches between policy and public preference must be seen as largely coincidental.

    1. Ulysses

      “Until the public pays for elections, matches between policy and public preference must be seen as largely coincidental.”

      Very well said!!

  11. Obereit

    Almost just as significant as making the internet a public utility is the decision to ban state governments from blocking municipalities efforts to create public independent broadband networks. This is huge, since success building out a grass roots public infrastructure for something we all want improved – quick and cheap internet as enjoyed by most other 1st world countries – will set the stage for doing the same with banks a la South Dakota.

    Reports are that in Chattanooga, Tennessee “The city is one of the only places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average. Despite Big Cable’s attempt to block the Gig’s expansion plans, money keeps flowing into Chattanooga.”

    And if the same would happen with local public banks….

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