The loss of net neutrality this week was even bigger than expected.
This time of year is always the worst of times and best of times for internet freedom. Internet activistAaron Swartzcommitted suicide on January 4 of last year. Two years ago today, millions took part in the successful 2012 SOPA/PIPA Blackout protest, followed last year by an event many of us celebrated for the first time as Internet Freedom Day. (You can read all about Internet Freedom Day here, but basically, we should have at least one special day designated for celebratingone of the most revolutionary technologies the world has ever known.)
And this week, on January 14, the FCCs network neutrality rule wasgutted. So now, the internet freedom issue we need to focus on is network neutrality.
Because with the recent ruling, cable and phone companies like Verizon and AT&T now have the legal right to block any website, webpage, blog, video, web technology, app, cloud sync technology, or anything else running online through their pipes. Put another way, Comcast or Time Warner Cable can now block Netflix, BitTorrent, or even this article. They can choose to provide better service to some entities and not others, letting some websites load very, very slowly and others load instantly (for a fee!).
Even though we predicted this decision here in WIRED, it turns out that the real problem isnt the courts decision but the FCCs response to it.
Rather than taking the difficult (political) journey to protect internet freedom, the FCC is issuing deluded statements that no journey is necessary. Itd be like Frodo saying hes going to save Middle Earth except without carrying the ring to Mount Doom, the only place it can be destroyed.
In this case, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is Frodo and Mount Doom is a legal move called reclassification, which is the only way to win net neutrality in the courts.
Heres the insider background, one I personally lived. In 2007, when I was a lawyer for the public interest groupFree Press, I helped draft the complaint to the FCC against Comcast for secretly blocking BitTorrent and other technologies. My theory was simple: the FCC had issued a set of Open Internet principles in 2005 and by blocking legal technologies like BitTorrent, Comcast was violating those principles.
Now, the Open Internet principles were not legal rules adopted by the FCC; they were effectively a press statement posted on the FCC website. But we filed that complaint because the FCCs leadership had publiclyand repeatedly promised that if anyone violated the principles, the FCC would have the power and will to stop it. We took the FCC at its word and filed a complaint based on their stated Open Internet principles.
And the FCC ruled in our favor, against Comcast, in 2008. It found that Comcast violated the FCCs principles and that a certain part of the Communications Act, the first part known as Title I, gave the FCC the jurisdiction to act. Then the case went to court, and in January 2010 three years ago this week actually I argued the case, alongside the FCCs top lawyer, before the appellate court. But the three judges there made it clear they didnt buy a single one of our arguments. It was a bloodletting.
Go here to read the rest:
Internet Freedom Day: This Year We Go to War for Net Neutrality