It seems that while internet activists and advocates of the free flow of information have been focused on the dangerous and looming Trans-Pacific Partnership, the debate for Net Neutrality has been absent from recent memory. The TPP has the potential to completely upend life as we know it and does warrant a great bit of your attention. However, the persistent debate of Net Neutrality rules has now been brought back front and center.
On Tuesday the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against rules originally adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. The rules, known as Net Neutrality, were designed to protect the openness of the internet. The 2-1 decision means the FCC created rules do not apply to broadband services such as Comcast and Verizon, the two companies behind the lawsuit.
The D.C. Circuit decided that the FCC had classified broadband services differently than it does traditional telecommunications companies and could not hold broadband services to the same standard. The FCC used the concept of “common carriage” when developing the basis of the Net Neutrality rules. The concept hinges on the idea that common pathways (the internet, waterways, roads) should be open to all. A business can charge for services using such pathways but they cannot discriminate.
With the internet this means that before Tuesday companies could not discriminate traffic based on a tier system, or payment of a fee. The idea was that the internet infrastructure that provides all internet content should be open to anyone. The end of the rules means that large corporations with deep pocket books could pay broadband providers extra cash to ensure their sites and services stream in excellent quality while viewers of smaller sites could suffer from a lower quality internet experience.
It doesn’t take long to see how this could affect internet censorship. Smaller journalist outfits, or independent entrepreneurial ventures could be blocked from the internet by being unable to pay fees that Verizon, Time Warner or Comcast may eventually impose. There are also fears that the United States government’s close relationship to certain corporations could lead to quality experiences of some sites and the slow elimination of websites critical of the government and its policies.
How did we get here?
In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that broadband services should not be classified in the same manner as telecom services. The idea being that broadband providers’ infrastructure is not considered a public right and not regulated under the concept of common carrier. Based on that decision the appeals court rejected the FCC position that broadband services fall under Net Neutrality rules.
The FCC put in place official rules for Net Neutrality after a failed attempt to fine Comcast based on Net Neutrality principles, but not official rules, that were in place in 2009. Comcast had slowed traffic from the torrent downloading service BitTorrent in order to manage traffic and limit downloads. In April 2010 the same D.C. court ruled that the FCC had no authority to enforce regulations on Internet providers. The case dealt with what many fear will happen in the coming age of tiered internet services.
Soon after, the FCC created official Net Neutrality rules. It was these new rules that Tuesday’s decision concluded, once again, that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband services under. So what are the rules of Net Neutrality and how do they affect you?
The first of three rules required broadband companies to remain open and transparent to customers about how they handle traffic on their systems.
The second rule is designed to keep broadband services from blocking legal content on their networks.
The third rule, and the one which does not apply to broadband services any longer, prevents “unreasonable” discrimination against traffic.
It is important to note that the court did reject a claim by Verizon that Congress did not give the FCC jurisdiction over internet access at all. The court referenced section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as giving the FCC authority over the internet. This means that the Commission is free to set rules for standard internet traffic but at this point broadband services are not under their jurisdiction. This goes for all broadband providers except Comcast. In the company’s 2011 merger with NBC they agreed to follow the FCC’s Open Internet Rules until 2018.
The End of the Internet or an Opportunity for Creation?
So although this battle is far from over we could begin to see the internet offered to customers at various prices for differing quality, speed, and content. The usual knee jerk reaction to this type of action or inaction by the government is to call for more regulation. Corporations continue to have a growing influence in our lives; from the food we eat, to the clothes we buy and the way we use the internet. It is frightening to think that the free and open internet we have grown to love could be stripped away. But, perhaps, this competition between the corporatist enslavement of our freedoms should be seen for what it truly is: a competition between free, intelligent, creative people and monopolistic, mechanical, corporate governance.
Instead of expecting the United States government of 2014 to hear our cries and pull back the tyranny, we should see this as an opportunity to create new ways of using the infrastructure of the internet and broadband services. Sure, the mainstream World Wide Web may be completely monitored and eventually censored, dull, and irrelevant, but that does not mean innovation will cease. With the open source technological revolution growing daily it is likely that some genius out there has already created the answer to our problems.
Ideas like alternative DNS server projects such as the Open Nic project, mesh networks, the Darknet, and more will stretch the boundaries of what the internet can be. These ideas will be the ones that eliminate the effectiveness of any government regulation anyways. They will also render any silly corporate takeover of communications largely pointless.
Now of course, those who choose to remain in the corporate mainstream culture will be left with the dry, carbon copy versions of music, clothes, technology and yes, the internet. But once the clamping down on individual expression and creation reaches a breaking point the population will seek a better alternative. With the growth of peer-to-peer, open source technology it is only a matter of time before the internet expands into a number of different, competing webs of information.
So spread the word about the looming dangers of censorship and internet favoritism, but don’t forget to remind others that information longs to be free. It is inevitable that governments and their corporate partners will work together to limit freedoms. It is also inevitable that the people will tire of such arrangements, create alternatives, and find ways to be even more free. If you want to keep the free and open internet – fight for it. Create it. Build it.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com and at ActivistPost.com.
Bailed-out euro-area countries are facing “painful” challenges with worse-than-anticipated consequences of economic adjustment, including high unemployment and slow growth, central banks and finance ministries said.
Officials and ministers from Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus, in responses to European Union lawmaker questions published yesterday, described how their countries’ emergency aid had been followed by social hardship and continuing economic difficulties.
The bailout program had a “worse-than-expected impact on both output and employment,” Portugal’s finance ministry said. The program in Cyprus was “rigorous and painful,” according to the island’s central bank. Adjustment in Greece, after four years of cuts and efforts to make the economy more competitive, has come at “an extremely high socioeconomic cost,” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said.
The testimonies come three-and-a-half years after Greece became the first euro-area country to be bailed out, using EU and International Monetary Fund loans. Since then the German-led path of aid in return for reforms and debt cuts has seen 396 billion euros ($538 billion) committed to the region’s four most fragile economies, with an additional 100 billion euros pledged for Spain’s banking sector. The bloc has endured the longest recession in its history and unemployment has reached record levels.
Government bonds in the euro-area’s most indebted nations have rallied this year, pushing Portugal and Ireland’s 10-year yields to the lowest since 2010 and 2006 respectively, as recovery sign’s in the region have boosted demand for higher-yielding debt.
Portugal expects to restart bond auctions in the first half of 2014, its debt agency said yesterday, after selling one-year bills at the lowest yield since November 2009. Greece’s Stournaras said last week that the government may sell five-year notes in the second half of the year, for the first time since being shut out of the bond markets in 2010. It would follow Ireland, which sold bonds last week for the first time since completing its bailout program.
Greek 10-year yields have dropped 68 basis points this year to 7.74 percent, after touching 7.53 percent on Jan. 13, the lowest since May 2010. The yield on similar-maturity Portuguese securities reached the lowest since August 2010 at 5.07 percent yesterday.
EU lawmakers questioned whether the so-called troika, comprising the European Commission,European Central Bank and IMF, which sets conditions for the countries receiving bailouts and monitors their progress, should have been more accountable and could have prevented the most painful effects of austerity. The European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee is today discussing the responses received about the troika’s work.
European lawmakers will continue to work to make the troika more accountable, EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said on Twitter yesterday. Schulz is a member of Germany’s Social Democrats, the junior partner in the country’s coalition government.
While finance ministries and central bankers said that the hardships associated with the bailout conditions could not be ignored, they said they backed the process.
“The program, although rigorous and painful, is the only way that will enable the country’s exit from the crisis,” Cyprus’s central bank said in its letter to the 28-nation European Parliament.
Portugal’s finance ministry said that it “remained convinced” a bailout program had been inevitable and that “on the whole it remains a suitable and rational response to the crisis of credibility threatening our country.”
Ireland’s bailout-program exit last month and its return to financial markets “confirms that our strategy of providing assistance to euro-area countries that requested it in return for strict conditionality is working,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs meetings of his 17 euro-area counterparts, said in his letter to EU lawmakers.
He said that while growth is returning to the euro area and the economic outlook is improving “a number of important challenges remain, most importantly unacceptably high levels of unemployment.”
Ireland’s bailout program can be considered a success, Michael Noonan, Ireland’s finance minister, said in his response to the parliament. Even so, unemployment is still high, economic growth has returned more slowly than predicted and the country’s overall level of debt remains elevated, with a peak of slightly over 120 percent of gross domestic product expected this year.
Nanos Number: pipeline politics 6:52
In an attempt to press the Obama administration on its own turf, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
He buttressed his case by making public appearances Wednesday with two pro-Keystone Democratic senators, who both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision.
Baird offered a snappy reply when asked if there’s anything pro-Keystone politicians on either side of the border could still say or do to influence a debate that has been going on for years.
“One politician — the president of the United States — can say yes to a great project to create jobs on both sides of the border, help with energy independence and energy security,” Baird replied, drawing a chuckle from the lawmaker next to him, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“Decision time is upon us.”
He repeated the “decision time” phrase on three separate occasions at two public appearances Wednesday, making increasingly clear the Canadian government’s frustration over the prolonged approval process.
Baird held a half-dozen meetings on Capitol Hill and several other get-togethers throughout the day.
His two media appearances — both with pro-Keystone lawmakers from the president’s party — allowed them to air their own feelings.
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) January 15, 2014
“I will tell you the frustration that many of us have,” said Heitkamp.
“It has taken us longer to make a decision than it took us to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.”
‘Weeks’ until environmental review
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would not take “no for an answer” until the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is approved, last fall in New York. More recently, he suggested the U.S. president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process.
When asked how soon he expected a decision, Baird said the ongoing environmental review by the State Department could be completed and released “in the coming weeks,” soon after this month’s state of the union address.
After that, he said, a decision could be announced quickly.
He delivered a similar message during a meeting with Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, touted as the likely next chair of the Senate energy committee.
— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 15, 2014
With media invited into the meeting, she sympathetically placed a hand on Baird’s as she shared her regrets about how long the process had taken.
Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election fight, said the project was popular in her state.
They used that public meeting to inform U.S. reporters that Canada has the same greenhouse-gas standards as the U.S., the same vehicle-emissions standards, and has done more to phase out coal.
Baird also met with U.S. Senator Bob Corker who posted a picture of his meeting with the foreign affairs minister after his approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
#KeystoneXL will create jobs, expand access to North American energy and strengthen ties with Canada, our largest trading partner. -BC
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 15, 2014
During his three-day trip, Baird also has meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several think-tanks.
He’s also scheduled to speak Thursday to business leaders.
|Unmanned aircraft, or drones, are playing an increasingly important role in military campaigns around the world.
Though they are controversial and often blamed for the deaths of civilians, the British military also wants to show people that they save lives too.
The UK says 459 missiles have been fired from its unmanned Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan, with only one civilian recorded killed.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reports from the Royal Airforce’s drone headquarters in Waddington.
With Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras settling into his role as EU President, UKIP’s Nigel Farage stunned the “Goldman Sachs puppet” with a 150-second tirade of truthiness he has likely never experienced. Farage sacrastically remarks how Greeks “will be dancing in the streets” at Samaras’ ‘successful’ negotiation on MiFiD reminding him that “60% of youth are unemployed and the neo-nazi party are on the march.” Europe is now run by “big business, big banks, and big bureaucrats,” Farage goes on, suggesting the smarmy-looking Samaras should “rename his party from New Democracy to No Democracy.” People do not want a United State of Europe, the outspoken UKIP leader explains, they want a “Europe of sovereign states,” and concludes ominously, “the European elections will be a watershed.”
…And you come here Mr Samaras and you tell us that you represent the sovereign will of the Greek people? Well, I’m sorry, but you’re not in charge of Greece, and I suggest you rename and rebrand your party – it’s called ‘New Democracy’, I suggest you call it ‘No Democracy’.
Because Greece is now under foreign control. You can’t make any decisions, you’ve been bailed out, and you’ve surrendered democracy, the thing your country invented in the first place.
And you can’t admit that joining the euro was a mistake – of course Mr Papandreou did that didn’t he, he even said there should be a referendum in Greece and within 48 hours, the unholy trinity (troika) that now run this European Union had him removed and replaced by a ex-Goldman Sachs employee puppet.
We are run now by big business, big banks and in the shape of Mr Barroso, big bureaucrats…