Net Neutrality: An Open Letter to the Elected Officials

The Article

An Open Letter to Congress, Senate, and the President of the United States

Over the last decade I have watched as the Internet progressed from an interesting curiosity into a tool required by schools, and now it is a real necessity to Americans. I would probably rather it not be such a necessity, but I am not longer receiving car registration information by mail and it is my responsibility to go online to renew my registration. Every bank and service I have in encouraging online statements, and even our older citizens need the use online resources for social security payments. In short, the Internet has become a utility.

The reality is Title II classification means the Internet is a utility and should be regulated as such. While I am generally not in favor of a lot of regulation, it is such regulation that can keep us safe. We have speed limits to make sure our roads are safe, pharmaceutics are (hopefully) regulated, and other regulations prevent me from advertising medical, legal, or financial services without proper training and certifications. Beyond that, Net Neutrality is not representative of heavy, restrictive regulation. It merely states the following (page 7 FCC-15-42):

  1. No Blocking – An ISP may not block legal Internet traffic from any source
  2. No Throttling – An ISP may not slow down Internet traffic from any source
  3. No Paid Prioritization – An ISP may not prioritize Internet traffic from any source

These rules are not restrictive, except the restrictions they apply to ISPs the prevent innovation from small startups by prioritizing their own own business interests while simultaneously throttling their competitors. This alone is problematic, but some have said the Internet did fine before these three tenants of Net Neutrality were introduced in 2015 and they would like to return to a totally unregulated state of the Internet. It is, however, farcical to assert the Internet was doing fine for the following reasons.

First, the Internet was an emerging technology until recently. It has only been about a decade since we have had speeds and customers to make the Internet into the status of a utility. Therefore, to look back twenty years, or even ten for regulatory precedent is fallacy. The reality is the Internet has been in Wild West status for the majority of the time we have used it, and it has really only been a necessity for the last few years. The past years of non-regulation are not relevant because a gap always exists between emergent technologies and legal precedent.

Second, it is worthy to consider the actions of major ISPs leading to the reclassification of the Internet as Title II and the implementation of the 2015 Net Neutrality rules. These are the known incidents, all of which were ended by FCC intervention:

These attempts by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and others were all blocked because it was considered predatory to force customers to use ISP-owned services over other services in available in the public marketplace. These incidents occured during this Wild West period, but the 2015 rules acted to protect consumers in that they defined clearly that an ISP could not block or throttle traffic. If these rules are abolished, it will mean the above examples will not only be possible, but fully legal, and the ISPs will be able to control their networks including pushing their auxiliary services while blocking those of their competitors.

Third I will address the problem of competition. While I assert maintaining Net Neutrality is the best of all options, I would settle for ISP competition. Mr Pai asserts there is ample competition and that the market will take care of itself. This is not even remotely true. The biggest providers of Internet do not overlap their service in most locations, and many people have up to one high speed ISP available. I have Comcast and I do not want Comcast. They repeatedly raise my rates and attempt to inappropriately add a modem rental fee to my bill despite my owning my modem since 2005. I have spend countless hours trying to get them to correct my bill, and every few months the rental fee shows up again. The problem is I work on the Internet so I need high speed Internet to do my job. The second best ISP in my area only provides 3.5 Mbsp service, and I am in one of the top five metropolitan areas in my state. My friend three miles down the road has exactly one option for what Mr Pai would call “broadband” Internet; the speeds are consistently 1.5 Mbps. We have no competition, Americans do not have a choice in their ISP, and our Internet is provided based on the location of our residence. We are exclusively at the pure mercy of only one ISP for a service that is objectively a utility, and the FCC would like to give those companies ultimately power to self-regulate themselves.

Next I will address a little about politics. Our nation is extremely divided right now on nearly every issue. Worse still is rather than people talking about the issues, I repeatedly hear “If the Republicans…” or “If the Democrats…” in all matters of life. We need to move beyond mere labels and come to some form of agreement. I can only think of one single issue right now that the majority of Republicans and Democrats agree, and that is Net Neutrality. The vastest majority of Americans want to keep the rules as they are because those fragile rules are the only thing keeping the American Internet from becoming completely commandeered by the ISPs, and we cannot leave our ISP for a competitor. During the comment period there was a lot of spam comment on the FCC form, but when the obvious spam comments were removed, 98.5 percent of comments supported keeping Net Neutrality. The American People have spoken, yet Mr Pai seeks to do what he has decided to do, and it is the most anti-consumer, and pro-ISP decision he could possibly make in his position. Reversing the Net Neutrality rules will hurt consumers, it will hurt small businesses, and it will only seek to enrich the shareholders at the ISPs. Everyone else could be forced to pay a lot of extra fees for the simple task of getting on the Internet, and in America today, money is awefully tight. Mr Pai is holding his office unfaithfully.

To back up my claim of Mr Pai holding his office unfaithfully, I will review the four Strategic goals of the FCC:

  1. Promoting Economic Growth and National Leadership – Economic growth occurs through innovation and in the Internet age, innovation must have free and unfettered access to both the Internet and the potential customers they seek to serve. If these rules are overturned, an ISP is free to throttle new technologies that compete with services they have a vested interest in promoting, therefore, hurting new industries and preventing new innovations from growing new business leaders in our country.
  2. Protecting Public Interest Goals – This Strategic Goal goes on: “The rights of network users and the responsibilities of network providers form a bond that includes consumer protection, competition, universal service, public safety and national security. The FCC must protect and promote this Network Compact.” – If the Net Neutrality rules are overturned, customers have no protections because they will be locked into their ISP and be forced to pay any amount demanded, and only use those services the ISP allows. We already discussed how competition is damaged, and these apply further to Universal Service.
  3. Making Networks Work for Everyone – If these rules are removed, networks as we know them will stop working for many people. Services will be able, under the law, to be throttled or fastlaned, tethering could once again be blocked, and many more people may not be able to access the legal content or services online as they have been using them before these rules were overturned.
  4. Promoting Operational Excellence – This goal goes on to say, “Make the FCC a model for excellence in government by effectively managing the FCC’s resources and maintaining a commitment to transparent and responsive processes that encourage public involvement and best serve the public interest.” – It is very clear that by ignoring the unified voice of the American people and listening only to the interests of the ISP lobby that Mr. Pai and the FCC are not demonstrating operational excellence.

I have laid out here many points on why it is imperative the 2015 Net Neutrality rules are protected and I implore you, by the power of your office, to do whatever is possible to make sure the American People’s voice is heard and that the FCC does not hand over the Internet to a few mega corporations and trust those companies will do the best thing for the American people. It is not their nature, or their interest. As companies, their primary responsibility is always to their shareholders and that enables a few large companies to gouge any cost from the American people without any intervention. You, however, as our elected officials are in the position to care best for the American people and I implore you to stop the FCC from destroying the Internet. The 2015 Net Neutrality Rules must stand.

Thank You,

 

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