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Crosstalk: Should net rules be tossed?

Since the inception of the internet, users have had a pretty straightforward set of expectations: You expect to be connected to whatever website you choose, without limitations or restrictions as to content, data or application type being imposed by your internet provider.

When you use the internet, you expect your internet provider to give you access that does not block or discriminate against any applications or content you wish to engage with.

In December of last year, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules meant to preserve an open, fair and competitive internet for all users.

Net neutrality, as described by Wikipedia, is the principle that governments should mandate internet service providers to treat all data on the internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

Under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites or content.

In other words, the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet.

Without net neutrality rules, providers like Verizon and Comcast can prevent users from visiting some websites, provide slower speeds for services like Netflix and Hulu, or even redirect users from one website to a competing website. Net neutrality rules prevent this by requiring providers to connect users to all lawful content on the internet equally.

The term “net neutrality” was coined in 2003 as an extension of the longstanding concept of common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.

Ditching net neutrality is a win/win for technology companies. Internet providers further monetize their internet delivery systems, and can offer preferential treatment to their customers.

Without net neutrality, many of the benefits of the internet currently enjoyed by a wide swath of American’s would be at risk.

Do you advertise your business or communicate with your customers over the internet? With net neutralit, you have the same opportunities to connect with your customers online as your competition does.

Do you promote and market a nonprofit organization over the internet? You have the potential of reaching people all over the world with your message.

Many others benefit from the open, democratic opportunity that is the internet.

All that could change if internet providers are allowed to throttle some internet content and boost others.

Take the community news industry.

Small newspapers or online outlets already face significant challenges from Google (profiting from their news content), Facebook (profiting from free public content) and a host of others.

Yet, The Dalles Chronicle, like many other small media outlets, has managed to survive and provide their readers with news throughout the digital revolution and well into the age of the internet.

News is news, and the internet is a great way to communicate the news quickly to a large audience.

But if “net neutrality” is lost and small businesses are required to invest in a “fast lane” in order to connect with their readers, small media companies will be hard-pressed to compete with the giants: Sure, we cover news that Google doesn’t even know about until their “spiders” find it posted online; but without the “free” delivery that net neutrality guarantees, funding boots-on-the-ground news gathering in small communities like The Dalles could become unfeasible.

There is a reason we have regulations: Without FCC rules radio would be an unintelligible hodgepodge of signals overlapping each other and drowning each other out.

Regulations keep cities from dumping raw sewage, corporations from manipulating stock prices, banks from cheating their customers, and much more.

Regulations should also be in place to keep internet providers from throttling the freedom of the internet.

— Mark Gibson

There is nothing President Donald Trump and the GOP can do that Democrats will not declare as the worst thing that ever happened.

This constant outpouring of hysteria and declarations that the world as we know it is ending gets really, really old. But it is not without purpose; the 2018 elections are looming, and liberals hope to drive more people to the polls through fear-mongering.

One of the latest cries of outrage is over FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to nullify former President Barack Obama’s net neutrality regulations, a cumbersome set of rules that hamstrung Internet providers.

The regulations were just another of Obama’s attempts at government control and enforced equality.

“Neutrality” sounds good, but forcing a one-size-fits-all solution on the internet stifles innovation by blocking some companies from turning new ideas or business models into successful products.

Basically, the rules restricted ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner from blocking or slowing down traffic to certain websites, or allowing certain companies to pay extra for better treatment.

Obama set it up so companies had to get government permission before trying anything new. They were not allowed to charge big users like Netflix more, or create “fast lanes” for customers who paid extra.

Neil Irvin in The New York Times explained that Obama’s rules were like deciding whether internet connections should be like electricity or cable television. He said everyone gets the same electric service (net neutrality), but can pay for different levels of cable TV.

Yet, in many places people also pay for different electric service. In California (and other places), customers can get a lower rate if they agree to let the electric utility turn off their air conditioner during peak usage hours.

Although Obama claimed in 2015 that his neutrality rules restored fairness, he was more than willing to pick winners and losers in other areas of the marketplace, such as in energy producers.

He worked hard to make coal, offshore drilling and shale oil losers while trying hard to turn solar, wind and other renewables into winners.

Obama’s rules for the internet blocked business models and stopped any possible innovation that might emerge with the option of seeking differential access to bandwidth.

In 2015, Pai forewarned that “the more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.”

Trump agreed with Pai that the internet should be “unfettered by federal or state regulation,” as Congress put it in a 1996 update to the Communications Act.

Pai contends that government nonintervention helped spur $1.5 trillion of private investment that built high-speed internet pipes.

The internet has been re-designated as an information service, the status quo of three years ago.

The Supreme Court upheld this “light touch” framework in 2005. However, Obama reclassified the internet as something akin to the old telephone monopoly, which, under a 1934 law, gave the FCC virtually unlimited power to regulate interest rates, impose fees and require businesses to get approval for a wide range of decisions.

What Obama and Democrats seem to miss in their never-ending fight to reward those who contribute less at the expense of those who are providing jobs and services is that ISPs and the companies that control the internet backbone infrastructure that knits everything together do not have the power to pick winners and losers.

Consumers decide what products and services are successful because we adopt them. If an ISP blocks service to Netflix, for instance, because of the bandwidth the company requires, consumers who want that service will take their business to another ISP.

That forces the ISP to change policies or go out of business.

Pai rightfully said that Obama’s directive meant that, for the first time, “Decisions about how the internet works are going to be made by bureaucrats and politicians instead of engineers and innovators.”

He said stripping away net neutrality rules would lead to faster internet speeds and lower prices for most everyone.

— RaeLynn Ricarte


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