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Thursday, January 6,2011

FCC breaks Obama's promise on net neutrality

By Jason Rosenbaum

On Dec. 21, the FCC passed new rules — written by corporations — that will end net neutrality. For the first time in history, the U.S. government approved corporate censorship of the Internet, putting the future of online free speech at risk. Unbelievably, the person leading the charge was Obama appointee Julius Genachowski (known in some circles as Judas GenaComcast for his historic sellout and notorious industry-friendly attitude).

These rules also violate President Obama’s campaign promise to protect net neutrality and appoint an FCC commissioner who would do the same, but some media are reporting the corporate spin that this is a “net neutrality compromise.” And the White House is trying to convince us this isn’t a sellout as well with their wholly supportive statements.

This is not a compromise, and it doesn’t fulfill Obama’s campaign promise — not even close. There’s no such thing as half a First Amendment and no such thing as prohibiting “some” corporate censorship. In reality, these rules are what Sen. Al Franken said they are.

“The FCC’s action … is simply inadequate to protect consumers or preserve the free and open Internet,” Franken said. “I am particularly disappointed to learn that the order will not specifically ban paid prioritization, allowing big companies to pay for a fast lane on the Internet and abandoning the foundation of net neutrality. The rule also contains almost no protections for mobile broadband service, remaining silent on the blocking of content, applications and devices. Wireless technology is the future of the Internet, and for many rural Minnesotans, it’s often the only choice for broadband.”

Dec. 21 marked another historic sellout to big corporations by the Obama administration, not some kind of “win.” The record must be set straight.

Here’s why the new rules are nothing but a sop to big business.

Corporate censorship is allowed on your phone: The rules passed on Dec. 21 by Obama FCC Chairman Genachowski absurdly create different corporate censorship rules for wired and wireless Internet, allowing big corporations like Comcast to block websites they don’t like on your phone — a clear failure to protect net neutrality and put you, the consumer, in control of what you can and can’t do online.

Online tollbooths are allowed, destroying innovation: The rules would allow big Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast to charge for access to the “fast lane.” Big companies that could afford to pay these fees like Google or Amazon would get their websites delivered to consumers quickly, while independent newspapers, bloggers, innovators and small businesses would see their sites languish in the slow lane, destroying a level playing field for competition online and clearly violating net neutrality.

The rules allow corporations to create “public” and “private” Internets, destroying the one Internet as we know it: For the first time, these rules would embrace a “public Internet” for regular people vs. a “private Internet” with all the new innovations for corporations who pay more — ending the Internet as we know it and creating tiers of free speech and innovation, accessible only if you have pockets deep enough to pay off the corporations.

The FCC could have reclassified the Internet as a communications service (reversing a Bush-era mistake); regulated greedy corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T with enforceable rules; and protected free speech online. But it didn’t. Instead, it allowed these corporations to write their own rules.

It’s imperative that the FCC’s action isn’t seen as a “win” for net neutrality — the Internet is still unprotected from corporate abuse, and we still have to fight until we truly win.


Jason Rosenbaum is a senior online campaign director at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org).

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Wow whoever wrote this really does not understand the technology issues and has not interpreted the FCC rules properly. I suggest readers go elsewhere to get correct information.




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Comcast doesn't have a wireless cellular service so how can they block websites on my cell phone?



While Mr. Rosenbaum makes a few valid points about what these new rules do not do, he obviously has the mistaken impression that it is possible for the government to improve liberty and commerce on the internet in any way.  Hello!  What you have now is freedom. When you add government regulation you get less freedom and higher cost. 

If your cell phone company censors your content, get a new cell phone company.  If you are stuck in a contract that you signed, wait till it expires and then you are free. 

Silly progressive tool, of course the government won't really ban paid prioritization that allows big corporations AND big government to get the fast lane!  Just google "obamacare" and see who paid for the top listing.  (BTW ".gov" means the government)

If you think inviting the government across the threshold into regulating the internet means more freedom and lower costs it's time to log off of Second Life and get acquainted with the real world!


Robert, you must be the smartest person you know. Your proposal that government only lessens freedom is an odd conclusion. I suppose we'd really be free if we just didn't have any government or Constitution? It's just rules and regulations getting in the way of our freedom. It seems your idea of freedom is something along the lines of Somalia, Yemen or the tribal regions of Pakistan. These areas have a common theme of little government control and much control for whomever can grab it by whatever means. I think you miss the point of government to protect individual freedom rather than providing free reign to whomever is most powerful or wealthy.


Don: You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of government, and an inability to comprehend what you read. Robert did not make an anarchistic statement, he said that adding government REGULATION restricts freedom and increases costs. Government itself is excellent at serving its true purpose - protecting its citizens from their neighbors. The government should not, however, make any attempt at protecting citizens from themselves by restricting individual liberties. Thomas Jefferson wisely said "A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." In other words, the government has no place regulating businesses. Neither Jefferson nor Robert said government is bad, we should not have a military, nobody should enforce our borders, or the wealthy should be able to impose their will on those of lesser means. You read far too much into what Robert was saying without taking into account his actual words.



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