Thursday, May 15, 2014

Keep the Internet Free

The FCC has invited the public to send comments regarding the reclassification of Internet Service Providers as Title II Common Carriers. Why is this important?

In 2002, the FCC re-classified a subset of the last mile internet providers, the cable companies, as "information services" providers under Title III of the Communications Act of 1934. At the same time, they left the phone companies as Title II Common Carriers. This condition is such that cable companies could discriminate against traffic and did not have to share their networks with competitors while the phone companies were still common carriers and had to share their networks.

The difference in classification is the reason why the cable companies are now dominant in terms of speed and pricing for access to their networks. In the following years, Congress offered the phone companies an opportunity to escape the common carrier classification by building out fiber and other high speed networks. As a result, phone companies are abandoning the public switched networks they built decades ago in favor of IP or network based voice communication so that they too, could call themselves an "information services" provider.

The results are really starting to show as in recent months, Netflix, one of the biggest users of the available bandwidth today, has signed agreements with Comcast and Verizon to provide a 'fast lane" for access to the same services. Comcast and Verizon are now in the untenable position of being able to charge their customers twice: once for the service they are already paying for, and once again for Netflix to get priority over their network. This is the start of a trend that will make the internet very expensive for everyone.

Regular readers will note that I have many posts on this subject, but this post has something new: something you can do about this situation. In the past several days, I've seen several headlines indicating that the FCC is actively considering re-classifying the ISPs as common carriers. They are now inviting comments on the subject. You can do one of the following:

  1. Call them.
    1. Dial 1-888-225-5322.
    2. Select the following menu options in order: 1, 4, 0.
    3. A person will answer. Be polite.
    4. Say, "I'm calling to ask the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Providers as Title Two Common Carriers."
    5. They'll ask if there is anything else you would like to add.
    6. Say, "No, thank you for your time."
    7. They will enter your comments in a database.
    8. Hang up. You're done.
  2. Write them.
    1. Send an email to with your comments.
I've been studying this issue in-depth for years and have noticed that state legislatures have been working with help from ALEC to disable or prohibit community broadband, too. So I sent the following email:

I am adding my thoughts to the discussion as follows:
Please reclassify internet service providers such as Comcast, Time-Warner and Centurylink as Title II common carriers. My reasoning for reclassification can be found in the link that follows and is incorporated in this comment as if fully set forth: . Summary: if you own the pipes, you're a common carrier and should be regulated as such. Note that this includes open access regulation of common carriers to increase the competition for my business.
Please pre-empt all state laws that prohibit or impair the authority of municipalities such as cities and counties to build and maintain public broadband networks. These networks are known as "municipal broadband" or "community broadband" and are treated as the utility that internet access has become. If cities can grant local franchises (monopolies) to phone and cable companies, then the same cities and counties have the right to build municipal networks when the incumbent service providers fail to meet the needs of the communities they are supposed to serve.
Thank you.
You may receive or find templates to use to send in your own comments. Understand that you are sending information to a database. Use your own language or paraphrase someone else's comments or template. Adding differentiation makes your comments unique and improves the quality of the message that we send to the government when we are not satisfied with the service we are getting.

The fact that the FCC is even listening to comments about reclassification of the ISPs is astonishing to say the least. So at least you will be heard. They are already getting an earful and the torrent is increasing in size and scope as this news is recognized over the internet. 

This is our hour. We can do better than accessing the internet through a private monopoly that uses scarcity and collusion to maintain fat profit margins over a network that should have been converted to a strictly regulated public utility years ago.

We can ask for a change for the better. Let the FCC know how you think and feel about a 21st century service that works for everyone. Today.
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