“Without network neutrality, cable and phone companies could stifle innovation. Imagine if, years ago, MySpace or AltaVista had cut deals with cable companies to block Facebook and Google. Without network neutrality, telecom and cable companies could also stifle free expression. They’d have the legal right to block articles like this one.”
So here’s what we, the technology community, can do to protect a
free and open internet.
Build a strong coalition in support of Net Neutrality
As a community, we have become better organized. Once again, we should show our grassroots strength and build a broad-based coalition of businesses and internet users.
Support an FCC appeal with the aim of moving the debate to the Supreme Court
There are at least three pro- net neutrality votes at the FCC and, knowing the issues, they could all get this done pretty quickly if they wanted. The Supreme Court will need time to get up to speed on the facts, but they have been good to the tech community so far on copyright and patent law. But there is a downside — we might lose three years and then be on the cusp of a new administration -that would also need to get up to speed.
For this fight, we also need cover from Senators Markey, Wyden and Leahy etc. The
tech community needs supporters in Congress to come out strong and provide political support to the FCC.
Support new internet providers
While new internet providers would be a good solution, success here relies on competition that has never materialized because it’s insanely expensive to build out an entire network. Plus, the way competition is ensured in other countries is something called unbundling or open access, which is beyond the pale in the US.
What this means is reclassifying broadband internet access as a telecommunications service, not a simple information service, and then applying the full suite of provisions established in Title II of the Communications Act, many of which were developed decades ago for telephone networks. The most important are the common carrier laws, which stop carriers from discriminating against or refusing service to customers. While this is what’s necessary legally, it’s a tough political fight. The FCC knew they needed to do this back in 2010 but then never did.
So what does this all mean? From Engine co-founder Mike McGeary: “In the near-term we want to work with the FCC to get new policies (and reclassification) in place. Then we look forward to the case moving forward to the Supreme Court and will relish the chance to get the Justices — so far friendly to tech issues — up-to-speed.”