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Net neutrality

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lecture on the politics of net neutrality, to be delivered in Noriko Hara's graduate seminar at Indiana University, School of Library and Information Science, on November 12, 2013

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Net neutrality

  1. 1. November 12, 2013 THE POLITICS OF NET NEUTRALITY
  2. 2. Origins of the Net Neutrality Debate  Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell in November 2002  It included the phrase “net neutrality” coined by Tim Wu in an article written in 2002 and published in 2003  CBUI called for “nondiscrimination safeguards” to guarantee net neutrality
  3. 3. What is Net Neutrality? “Net neutrality simply means that all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network. The owners of the Internet’s wires cannot discriminate. This is the simple but brilliant “end-to-end” design of the Internet that has made it such a powerful force for economic and social good.” Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney, “No Tolls on the Internet,” Washington Post, June 8, 2006. Ask a Ninja’s “What is Net Neutrality?” video
  4. 4. Eli Noam’s Possible Meanings  No different quality grades for service  No price discrimination among Internet providers  No monopoly price charged to content and application providers  No discrimination against content providers who compete with carrier’s own content  No selectivity by the carriers over the content that they transmit  No blocking of the access of users to some websites
  5. 5. Congress and the FCC Encourage Telephone and Cable to Compete  Telecom Act of 1996  FCC decisions to permit telephone companies to buy cable networks and cable operators to compete in telephone markets  FCC wanted telcos and cable companies to compete in high-speed Internet and cable TV services via new fiber optic networks built without government subsidies
  6. 6. Top ISPs in the USA (2011)  Comcast  Time Warner  AT&T Cable operators  Cox  Optimum  Charter  Verizon Telephone companies Source:
  7. 7. Top Global Web Sites (2011)  Google  Facebook  YouTube  Yahoo!  Wikipedia  Baidu  Blogspot  Twitter
  8. 8. Michael Powell’s Internet Freedoms, 2004     freedom to access content freedom to use applications freedom to attach personal devices freedom to obtain service plan information
  9. 9. FCC Policy Statement 2005  consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice  consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement  consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network  consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers
  10. 10. Proponents’ Videos  Tim Wu  Save the Internet  Vint Cerf
  11. 11. Arguments of Proponents  End-to-end architecture of the Internet must be preserved  This means preventing discrimination by conduit companies against content and services that they do not control  Conduit companies will reserve lots of bandwidth for services like cable TV which will degrade Internet performance for everyone else Vint Cerf
  12. 12. More Arguments of Proponents  There is insufficient competition between cable operators and telcos to guarantee nondiscrimination  There is a potential for violations of freedom of speech in the absence of net neutrality guarantees Gigi Sohn Larry Lessig Tim Berners-Lee
  13. 13. Organizations that Supported Net Neutrality  ACLU  ALA  Christian Coalition  Gun Owners of America  Consumers Union  Google, Amazon, Yahoo!  American Electronics Association
  14. 14. The Opponents’ Perspective on Net Neutrality  NCTA anti-NN ad  Fox News coverage  Glenn Beck David Farber
  15. 15. Arguments of Opponents  Net neutrality guarantees constitute     unnecessary regulation The threat of discrimination is overblown Cable and telephone companies need new revenues to build out the network Need to have “intelligent networks” to obtain “quality of service” Competition is sufficient to prevent abuses
  16. 16. The Video Franchise Bill, 2006  Attempts by Democrats led by Ed Markey in the House to add net neutrality amendments failed in committee and on the floor  Net neutrality amendment proposed by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) failed to pass in an 11-11 committee vote  Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) voted against the amendment
  17. 17. Ted Stevens’ Tubes Statement  “And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material. “ June 28, 2006 Series of Tubes Remix
  18. 18. Popular Reaction to Ted Stevens statement
  19. 19. Telecom Lobbying Money Spent in the First Half of 2006 Category Specific Firms and Organization Telephone Interests AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth, and USTA Amount in $ millions 30.3 Cable Interests Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and NCTA Internet Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Interests Microsoft, 12.2 Total 51.3 8.8
  20. 20. Wyden Saves the Day  Ron Wyden used his Senatorial privilege to place a hold on the Video Franchise bill because of the lack of net neutrality guarantees. Since Ted Stevens did not have the 60 votes needed to override Wyden’s hold, the bill was not put up for a vote on the Senate floor.
  21. 21. Barack Obama Supports Net Neutrality  Speech on net neutrality at Google in 2007  Net neutrality becomes part of the official Democratic party platform in 2008  Obama appoints Julius Genachowski as head of the FCC in 2009  American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 provides $7.2 billion for broadband infrastructure and mandates that the FCC prepare a National Broadband Plan
  22. 22. Genachowski Adds Two Items to FCC Policy Statement of 2005  “broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications”  • “providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management processes.” Video of Genachowski
  23. 23. The National Broadband Plan  FCC announced intention to guarantee net neutrality in spite of Comcast ruling in 2009  Genachowski spoke of a “third way” between “heavy-handed prescriptive regulation” and the “light-touch approach” of the past  FCC would attempt to reclassify transmission component of broadband as a “telecommunication service”
  24. 24. Comcast Throttling of BitTorrent Traffic in 2007  Robb Topolski discovers delays in delivery of BitTorrent files for his barber shop quartet  Topolski publishes this on TorrentFreak blog  EFF and AP verify independently  Comcast eventually admits that it was “traffic shaping” using an application called Sandvine that prevents “seeding”  The FCC told Comcast to stop doing this  Comcast complied but appealed to courts
  25. 25. The Comcast Ruling of 2010  US Circuit Court of Appeals of DC ruled on April 6, 2010, that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate ISPs under the Telecom Act of 1996 (therefore Comcast was not bound to obey FCC rules regarding traffic management)  Ruling was based on FCC decision to reclassify cable modems and DSL as information services
  26. 26. Verizon-Google Agreement  In August 2010, Verizon and Google announced a joint policy proposal  The jist of it was:  Telecom companies agree to net neutrality on their wired networks  Internet firms agree that net neutrality rules will not apply to wireless networks  Both agree that reasonable traffic management is permissible on both wired and wireless networks
  27. 27. Verizon Challenge to FCC Open Internet Order (2013)  Verizon argues in a suit before the US Court of Appeals that the FCC overstepped its authority in reclassifying Internet service in its Open Internet Order and violating Verizon’s 1st and 5th amendment rights  In May 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that agencies have authority to regulate when legislation is ambiguous  Two of the Court of Appeals judges are opposed to treating all content equally but no ruling yet
  28. 28. New FCC Chair  New Chair, Ted Wheeler as of October 2013  Telecom lobbyist background  Hired Gigi Sohn for policy advice
  29. 29. Conclusions  Net neutrality was framed by Republicans as a regulatory issue. Democratic framing was confusing.  Republicans and their supporters carried the day until June 2006 when the political tide began turn against them.  The 2006 and 2008 election results meant that Democrats and their allies would attempt to pass legislation guaranteeing net neutrality.  However, the Comcast ruling and strong Republican opposition to net neutrality made legislative action very unlikely. It is still not clear whether the FCC strategy to reclassify broadband transmission will work.