Thursday, November 23, 2017

Verizon and the Death of the Internet


In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the Internet into "packages" — so much for email service, so much for social media, and so on. You don't buy the service, you don't get access (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

There are two stories here, one about net neutrality — which Trump's FCC is about to terminate — and one about a corruption of the process by which the FCC arrives that decision.

About net neutrality itself, consider an analogy. Should companies that control the telephone wires control (a) who gets to use them, and (b) what is allowed to be talked about? In the U.S. a long time ago, the answer was no. Telephone wires were declared "common carriers" in the same way that roads are common carriers — a resource that should be open and available to all.

The same with the transmission lines and pathways that carry the Internet, or so the thinking goes. For most of its life, the Internet was treated like a utility, and Internet "wiring" was treated like a common carrier. That made sense and happened almost automatically, since early Internet traffic was carried by phone wires (via modems and DSL), to which established common carrier rules already applied.

In short, in the early days, the Internet was treated the same way the phone system was treated — like a public utility whose transmission lines were mandated to remain open to anyone who wants to use them.

The Internet, Big Money and Political Speech

Then three things happened. First, "ecommerce" grew, becoming a sizeable percentage of both Internet traffic and company profit. The Internet wasn't just about communication, it was about Money, not just for large existing companies. Dedicated ecommerce giants were created — Amazon, for example, and Netflix. The people who love money more than anything now had a stake in how the Internet was treated under the law. Meaning, they had a stake in making sure their Internet traffic was special, privileged.

Second, Internet traffic spread from phone lines to wired coax and fiber optic cable networks (Comcast, Time Warner) and wireless channels like satellite transmission (DirecTV). Were cable and satellite systems considered "common carriers" under the law? No, and it made no original sense to consider them so, since traffic on those channels was typically one-way, from the company to the customer, and never in the other direction. Internet traffic, of course, changed all that, turning cable lines and satellite transmissions into virtual common carriers, even though they weren't considered as such under FCC regulations.

Finally, the Internet became an organizing tool for opponents, not just of Big Money, but of what I would broadly call "rule by the rich" — which includes, among other things, the establishments of both political parties. It's the Internet that allows dissidents all around the world to organize resistance to powerful elites, from Cairo to Beijing to Washington D.C. The world of power hates the Internet, and works in every way it can to subvert it.

All three of these changes made the Internet vulnerable to perversion no matter which party was in power, and open Internet, or net neutrality, advocates have been fighting ever since to keep the Internet as we now understand it open and free, which was always its developers' original intention.

The FCC and the Open Internet

President Obama's FCC looked for a while like it would write rules that benefited the wealthy, since his choice for FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, had ties strong to the industry. Surprisingly, though, the Wheeler-led FCC preserved net neutrality — the open Internet as we know it today.

Trump's FCC chair is also an industry insider, Ajit Pai, and this time the threat to net neutrality is almost certain to be realized.
The Federal Communications Commission took aim at a signature Obama-era regulation Tuesday, unveiling a plan that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use.

Under the agency’s proposal, providers of high-speed Internet services, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, would be able to block websites they do not like and charge Web companies for speedier delivery of their content.

The FCC’s effort would roll back its net neutrality regulation which was passed by the agency’s Democrats in 2015 and attempted to make sure all Web content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.
According to Free Press, the new FCC order would:
  • End Title II protections and erase the three Net Neutrality rules passed at the FCC in 2015 and upheld in court last year.
  • Legalize internet blocking and discrimination by Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, no questions asked.
  • Permit throttling back the speeds of different kinds of websites and apps.
  • Encourage paid prioritization — sticking most sites and apps in the slow lane and reserving the fast lane for the few wealthy companies that can afford special treatment.
Ajit Pai is a former general council at Verizon, and most recently a partner in a lobbying firm specializing in "communications practice." He also has strong anti-government views. If you consider him an industry advocate (or shill), you wouldn't be wrong.

From a Trump administration perspective, Ajit Pai is to the FCC what Scott Pruitt is to the EPA — a destroyer. His "new rules" are set to be decided in December.

Ajit Pai's FCC Is Stone-Walling NY AG Schneiderman

The second story here involves the corruption of the process by which the FCC will make its decision — in particular, the "public comment" process.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in an open letter to Pai posted at Medium, writes (my emphasis):
In April 2017, the FCC announced that it would issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repeal of its existing net neutrality rules. Federal law requires the FCC and all federal agencies to take public comments on proposed rules into account — so it is important that the public comment process actually enable the voices of the millions of individuals and businesses who will be affected to be heard. That’s important no matter one’s position on net neutrality, environmental rules, and so many other areas in which federal agencies regulate.

In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules. In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue. Worse, while some of these fake comments used made up names and addresses, many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale.

My office analyzed the fake comments and found that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities misused in this way. (Indeed, analysis showed that, in all, hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized in the same way, including tens of thousands per state in California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and possibly others.) Impersonation and other misuse of a person’s identity violates New York law, so my office launched an investigation.

Successfully investigating this sort of illegal conduct requires the participation of the agency whose system was attacked. So in June 2017, we contacted the FCC to request certain records related to its public comment system that were necessary to investigate which bad actor or actors were behind the misconduct. We made our request for logs and other records at least 9 times over 5 months: in June, July, August, September, October (three times), and November.

We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work.

Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None.
Ajit Pai and Trump's FCC are stone-walling the New York Attorney General, who is investigating an apparent scheme to grossly pervert the FCC public comment process so that it produces a result Agit Pai strongly favors. Whoever is behind the scheme, Ajit Pai is protecting them.

Are big-money "friends of Ajit Pai," or big-money "friends of Verizon," engaged in such a scheme? Agit Pai is acting like they are.

For all we know, he or a subordinate could be behind the scheme, or the author of it. 

The Death of the Internet — Mourned or Avenged?

I'll make one tenuous prediction. If Pai and Verizon's plan goes through, it's possible the tired and harried masses will accommodate themselves to it. After all, betting on the willingness of most Americans to surrender their liberties was an easy call, ever since 9/11 "changed everything."

But look at the graphic at the top. Note that social media content is blocked in Portugal unless you pay extra. Same with video, music, messaging and email. Will people really stand for that?

In addition, without net neutrality, some content — for example, political discussion groups and websites — may never be accessible, no matter what you may want to pay, turning the U.S. into China in that regard. Will people really stand for that?

So this prediction: I could be wrong, but it may just be that this shocks Americans so much that they won't stand for it. And in this case, "won't stand for it" happens to have a convenient and effective target for expression — and punishment.


Ajit Pai's former employer, and one of the key companies pushing for this change.

Are you a Verizon customer? A paying customer? Time to change that perhaps.

Is there a Verizon office near you? Care to make a little visit? I hear they welcome the public with open arms.

Maybe you could bring your friends, or organize a group excursion via social media ... while you still can.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't use the so-called premium features of the Internet now. Netflix has nothing that interests me, YouTube has chased me away with their bogus "ads whenever we feel like it" strategy, and I don't participate in "social" media. The only thing I tend to find useful about the Internet anymore is email and tax forms - and I can get printed tax forms rather than submit to the extortionate prices ISPs are drooling to charge.

And, should Pai begin to allow ISPs to meter one's usage, I can cut down the email to absolute necessities and download them at any fast food vendor near a college. I refuse to pay for the bandwidth for corporations to pump ads at me like they did with television (which I rarely watch and can live without). I would then be watching for news that the corporations expecting a profit killing to have Pai's dorsal port on a hook for misleading them about the windfall they were going to receive from economically abusing a captive public ensnared in the Web.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save yourself the energy, GP.

If nobody left wells-fargo after they committed millions of cases of fraud, I don't see many VZ customers leaving, even though they can get the same or greater service for (in many cases a LOT) less with any of several other carriers and resellers.

Their network might be marginally the best. But what does that matter if they throttle your service and predetermine what you can read, listen to and say? Plus if you can get the same levels of service for half... I mean, why is this company still in business at all?

Cuz americans are lazy morons, that's why.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Jack Hannold said...

The answer is public broadband. Look up the Institute for Local Self Reliance (

Although the ISLR’s 2012 report, “Broadband at the Speed of Light,” is now five years old, it’s still a good primer on the advantages of public systems.. It describes the origins and operations of pioneering public broadband systems in Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

So look up “Broadband at the Speed of Light,” too. (Note that I didn’t say “google” it. I recommend or – search engines that respect your privacy!)

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Let's hope the voters comes up huge for Team Blue to bring back Net Neutrality in 2018 & beyond.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Team blue doesn't give a fuck about net neutrality. They get money from the same corporations and billionaires (except the kochs and adelson who also don't give a fuck) that pay the Rs. Maybe a few at the very bottom... but nobody at the top. And if anyone at the top hasn't been paid by VZ, they soon will be if the Ds look like winners in '18.

Wake the fuck up.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Stenotrophomonas said...

It may actually be better in Portugal:

What Pai will enable, and Big Internet wants, is AOL's long buried vision of the Internet being walled off into easily controllable limited access to the places where
buying and selling is maximized, the eyeballs are pacified with vacuous entertainment, and unwelcome thought is banished.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FCC Frontier (Verizon); AND teh Rest 0f DEM !

At 12:13 AM, Anonymous Kyle Hopkins said... it the old-fashioned way and go to the library. Do the research yourself. Thanks for the public broadband info - Trump will likely kill that too. God, I wish we had a President that didn't hate The United States of America.


Post a Comment

<< Home