FCC votes 3-2 to scrap net neutrality after mass rally in front of their HQ

Video-Both dissident FCC commisioners speak out at the rally

On the 14th of December, the FCC voted 3-2 to scrap all net neutrality protections. Both of the dissenting FCC commissioners spoke at a mass rally in front of the FCC prior to the vote. Lawsuits are now being filed to halt the revocation of net neutrality. If the lawsuits fail, you may need to buy a video upgrade to your Internet service or use Torbrowser to bypass your carrier's restrictions to watch video on this site.

There are two parts to what Verizon, Comcast, and the other big ISP's want to do if net neutrality dies. They want to charge websites for premium access to "internet fast lanes," getting the bandwidth by taking it away from everyone else. This is comparable to turning regular traffic lanes on 16th st into I-66 style toll (HOT) lanes for Lexus drivers with EZ-passes. They also want to filter and censor "basic Internet access" like a basic Cable TV package. Then they want to sell "social media upgrades," "video streaming upgrades," "sports upgrades" etc just like Cable TV does. If you like Cable TV and your cable bill you will love what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Verizon have in store for your Internet service.

There is also the political aspect of this: the CEO's of major corporations are usually conservative Republicans, so the potential for major blocking of everything from news about Black Lives Matter actions to information about where to access abortion services is strong. Because of the ugly racial aspects of this, a speaker from the South Asian community effectively called out FCC Chairman Ajit Pia as a traitor to his community.

This fight is by no means over. One round of lawsuits has been filed by the attorney generals of 18 states including both MD and VA plus DC. Citizen groups have also announced intent to sue. The Dec 14 vote violated laws concerning publication of proposed FCC rulemakings and the public comment requirement. Over 1 million "comments" demanding an end to net neutrality were traced to bots created by pro-Trump groups. industry groups and lobbyists, effectively drowning out legitimate public comments. On top of all else, many of the fake comments were in the names of real people who opposed the viewpoints expressed under their names in the industry-generated fake comments. There were calls to push back the vote until the fake comments could be filtered out and the comment process fixed, but these calls were disregarded and are now grounds for legal action.

If legal action fails, the public will be still able to take both indirect and direct action against the Cable TV style (basis plus paid upgrade) service that Internet Service Providers have said they want to impose. The "basic Internet service" packages would route service through filters to block video sharing sites, social networks, and other sites deemed able to encourage people to pay for upgrades. There are of course workarounds to the blocks, notable the use of Tor.

https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en is the download link for the Tor project, which is usually able to defeat even such muscular state level censorship regimes as the Great Firewall of China. China's Internet censors probably have far more resources and people at their disposal that Comcast and Verizon put together, and even they have a lot of trouble keeping Tor blocked. It works enough of the time to be a serious hole in the Great Firewall, and Tor Project engineers are always engaged in an arms race against the Great Firewall of China. Almost anything ISP's in the US can to to try and block Tor, Torproject hackers can almost certainly defeat. ISP's can try declaring it a terms of service violation to use Tor, but people fileshare Hollywood movies and tether computers to phones in violation of terms of service all the time and nothing happens. With prepaid mobile, if your service is cut off, you just start over with a new phone number.

As for indirect action, protests have already taken place at Verizon stores, as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a former Verizon lobbyist and Verizon is really keen to kill net neutrality. The first carrier to either block a website for not paying to get on a high-speed "Internet toll road" or to demand that customers buy "video upgrades" and "social upgrades" will probably face a mass exodus of subscribers unless they are a rural monopoly provider. Thus, we should probably expect the Big Four to try this all at once, in violation of rarely-enforced antitrust laws. If consumer resistance to the Cable TV model of basic plus nickel and dime upgrades is enough, it is entirely possible that this business model will fail. That has happened before, with efforts by wired landline providers almost ten years ago to transition subscribers to tiered, data-capped service. That ran into a hornet's nest of resistance and stalled even in the absence of legislation.

There is a prior history of direct blocking of Internet traffic to protect a business model In 2007, Comcast was caught sabotaging bitorrent traffic by injecting fake packets to cause the customer's computer or router to drop the connection. This can be defeated by programming routers to ignore the offending packets entirely, and just before the FCC slapped Comcast down a new bittorrent client was under development specifically for blocked Comcast users without computer skills. Comcast of course considered filesharing to be a direct competitor for their Cable TV, pay per view, and movie upgrade services.

Speaking of filesharing, another model of resistance comes from the music and movie filesharing community. What stopped the RIAA lawsuits was not the fact that almost nobody ever paid a penny of the judgements, but rather that tens of millions of people responded to the lawsuits by stopping their purchases of CD's and DVD's and not going to the movies anymore. With paid purchases falling, the RIAA had no choice but to throw in the towel. If angry customers respond to Cable TV style Internet service by cancelling their TV and landline phone service, Inrternet service providers will be placed in the exact same situation.

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