Target: Federal Communication Commission Chairman, Tom Wheeler
Goals: Save net neutrality and keep Internet service providers from restricting Internet access.
A recent US Court of Appeals ruling struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rule. Without net neutrality, broadband providers effectively “own” the net, allowing them to decide who uses it and for how much. This means more profit for Internet service providers, or ISPs, like Verizon, but less freedom of use for civilians.
Now nothing can stop ISPs from blocking lawful websites in favor of sites they own, charging online services for faster download speeds, or otherwise censoring a site for any reason. For example, if a broadband company decides it doesn’t like ForceChange.com – or owns a competing site – it could block ForceChange.com from its network.
While some contend that remaining FCC transparency rules would theoretically inhibit this, slowed download speeds and even outright censorship would be difficult to prevent or prove. The net could come to resemble the cable model; bundled packages with ever-increasing cost for access and some channels (websites) excluded or only available for higher fees.
Successful upstart sites might become a thing of the past as organizations able to pay higher fees dominate the Internet, leaving small companies out in the cold. And if websites must pay for faster downloads or network entry, this cost will likely be passed along to the consumer, making the Internet a more expensive proposition for everyone.
The net should not be carved up, restricted, or made available only to wealthy corporations who can afford it. Right now, the FCC has the power to reclassify Internet service providers as telecommunications companies or public utilities, making them subject to the sort of oversight the Open Internet Order had in mind.
To preserve the Internet as a place for information, competition and innovation, free from the clutches of for-profit interests, sign the petition below and ask FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reclassify the ISPs as common-carrier telecommunication services.
Dear Chairman Wheeler,
In light of the recent US District Court of Appeals ruling, effectively dismantling the “Open Internet Order”, it is imperative that the FCC immediately reclassifies Internet service providers as telecommunication services.
The future of information and communication freedom is at stake. This ruling now permits the ISPs to serve as informational gatekeepers and toll takers. No longer prohibited from discriminating against or blocking lawful websites, it’s only a matter of time before the ISPs begin implementing fees and dividing the Internet into a caste system; one for those able to pay more for greater access, and another slower, censored internet, intentionally crippled in order to create additional revenue streams.
With our near total dependence upon the net for communication and knowledge, allowing corporations to decide who has access to what and for how much, is antithetical to the fundamental ambition of our nation. If you question the likelihood of such market-driven possibilities, we refer you to the arguments against net neutrality. In court, Verizon’s own attorney, Helgi Walker admitted, “But for these rules, we would be exploring those commercial arrangements,” adding, “My client wants the freedom to explore that.”
It should not be the FCC’s objective to guarantee that the likes of Verizon have the “freedom” to arbitrarily charge websites and consumers more money and censor content. Instead it must be your goal to ensure fair access to what has practically grown into a public utility. We therefore urge you to reclassify broadband providers as telecommunication companies post haste.
Photo Credit: Infocux Technologies via Flickr