So who lost net neutrality? Tasked by President Obama with codifying the principle, the previous chairman of the F.C.C., Julius Genachowski, was cowed, leading to the present debacle. In 2010, the F.C.C. introduced formal net-neutrality rules, in what it called the Open Internet Order. Genachowski, inexcusably, did not use his agency’s main authority over wire communications to enact it. Since its creation, the F.C.C. has had the authority to police all communications by wire in the United States. Instead, Genachowski grounded the rules in what is called—in legal jargon—the agency’s “auxiliary authority.” If the F.C.C. were a battleship, this would be the equivalent of quieting the seventeen-inch-inch guns and relying on the fire hoses.
What could possibly have convinced the agency to pursue a legal strategy that any law student could see was dubious? As in any big mistake, there were compounding errors. Members of Congress threatened to strip the F.C.C. of some of its powers if it enacted the rules with the full weight of its legal authority. (Indeed, Congress tried and failed to overturn the Open Internet Order.) A.T. & T. warned that it would cancel its ongoing effort to become a cable company, threatening to tar the agency with job losses. One senior F.C.C. staffer told me that it would have unduly affected the stock prices of the telecom firms. The agency also had a Kool-Aid-drinking problem; it started to believe its own legal arguments, however weak. Altogether, it was a cowardly reaction to empty political threats.
Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the F.C.C., now has the unfortunate task of dealing with strategic errors made by his predecessor. Restoring the agency’s long-standing authority over broadband telecommunications is much simpler than it appears. Wheeler needs only to reaffirm that, for Internet firms that want to send information to customers, broadband is a “telecommunications service,” meaning that the F.C.C. has the authority to regulate it. He has both the time and the votes to do so.
It is possible that Wheeler will do nothing, confirming the suspicions of his critics. But it is hard to imagine that he wants to be the man at the helm as the F.C.C. fades, pricing wars break out, and the Internet stagnates into a version of cable television. To be sure, in the short term, one can attract plenty of praise within Washington for not doing one’s job. But Wheeler has been around long enough to understand both the importance of legacy and the judgment of history.
Again, who killed Net Neurality?
As in any big mistake, there were compounding errors. Members of Congress threatened to strip the F.C.C. of some of its powers if it enacted the rules with the full weight of its legal authority.
Thanks again, Congress….
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) won its challenge to U.S. open-Internet rules as an appeals court said the Federal Communications Commission overreached in barring broadband providers from slowing or blocking selected Web traffic.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today sent the rules back to the FCC, which may attempt to rewrite them.
The rules required companies that provide high-speed Internet service over wires to treat all traffic equally. With the regulation voided, companies such as Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. could face new charges for the fastest connections.
"The hottest new club in New York is PRISM. It has EVERYTHING: your name, your email, your phone number, your Google search about hobbits…"— Caitlin Kelly (@atotalmonet) June 7, 2013
Two different versions of the PRISM scandal were emerging on Thursday with Silicon Valley executives denying all knowledge of the top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the internet giants’ servers.
The eavesdropping program is detailed in the form of PowerPoint slides in a leaked NSA document, seen and authenticated by the Guardian, which states that it is based on “legally-compelled collection” but operates with the “assistance of communications providers in the US.”
Each of the 41 slides in the document displays prominently the corporate logos of the tech companies claimed to be taking part in PRISM.
However, senior executives from the internet companies expressed surprise and shock and insisted that no direct access to servers had been offered to any government agency.
The top-secret NSA briefing presentation set out details of the PRISM program, which it said granted access to records such as emails, chat conversations, voice calls, documents and more. The presentation the listed dates when document collection began for each company, and said PRISM enabled “direct access from the servers of these US service providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple”.
Senior officials with knowledge of the situation within the tech giants admitted to being confused by the NSA revelations, and said if such data collection was taking place, it was without companies’ knowledge.
But what would happen in a regulation-free vacuum — essentially the wild west of the communications world — if the nation’s largest telecom company is allowed to operate with impunity? So far, public officials are not asking that question because they’re too busy praising AT&T’s announcements of billions of dollars of investment in new wireless broadband networks, supported with funds from President Barack Obama’s National Broadband Plan.
Because IP networks are regulated differently, they are not subject to rules that encourage universal access by making low-cost options available in under-served communities. The FCC also does not yet have rules for what reasonable exchange costs are with Internet-based communications.
Rules governing the networks that make landlines work prevent AT&T from telling smaller companies that connection exchange rates will suddenly double or triple for calls coming onto AT&T’s network. Without such regulation, AT&T could run an abusive monopoly with these exchange charges, leaving smaller carriers with no choice but to pay up and pass costs onto consumers. This means AT&T’s plan has the potential to drive up prices and drive down competition.
Since when is the FBI available (for anyone with the right social connections) as a private troll-uncloaking cyber police force?
Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the FBI to take action on an actual online death threat case, if the recipient isn’t a well-connected “honorary ambassador” in the military social elite? The short version: it simply does not happen. This whole story smells.
As former Wired News reporter Ryan Singel tweeted, “If the Broadwell/Petraeus case doesn’t show how ridiculous the FBI’s powers are, I don’t know what will prove it to you.”