August 6, 2010

To “Do Evil”, Kill Net Neutrality, Kill Democracy


After a day of terrible and then contested news on the net neutrality front, things look somewhat better this morning, as I read a report that the FCC says it’s ending its secret elite corporate summit to dictate the future of the Internet. Meanwhile Google and Verizon dispute the NYT story which has them reaching a bilateral deal to gut net neutrality
Let’s hope these are true. But after all this whip-sawing I refuse to believe anything until I actually see a process being carried out in the full sunlight. Is the FCC going to go ahead with its Third Way plan and the NBP? Let’s see it do so. The fact that it preferred the closed door and the smoky room to democracy remains on the record. If it is now responding to public demand, it is doing so only under duress. (As it evidently did earlier when it seemed to be waving the white flag, and only an angry letter from Rockefeller and Waxman spurred it to renew its proclaimed commitment to a net neutrality standard. It really seems like the FCC obeys whichever was the most recent force vector pressing upon it. This has to be the most inertial agency out there.)
At any rate, I’m not going to change the text of the draft I wrote yesterday, since even if the news therein is for the moment moot, all the anti-political forces I describe remain virulent. The trends remain latent. Unless we continue and redouble our vigilance, this is how it will still end up in the end:
The NYT has taken notice of what the FCC itself calls its attempt to broker a “secret deal” which will decide the future of the Internet.
I’ve already mentioned this FCC-sponsored elitist conclave which seeks to strike a deal between the telecom rackets and the biggest information providers like Google, rackets or proto-rackets themselves. Big info providers have been among the supporters of net neutrality, for the obvious reason that they transmit vast amounts of information and don’t want the added costs which would inevitably be imposed by the telecoms if net neutrality could be gutted. Passing on these expenses to the individual user would be a headache.
Evidently the FCC’s preferred outcome would be if the telecoms would guarantee the biggest providers like Google and Amazon discounts on their “paid prioritization”, and in return those provider rackets (which is what they’d incontrovertibly become if they made such a deal) would drop their net neutrality enshrinement demands. That would save the lazy, conformist FCC its current political headache: They could then say “the stakeholders have agreed, so there’s no need for further action on our part.” (Never mind that the people are not included among the “stakeholders”, as citizens or consumers; even the net neutrality supporters in Congress are elitists who will withdraw their demands if Google does. Al Franken’s petition is good, but we’ll see if he keeps up this fight once the deal is made.)
The new development which provides the occasion for the NYT piece is a possible private side deal between Google and Verizon. According to the piece these players are dissatisfied with the tortuous progress of the conclave and want to wrap up their own deal (which also would encompass other business entanglements between the two which aren’t directly related to net neutrality). But the main result would be to gut net neutrality:

Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.
The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

Such an agreement could overthrow a once-sacred tenet of Internet policy known as net neutrality, in which no form of content is favored over another. In its place, consumers could soon see a new, tiered system, which, like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

If this deal is made, and the administration remains idle, there would no doubt follow a series of other deals and/or a general agreement, and the whole idea of net neutrality and probably of broadband access and Internet democracy itself would unravel. The experiment in Internet democracy would be dead before it reached the age of majority.
The NYT piece tells several lies.

The court decision said the F.C.C. lacked the authority to require that an Internet service provider refrain from blocking or slowing down some content or applications, or giving favor to others. The F.C.C. has since sought another way in which to enforce the concept of net neutrality. But its proposals have been greeted with much objection in Congress and among Internet service providers, cable companies and some Internet content producers.

The court said that under the FCC’s arbitrary 2005 reclassification of access provision as an “information service” (under Title I of the 1996 Communications Act), it couldn’t enforce net neutrality. All the FCC would need to do to resume its authority would be to perform the rational reclassification to Title II, “communications services”. The FCC’s proclaimed preference, the “third way” of retaining Title I classification but exerting “ancillary authority” for the “communications” portion of the service, would also fit the bill. (The “third way” is a pusillanimous cop-out, since these are clearly communication services with some ornamental “information” services like e-mail and such which nobody cares about tacked on purely to justify the scam Title I classification. But just as Goldman’s a hedge fund with a puny bank tacked on, so Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and others are communication providers with some “information service” tacked on. That’s of course enough to satisfy and/or intimidate the government. Still, the “third way”, if actually enforced as advertised, should be sufficient for the time being, and would certainly meet legal muster in any honest court.
We should go much further than Title II classification and break up any vertical monopolies here on anti-trust grounds. How can it be justified to have first an access monopoly and then let it become a content provider? But of course the criminal government is letting the Comcast-NBC merger go through.)

At issue for consumers is how the companies that provide the pipeline to the Internet will ultimately direct traffic on their system, and how quickly consumers are able to gain access to certain Web content. Consumers could also see continually rising bills for Internet service, much as they have for cable television.

“Provide the pipeline”? “Their” system? Wrong – we the people provided the pipeline in the first place. We paid for it. And since it’s been privatized we’ve had to subsidize all infrastructure expansions.

Many content providers — like Amazon, eBay and Skype — prefer no favoritism on the Internet or they want to be sure that if a pay system exists, all content providers have the opportunity to pay for faster service.

That’s some paragraph. We want democracy! – Or, we can accept its destruction if we get a rate.

The F.C.C., meanwhile, favors a level playing field, but it cannot impose one as long as its authority over broadband is in legal doubt. It has proposed a solution that would reclassify broadband Internet service under the Communications Act from its current designation as an “information service,” a lightly regulated designation, to a “telecommunications service,” a category that, like telephone service, is subject to stricter regulation.

This distorts the reality of the FCC’s chosen fecklessness. It can reclassify at will. For the time being it has plenty of political support for doing so: Companies like Google and Amazon, legislators like Rockefeller and Waxman. If it chose to assertively reclassify, it could do so. The fact that it has chosen instead to preside over this elitist secret negotiation proves it would prefer a racketeering “solution”. And like I said, if Google and the others come to an agreement, no doubt the legislative support for net neutrality would evaporate.

Consumer groups have objected to the private meetings, saying that too many stakeholders are being left out of discussions over the future of the Internet.

Mr. Lazarus said the meetings “are part of our efforts to identify the best way forward in the wake of the Comcast case to preserve the openness and vibrancy of the Internet.”

It is explicitly and intentionally anti-democratic, just like Obama’s secret deals with the health insurance and drug rackets for the health racket bailout. No one could seriously argue that consumer and democracy advocates aren’t intentionally, systematically excluded from elitist conclaves like this. Is this unconstitutional against the Constitution as written, or an anti-constitutional end-run around the Constitution completely?
Either way, it’s invalid, illegitimate, anti-sovereign, and unconstitutional against the general constitution of the American people ourselves.
Recently I wrote about the intensifying feudalization of America. Part of the fight against net neutrality and expanded broadband access as an element of citizenship and democracy rather than a commodity (the FCC’s proposed National Broadband Plan, also in limbo amid these machinations) is to entrench the digital divide. (Although so many still go around at least implicitly chanting “We’re #1! USA!”, broadband access is yet another of the long list of metrics by which, relative to its aggregate wealth, the US is an inferior, declining country, slipping to Third World status. According to the Broadband Composite Index, America is 23rd out of 57 industrialized countries in broadband access.)
So we have the secret elite conclave, and we have an astroturf propaganda push against net neutrality, and we even have an aggressive anti-neutrality bill in the Senate, sponsored Jim DeMint, with of course the support of Democrats like Bob Casey (D-Comcast/NBC).  
The feudal goal is simply to rout vast masses of people completely out of “the economy” and the life of the nation. Here they can accomplish vast exclusions by the simple expedient of kicking them off the Internet. The destruction of Internet democracy would also make coordination and resistance to feudalization all the more difficult, which is also part of the plan. (I’ll again make my quaint suggestion that we need non-electronic physical printing presses. I maintain that’s a necessary prep measure, in the same vein as self-reliant food production and off-grid medicine.)
So it’s the stateless alien elites deciding the fate of the people beyond any sunlight of accountability, any motion of democracy. We’ve seen how that works out. So will the people stand for this, or lie in the mud for it, to be trodden upon? That’s what’s happened every time so far. We ask, where will we draw the line, stop them, and start driving them back?
If we don’t draw the line here at the last real democratic space left, we render the already herculean task of drawing a line at all far more difficult.

1 Comment

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