DIGITAL APARTHEID: HOW THE END OF NET NEUTRALITY CREATES INTERNET CLASSISM

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THE NEUTERING OF NET NEUTRALITY

The internet has been under increasingly hostile attacks in recent years, and this week may have seen the death blow for the internet as we know it. But before we discuss how FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a handful of corporations have managed to finally kill the internet by Neutering Net Neutrality, I find myself posing the question: What exactly IS the internet and why is it so important? What does it mean for us? Email? Facebook? Youtube? Search Engines? Is it a tool to enable connectivity among all human life on planet Earth? Or is it just the most massive collection of pornography ever known? Its been nearly two decades since Netscape went public in 1995 triggering the revolutionary ability to browse websites, as well as the multi-billion dollar investment by companies like Global Crossing in the creation of the undersea and underground fiber-optic telecommunications cable networks that drove down the cost of data transmission to zero. An individual no longer needs to travel to a distant land to be considered a “professional” – they merely need to have the ability to plug into this network. Browser wars led to Y2K led to the dot-com crash, which has led to hacktivism, social networking, the blogosphere and beyond. The internet has enabled open-sourcing, informing, collaboration and innovation never before known. It is the digital world we now take for granted, but how could have possibly done things we take for granted today, before the existence of the internet?

Internet has revolutionized communications. Each computer effectively functions as a neuron in the massive brain of the world wide web, and just as with a brain or hive, it is not the neurons themselves, but the connections between individual neurons that create intelligence. In allowing connectivity between computers, the internet has manufactured a measurable worldwide intelligence, rapidly approaching what many anticipate to be the singularity event, when the network becomes self-aware. It is plausible that this has already happened. But for us humans, the internet represents the only remaining effective tool with which to oppose the forces of despotism in our rapidly globalizing landscape. Unlike Corporate controlled media where the wealthy have dominated our access to information, our ability to organize, and our means of earning a living, the internet has been a force for democracy under a level playing field created by Net Neutrality.

Near the beginning of the internet’s inception, the FCC put into place a regulation to guarantee an open and free internet and part of that clause is called Net Neutrality, which regulated Internet Service Providers from differentiating between one site and another. The folks at Verizon decided this business model was not profitable for them, and they are now moving to charge premium fees to websites. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon have tried to overturn Net Neutrality for years, because it is simply not profitable for them to allow all internet traffic to be treated equally. As the rules have stood for decades, ISPs like Comcast are not allowed to decide if data from facebook is not more important than a movie from Netflix.

 


 

THE REVOLVING DOOR OF CORPORATE POLITICS

Documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal last week reveal that the FCC (who are supposed to be a regulator) are actually protecting telecom industries by proposing “reforms to Net Neutrality.” Not only has FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler hired Comcast Attorneys Daniel Alvarez and Matthew Del Nero, Wheeler is himself a former cable industry lobbyist sponsored by Comcast, Verizon and the US Telecommunications Association. What better person to regulate corporate collusion of an open and free internet.

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MONETIZING SCARCITY

In a recent Washington D.C. Court of Appeals case – Verizon VS The Federal Communications Commission – rulings effectively put an end to Net Neutrality, abolishing FCC regulations over telecommunications giants like Verizon and Comcast, Cox, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable.

Under this new ruling, ISPs can selectively censor the internet by throttling that site into nonexistence that uses speech they don’t like, or moves data in a way they find inconvenient for them, hindering cash-strapped internet start-ups from getting off of the ground, stifling innovation, killing off new competitors challenging massive corporations, and widening gap between the rich’s internet and the poor’s internet. Income inequality now threatens the internet – the one last bastion of free speech. Nonprofit organizations (like KBGA Missoula) will not be able to afford to pay for the “fast lane” of the internet.

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These new rules allow ISPs to discriminate between data on the final mile before the data connects to your home. The new tolls would allow ISPs to actually tax internet companies for the “privilege” of connecting with customers who are already paying for network access. Small business owners cannot compete with massive corporations who can pay more for faster access. Start-ups won’t be able to compete with the pay-to-play fast-lane.  An end to Net Neutrality would restructure the rules that govern online traffic by granting ISPs the ability to give some websites preferential treatment (faster traffic) in exchange for money, and who has all of the money? The name of the game is “Pay To Play,” and if you don’t have money we’ll shut you up. ISPs will be able to manipulate broadband speeds based on which organizations are willing to pony up the most dough. Our voices will become inaudible in the sea of money that has bought politicians and advertisement space for generations, literally drowning out our voices on the only frontier we have left. It was really only a matter of time, because the internet poses a very significant threat to the corporate agenda. They’re selling financial priority instead of providing access. So for those of us who have enjoyed an open and free internet and come to take these services for granted, it is a sad reminder that we don’t truly know what we have until it is gone, as the old saying goes.

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CORPORATIONS ARE LIKE THE MAFIA – THEY DO WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT

Tom Wheeler can’t even defend this recent “proposal.” In a recent blog post, does not dispel the “interpretation” of proposed rules coming down from on high:

“Some recent commentary has had a misinformed interpretation of the Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) currently before the Commission. There are two things that are important to understand.  First, this is not a final decision by the Commission but rather a formal request for input on a proposal as well as a set of related questions.  Second, as the Notice makes clear, all options for protecting and promoting an Open Internet are on the table.

“In its Verizon v. FCC decision the D.C. Circuit laid out a blueprint for how the FCC could use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to create Open Internet rules that would stick. I have repeatedly stated that I viewed the court’s ruling as an invitation that I intended to accept.  We ask for comment on this approach in the NPRM.”

The courts have explicitly ruled they have the authority to change this classification, which is why they moved internet from Common Carrier classification to Information Provider, akin to any other public utility.

Wheeler goes on to say:

“I do not believe we should leave the market unprotected for multiple more years while lawyers for the biggest corporate players tie the FCC’s protections up in court.  Notwithstanding this, all regulatory options remain on the table. If the proposal before us now turns out to be insufficient or if we observe anyone taking advantage of the rule, I won’t hesitate to use Title II. However, unlike with Title II, we can use the court’s roadmap to implement Open Internet regulation now rather than endure additional years of litigation and delay.”

Enacting Title II of Telecommunications Act of 1996 would reclassify ISPs as utilities like phone companies and restrict them to more stringent FCC regulation. Despite his words, “hesitate” is exactly what Wheeler has done from the start. The FCC admits that actions are not commercially reasonable if they harm the consumer, like, for example, degrading other service to create a fast lane, if they harm competition, if they provide priority access to affiliate programs, or if they curb free speech or civic engagement. But as BGR’s Brad Reed points out:

“Just like with the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, Wheeler’s net neutrality rules propose giving a powerful corporate interest something it wants in exchange for agreeing to live under the vague threat of future regulations that depend entirely on the whims of the regulators who may or may not feel like enforcing them.”

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 NET NEUTRALITY IS NOT A MEDDLESOME GOVERNMENT REGULATION – ITS COMMON SENSE

 As billions of people from different cultures are being brought into a brave, new globalized economic landscape, the monopoly of the Anglo-American world Empire is being challenged on a daily basis by this online network of networks. But the internet doesn’t only challenge the Empire from the outside. While disinformation propaganda has filled our minds with lies for decades, the alternative media challenge the dogmatic information monopoly of corporate owned organizations like CNN, FOX and MSNBC. The internet has made it impossible for the established regime to sell propaganda to us; if the mainstream media attempts to convince us that the people of Iran are inherently evil to sell another illegal war to the American people, we can simply access the web to engage in conversations with Iranian citizens, and in doing so we ultimately arrive at the conclusion that those people in Iran are really no different from us, and desire the same things that we do. Thus the internet shows us not only that we are all connected, but that we are all one consciousness.

According to complexity theory, when simple things interact, they create unpredictability. It is expressly this unpredictability which threatens the hegemony of the Corporate state.The Corporatocracy has ten-thousand reasons to loathe a free and open internet, which is why they’re attacking it from all sides. While Microsoft and Macintosh’s computer systems have been intentionally designed with built-in back doors to NSA and GCHQ servers, open-source software like Linux challenges the dogmatic surveillance monopoly of corporate owned intelligence organizations like Booze-Allen-Hamilton. While Wal-Mart and Target drive out local businesses and bring mom-&-pop shops to their knees, eBay stores and the 3D printing revolution of thingiverse.com and the like challenge the dogmatic production monopoly of corporate owned retail outlets. While our banking systems choke out local economies and foreclose struggling families from their homes with the stranglehold that is compounded interest, Bit-Coin and other Crypto-Currencies challenge the dogmatic monopoly of the Central Banking System’s fiat currencies. The radio program you’re listening to at this very moment is yet another shining example of why the internet is so important. Without the web, this show does not exist, plain and simple. So its not hard to understand why the Corporate elite are doing everything they can to destroy internet sovereignty.

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The Corporate elite view internet as something akin to Pandora opening her box. In the early days of internet regulation bills, Senator Jay Rockefeller actually said to a crowded auditorium on the subject of cybersecurity, “Would it have been better if we had never invented the internet?” Our Corporate masters are desperate to stuff the genie back into the bottle, and shove the cat back into the bag. But a mind expanded by new experience can never return to its previous dimensions, and now that the standard has been set, a reversal of the information trend will not be tolerated by the online community. Every day the internet exists, it becomes stronger, striking fear into the black heart of the oligarchs.

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As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and we may be witnessing the death of the internet as you read these words. The rich are attempting to control the internet by buying it, creating a new form of classism, what might be termed Digital Apartheid.  If they succeed, the rest of us too poor to afford the perks of the free internet we’ve all come to take for granted, will become second-class digital citizens, unable to access information we were able to before. They don’t have to shut down websites to kill the internet. All they have to do is put an end to Net Neutrality, which is exactly what FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced was going to happen this week.  The websites we access on a daily basis constitute the accessible internet, and Internet Service Providers or ISPs must provide equal access to everything that is online to their clients. Net Neutrality means that your Internet provider cannot limit what you view online in any way. If it is online, you can access it.

But let’s put this into perspective. What would net neutrality look like if it were applicable to telephones? It would mean that I can call a business as easily as I could call an individual. An end to telephone neutrality would mean that I could easily get through to big businesses, but would have to wait long periods of time in order to contact acquaintances, ultimately culminating in negative effects, like being put on hold for a 911 call.  The bottom line here is that you cannot value communication technology on a sliding scale, although this is expressly what the end of Net Neutrality will create for us.

Why

They’ve written a number of dress-rehearsal internet control bills, all of which were shut down by popular activism. ACTA failed. SOPA failed. PIPA failed. CISPA failed. And now with the TPP floundering in the water, it is clear that outward control of the internet is not going to work. The NSA is apprehensive to activate Quantum Copper, which is essentially the Great Firewall of China for the entire global internet, for fear of the backlash. If they suddenly shut off the internet, what would happen? They’ve discovered that they can’t control the internet openly, so now they’ve decided that it might be a good idea to exclusify information by forcing people to pay for it. Since people are barely able to make ends meet in the first place, the internet has become their only saving grace to make the rent and pay for groceries. So the idea of making people pay more for basic access on a sliding scale will break the back of our world wide web even more effectively than outwardly controlling it.

When it comes to these rulings and legislative efforts, the last people who are involved are we the people. The lobbyists and congressmen who have no conception of what the internet actually is, are writing this legislation not only for the sake of increasing their profits, but to control the even distribution of information that challenges their establishment narratives.

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INTERNET CLASSISM

They’re turning this into a tiered system like cable television. These new data limits would likely be sold to us based on packages. For example, if you would like the social media package (which includes facebook and google+), you’ll have to pay an additional $9.99 in addition to the connection fees associated with your ISP.  If you’ would like the streaming video package (which includes youtube hulu, and vimeo), that will cost you another additional $19.99 since steaming services require lots of bandwidth. And if you want to see smaller sites (like outerlimitsradioshow.wordpress.com) which aren’t included in these packages, you’ll just have to eat away that data. And if you’re dissatisfied with the fact that your service is slow, pay more to get faster service. Can’t afford it? Tough luck. Hope you enjoyed an open and free internet while it lasted. For the average internet user, this means that our favorite sites would take forever to load (especially if the corporations deem them a threat to the established propaganda narrative) resulting in even higher fees, justified by higher traffic and high bandwidths.

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IS IT WORTH THE FIGHT?

How much longer are we going to waste our energy stopping programs that should not exist? Putting a stop to insane bills and ludicrous laws? How much longer will we read about the abuses of corporations in our headlines and think to ourselves – “this has to be stopped?” Why do we tolerate this? Occupy this. March for that. Instead of building a future on the altar of our most glorious dreams, we spend our time protesting and demonstrating, signing petition after petition, wasting all of our time and energy to stop programs and initiatives that should never have been conceived of in the first place. We’re on a hamster wheel, running harder and harder and expecting different results; expecting to go somewhere. We tell ourselves that once we stop SOPA that the government will get the message and leave the internet alone. We tell ourselves that once we put an end to CISPA that the government will get the message and leave the internet alone. The truth is that they will do what they want, and they’ll figure out ever more conniving and clever ways to implement their agenda. How much longer can we keep this up? I’ll give it to these lobbyists, they are very clever, but they’re not very wise. How do they think this is going to end?

The FCC would do well to appeal and win this case, but they won’t because they’ve been infiltrated by industry lobbyists. We might want to establish Net Neutrality on the books for good, somehow, and set it in stone forever. Although if we do that, they’ll just find another clever way to get around the rules and control the internet – they’ll stop at nothing until we put a stop to them, and the internet has proven to be the only means of doing that by exposing their lies on a daily basis, slowly but methodically waking up the masses one post at a time. In the meantime, here are a couple of websites you can access to make your voice heard on this issue:

http://www.savetheinternet.com

http://www.freepress.net

http://www.majority.fm

http://www.wolf-pack.com

And don’t forget to shoot them an Email to voice your opinion on this subject at this address: openinternet@fcc.gov

On Wednesday, May 15 the FCC will vote on the proposed end to Net Neutrality. If they are successful, the internet that we’ve all come to love and take for granted will be transformed into a discriminatory class-based Internet. We are many, and they are few. The power to stop them is in the mirror. If we act collectively as one, we can continue to ensure a free, open and equal Internet for the 21st Century. The fight is not over, but this is a battle we best not back down from. The time to unite is now.

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[1] The FCC is about to axe-murder net neutrality. Don’t get mad – get even
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/24/fcc-net-neutrality-tom-wheeler-stop-rules

[2] Obama Administration Launches Plan to Make an “Internet ID” a Reality
http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2014/05/02/obama-administration-launches-plan-to-make-an-internet-id-a-reality/

[3] The FCC Chairman’s Many Excuses: Tom Wheeler tries, and fails, to justify his execution of Net Neutrality
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/05/fcc_chairman_tom_wheeler_s_lame_excuses_for_his_net_neutrality_proposal.html

[4] FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defends proposed Net Neutrality reform
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-fcc-net-neutrality-wheeler-20140430,0,7001552.story#axzz30gasnE7T

[5] FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Pledges Open Internet In Face of Criticism
http://time.com/82409/wheeler-net-neutrality/

[6] If We Act Now, We Can Stop The FCC’s Horrific Proposal To End Net Neutrality
http://www.alternet.org/activism/if-we-act-now-we-can-stop-fccs-horrific-proposal-end-net-neutrality?paging=off&current_page=1

[7] Former Comcast And Verizon Attorneys Now Manage The FCC And Are About To Kill The Internet
http://www.vice.com/read/former-comcast-and-verizon-attorneys-now-manage-the-fcc-and-are-about-to-kill-the-internet

Net-Neutrality

Gabrielle Lafayette is a journalist, writer, and executive producer for the Outer Limits Radio Show.
Check out the more frequently updated tumblr page at outerlimitsradioshow.tumblr.com
Contact the research team at outerlimitsradioshow@fastmail.fm

One thought on “DIGITAL APARTHEID: HOW THE END OF NET NEUTRALITY CREATES INTERNET CLASSISM

  1. Pingback: Tar Sands Tyranny: The XL Distraction by Big Oil | 0uter Limits Radio Show

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