Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Obituary of Net Neutrality

Today we mourn the loss of our beloved brother Net Neutrality.  Yes I can still feel his spirit among us, but sadly, it appears that he has left us, but in the battleground of the rights of the people versus the rights of corporations he is considered MIA/KIA.  In a shocking turn of events, the need of the few outweighed the needs of the many. 

He was born, believe it or not in 1860, back in the days of the telegram.  We aren't entirely sure, as the records at the time of his birth were lackluster at best.  Certainly it is possible that he was conceived well before the year 1860, but lets be truthful does it matter?  He ensured at that time that all telegrams were touted equally, ensuring that outside of a small few exceptions (emergency telegrams) all were sent at the same speed, through the same typical routing points.  But lets be fair, he lived in anonymity until the 1980's where he stood at the forefront of the budding internet, revitalized, ready for the future.  He spent much of his life ahead of the game, a fixture well before his time.  He fought on the front lines to protect access to legal websites, he fought to ensure that we could access these sites with the same speed that others had, no matter how big or how small, the only determining factor was how the sites were designed. 

In late 2004 for was finally afforded more backup than he had received in previous years with the FCC stepping forward to spell him for a while.  They felt as he did, that there were four essentials required to the internet.  First among these was the notion that we the people should have access to legal content on the web, without it being restricted in any way.  This support would continue until recently.  But another milestone would pass in 2010 when the FCC again threw their backing behind Net Neutrality:
1. Transparency: Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed;
2. No Blocking: This includes a right to send and receive lawful traffic. This prohibits the blocking of lawful content, apps, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network;
3. Level Playing Field: Consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. This means a ban on unreasonable content discrimination. There is no approval for so-called "pay for priority" arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others;
4. Network Management: This is an allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don't forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of services or charging based on bandwidth consumed;
5. Mobile: The provisions adopted today do not apply as strongly to mobile devices, though some provisions do apply. Of those that do are the broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications;
6. Vigilance: The order creates an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of the rules.
 Alas, the opposing side picked up allies as well.  Facebook decided to adopt a "pay to play" philosophy with its users posts.  Now to allow your content to be dispersed amongst a larger group of friends, and followers, you must pay Facebook to promote it.  While others joined in Net Neutrality's fight, we lost that battle, we still fight on, but we will likely never win.  Also, in the beginning of 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States decided to stand with corporations. Ruling against the FCC and its attempts to prevent corporations from controlling the internet. 

In the recent turn of events the FCC, a longtime ally of Net Neutrality, final turned its back on him.  Now saying that the corporations have priority rights, and can throttle back the internet, depending on the website.  So, rather than being allowed to see all websites at the same speed, depending on design, they can opt to slow down access to websites they dislike, or aren't a part of their network.  They can create scenarios where you pay more to access content from other groups.  If they so choose, they could lag access to movies from Netflix, Google and Amazon.  They could slow access to XBox/Playstation servers, as well as other gaming platforms.

While we are still looking for the remains of Net Neutrality, we still have hope that he is alive and well.  We will continue on in his name while we search.  That is all we can do.  Continue on in his name, his ideals, and hope that even without him with us, we can win, less one more of our freedoms will be taken.