Net Neutrality, the FCC, and the Evil Pai Man

Speak out to preserve Net Neutrality!

There is, to say the least, a lot going on.  In Washington, DC, Trump and the Republican leadership of the House and Senate are essentially trying to undo all the progress made by public interest advocates in past decades.  If something is wrong, evil, and dirty they are for it.  Essentially every federal agency has been put under control of people opposed to the mission of that agency.  The last time we saw this happening so blatantly was under Ronald Reagan.  Here we go with one really important example:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was a “New Deal” agency established by the Communications Act of 1934.  The present five members are listed by Wikipedia.

For decades the FCC played a vital role in enforcing a “fairness doctrine” (both sides of a story should be reported) ownership regulation to prevent media monopoly, and so on.  But the agency has been in collapse for many years, with horrible consequences.

The Fairness Doctrine was eliminated in 1987.

Anti-monopoly ownership restrictions were loosened by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  (Bill Clinton and Al Gore were largely responsible).

At the same time, penalties for “obscenity” and “indecency” have been tightened, largely at the behest of right-wing legislators.  Thus, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 said that a radio or TV station could be fined $325,000 if someone said “fuck” or “shit” on the air, or exposed a  female breast.

Of course, the technology of mass communications is always changing.  When the FCC was established, AM radio broadcasting was about it.  The FCC has had to wrestle with the coming of television broadcasting, cable television, the Internet, and, of course, changes in radio technology, spectrum and bandwidth.

The Evil Right in US politics is very clever and systematic–it targets the intellectual chokepoints of society.  Press, broadcasting, schools, colleges and universities, book publishing, Internet … all are places where learning, awareness, intellectual growth, can be choked off.  Every time a local newspaper or radio station passes into the ownership of some nasty billionaire, every time a reporter becomes a flack for a government agency because she needs a living wage … we lose a little “bandwidth.”

Here’s a little example of what gutting FCC rules means in practice:

WILM radio in Wilmington was reportedly the last independently owned news radio station in the US before it was sold to Clear Channel.  Here is what happened:

In 2004, owner Sally V. Hawkins sold WILM to Clear Channel Communications for $4 Million. On July 28, 2006, WILM-AM dropped the national newscasts from CBS Radio and switched to Fox News Radio. Clear Channel has moved WILM into a new broadcast facility shared with its other Delaware stations. The new facility allows automated operation and Clear Channel reduced WILM’s local air staff and local programming and added syndicated talk programming including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. Both Limbaugh and Hannity had been carried by WDEL during a period when it dominated local ratings in the talk format, although these programs have not received comparable ratings on WILM.
In 2010, Clear Channel dropped WILM’s morning news block programming and replaced it with a local talk show hosted by Bruce Elliott, who had previously done a weekend talk show at WBAL in Baltimore. In 2011, about six months after Elliott’s arrival, Clear Channel dropped WILM’s late morning local talk show hosted by John Watson and replaced it with a syndicated program hosted by Glenn Beck (which Clear Channel distributes). Almost all programs on WILM are simulcast on Clear Channel’s WDOV in Dover. WILM, which once boasted about its large local news staff, now carries local news from WDOV.

OK, so the immediate issue is “Net Neutrality.”  This may sound a bit abstract and boring, but pay attention anyway.

Trump made Agit Pai Chair of the FCC. But we can’t blame Trump entirely.  Pai was ” … appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in May 2012, at the recommendation of Mitch McConnell. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on May 7, 2012, ….”  Trump reappointed him and then designated him as Chair.  Pai appears to be a relentless opponent of the public interest and proud of it.

There is a LOT of money at stake, and evil corporations like Verizon and Comcast will never stop working to kill neutrality.

Here is an excellent, explanatory letter published in the Delaware State News.  See the action steps at the bottom and use them!

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why you should care about net neutrality
Dec 2nd, 2017 · by Letters to the Editor · Comments: 2
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting to end net neutrality in a couple of weeks. If you don’t know or understand what net neutrality is, it means that broadband providers/internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, or wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T can’t block or slow down your access to lawful online content, nor can they create “fast lanes” for content providers who are willing to pay extra.
In short, net neutrality means that everyone has open and equal access to internet content and speeds. Ending net neutrality would throw that all out and allow ISPs free reign to pretty much do whatever they wanted.
Repealing net neutrality would allow ISPs to charge you extra to get access to the websites that you like the most. They could also block or filter the content that you see, or slow your speed down to a trickle ­ unless of course you were willing to pay for it. They could also favor certain websites or web browsers over others in exchange for promotion fees and special deals.
In countries without net neutrality rules, like Portugal for example, consumers are charged extra for service packages on top of their monthly internet access fee. Want to have access to your email? Its an additional monthly fee. Use Facebook or Instagram? That is an extra fee for a “social media” plan. Use streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu?
Well you have to pay extra for access to those too. If you game online using Steam or Playstation? Yep, there is an extra fee for those as well. Ending net neutrality in the U.S. will allow ISP providers to do exactly the same thing here. In addition to your monthly subscription fee to your streaming services, you would have to pay extra to your internet provider (on top of your monthly internet access fee) to use them.
ISPs could also “throttle” or slow down streaming speeds for certain sites as well. For example, Comcast could slow down your speed while accessing your Amazon Prime video as a means to try to get you to subscribe their viewing services. Use Skype to talk with loved ones overseas? Verizon could block or throttle your access in an attempt to get you to use your cell phone and purchase an overseas calling plan.
Without net neutrality, ISPs could also block sites that they disagree with. Say that media mogul Rupert Murdoch (who owns Fox News, among other media outlets) buys Comcast.
Murdoch could then instruct them to block access to all news sites except for those that he owns. Without net neutrality, he could do that. Maybe he makes a special deal with Google and decides that you can only use Google as your web browser. Without net neutrality, he could do that.
Do you download or stream music from sites like Spotify or Bandcamp? Well if your ISP decided to make a special deal with Apple Music/iTunes, they could block or severely hamper your access to other sites in an attempt to get you to use iTunes.
Like using Firefox to browse the web? Too bad, if your ISP makes a deal with the makers of Bing instead. Been using the same Yahoo email account for years? Well if your ISP doesn’t want you to have access to Yahoo for some reason, you won’t be checking it at home on your personal devices.
Ending net neutrality would also allow wireless carriers to do the same type of things, in addition to blocking third-party apps (like games, social apps, or even weather apps) if they wanted to. Watch Netflix or other streaming services on your phone? Same scenario as if you watch on your laptop, tablet or smart tv.
Ending net neutrality will almost certainly throttle access to information and free commerce, giving internet service providers the ability to limit what you can see, do and buy online ­ unless of course, you want to “pay to play” ­ and they will undoubtedly make us pay. It is no wonder that Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and other large online streaming services and retailers have denounced the rollback.
During the past month or so, I have received and read statements from Comcast and their support for net neutrality ­ promising that they would “not block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content,” and that their “policies will be clear and transparent to consumers.”
All well and good, but ask them if they are considering charging extra for service bundles or tiers as I mentioned above? Quiet as the proverbial church mice. Comcast intentionally reducing speeds for Netflix users in 2014 is why the net neutrality policy exists. Getting rid of net neutrality will allow them to go back to these same types of practices and more.
As part of the roll back of net neutrality, the FCC has also announced that it will not allow states to pass their own net neutrality legislation– ­ a preemptive strike to keep states from keeping the current net neutrality policies and protect consumers. The FCC is essentially tying the hands of state governments from protecting consumers.
Concerned yet? You should be. Repealing net neutrality will give internet and wireless providers the freedom to control what you see and how you see it and limit your access to information and services that you use everyday.
Call Sens. Coons and Carper, Rep. Blunt-Rochester and/or email or tweet them. Message their Facebook pages or write a letter. You can call the FCC (toll free) in Washington at 1-800-CALLFCC (1-800-225-5322) and leave a comment or tweet the FCC chairman @ajitpaiFCC or email him at Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov.
Please also email these FCC members who plan to vote in favor of the rollback: Mike.OReilly@fcc.gov and Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov. You can also use battleforthenet.com to make your voice heard. Use the hashtag #NetNeutrality when posting to social media.
If enough pressure is applied, then maybe we can prevent this horrible mistake from happening and keep the internet, and our access to it, open and equal for all.  [Emphasis added by Muller]
Michele Lapinski
Dover

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