from the shouting-questions-in-a-crowded-hallway dept.
John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.
“Not only did they get in between me and O’Rielly but they put their shoulders together and simultaneously backed me up into the wall and pinned me to the wall for about 10 seconds just as I started to say, “Commissioner O’Rielly, I have a question,” Donnelly said Friday.
Donnelly said he was stopped long enough to allow O’Rielly to walk away.
Donnelly, who also happens to be chair of the National Press Club Press Freedom team, said he was then forced out of the building after being asked why he had not posed his question during the news conference.
O'Rielly apologized to Donnelly on Twitter, saying he didn't recognize Donnelly in the hallway. "I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn't see anyone put a hand on you. I'm sorry this occurred."
Senators, including Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, are warning the Federal Communications Commission about its treatment of reporters after a CQ Roll Call reporter was manhandled Thursday.
“The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. As The Washington Post pointed out, it’s standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences,” the Iowa Republican said. “It happens all day, every day. There’s no good reason to put hands on a reporter who’s doing his or her job.”
- The Verge
- New York TImes
- Washington Examiner
- New York Daily News
- The Hill
- The Hill
- CBS News
- Daily Caller
- Vice Motherboard
- Ars Technica
- The Meridian Star (Meridian, Mississippi; opinion)
Reporter Arrested for "Yelling Questions" at HHS Secretary Tom Price
FCC to Make Proposals Public, Rescinds Net Neutrality Claims
ISPs “Reminded” to Not Use Government Money for Alcohol and Vacations
Buyer's Remorse on Net Neutrality
FTC V. AT&T to be Reheard
Bot Floods the FCC's Website with Anti-Net Neutrality Comments
John Oliver Leads Net Neutrality Defenders to Crash FCC Website. Again.
Crowdfunded Billboards Shame Four Members of Congress Who Sold Out Your Online Privacy
Trump Signs Bill Allowing ISPs to Share or Sell Customers' Browsing History
"Dig Once" Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet to Much of the US
US Congress is Trying to Roll Back Internet Privacy Protections [UPDATED]
Rally Marks Anniversary of Net Neutrality Rule as New FCC Chair Puts It in Crosshairs
FCC Lets "Billion-Dollar" ISPs Hide Fees and Data Caps, Democrat Says
With Net Neutrality Pretty Much Dead in the US, Your Privacy is Next
Ajit Pai to Become New Head of the FCC
FCC's Tom Wheeler Accuses AT&T and Verizon of Violating Possibly Short-Lived Net Neutrality Rules
After Setback, FCC Chairman Keeps Pushing Set-Top Box and Privacy Rules
Facebook in Talks With U.S. Government About Bringing "Free Basics" to America
Verizon to Disconnect Unlimited Data Users Who Use "Extraordinary" Amounts of Data
U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules in Full
Netflix Slows Data Transmission for Certain Customers
Facebook Moves in to Make the Web a Facebook Monopoly
The Dragonslayer: An Interview with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
How a DIY Network Plans to Subvert Time Warner Cable's NYC Internet Monopoly
Six Senators Show Stupidity
FCC Had "Productive" Net Neutrality Talks With Comcast and T-Mobile
The bloom may have already fallen off the Net Neutrality rose. As reported yesterday in the Wall Street Journal (paywalled):
When Google's Eric Schmidt called White House officials a few weeks ago to oppose President Obama's demand that the Internet be regulated as a utility, they told him to buzz off. The chairman of the company that led lobbying for "net neutrality" learned the Obama plan made in its name instead micromanages the Internet.
Mr. Schmidt is not the only liberal mugged by the reality of Obamanet, approved on party lines last week by the Federal Communications Commission. The 300-plus pages of regulations remain secret, but as details leak out, liberals have joined the opposition to ending the Internet as we know it.
It seems as though, in their zeal to "stick it" to the ISPs, most proponents didn't consider that when you allow 3 unelected people to issue rulings on something as large and ubiquitous as the Internet, bad things can happen:
Until Congress or the courts block Obamanet, expect less innovation. During a TechFreedom conference last week, dissenting FCC commissioner Ajit Pai asked: "If you were an entrepreneur trying to make a splash in a marketplace that's already competitive, how are you going to differentiate yourself if you have to build into your equation whether or not regulatory permission is going to be forthcoming from the FCC? According to this, permissionless innovation is a thing of the past."
The other dissenting Republican commissioner, Michael O'Rielly, warned: "When you see this document, it's worse than you imagine." The FCC has no estimate on when it will make the rules public.
Internet service providers who accept government funding in exchange for providing Internet access in rural areas were "reminded" this week that they're not allowed to use the money for food, alcohol, entertainment, personal travel, and other expenses unrelated to providing Internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice with a "non-exhaustive list of expenditures" that cannot be reimbursed. The list includes all of the above as well as political contributions, charitable donations, scholarships, payment of penalties and fines, club membership fees, sponsorships of conferences and community events, gifts to employees, and personal expenses of employees and family members "including but not limited to personal expenses for housing, such as rent or mortgages."
The ban on using subsidies for food includes but is "not limited to meals to celebrate personal events, such as weddings, births, or retirements," the FCC said.
This money comes from the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is paid for by Americans through fees imposed on phone bills.
Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O'Rielly wrote that while "the vast number of providers" would not take advantage of the system, "there are unfortunate examples to the contrary and spending on outrageous items has occurred."
The Federal Communications Commission says it has had "productive" discussions with Comcast and T-Mobile USA about whether data cap exemptions conflict with the goals of net neutrality.
The FCC sent letters last month asking Comcast, T-Mobile, and AT&T to meet with commission staff by January 15. The FCC has met with Comcast and T-Mobile, but not AT&T. A meeting with AT&T has been scheduled.
"FCC staff had productive discussions with company representatives as part of a larger policy examination of trends in the market. We cannot comment on the details of individual meetings," FCC spokesperson Kim Hart told Ars.
When asked if there will be any action taken against the companies, Hart said, "This is not an enforcement action or investigation, as the Chairman [Tom Wheeler] has made clear. Direct dialogue with companies is an important way in which the Commission can watch and learn, and consistent with our approach in the Open Internet Order."
In an absolute surprise to nobody, six Senators came out today saying something along the lines of 5Mbps should be enough for anybody:
Today's letter from Steve Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) is almost hilarious in its deep misunderstanding about how people actually use the internet and what they need. The senators say that the 25Mbps standard is unnecessary because, for example, Netflix only recommends a download speed of 5Mbps for HD video, and Amazon only 3.5Mbps. (The recommendation for 4K video from Netflix is actually 25Mbps, but we suppose lawmakers agree that nobody should enjoy Ultra HD content yet.)
The senators say they are "concerned that this arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark fails to accurately capture what most Americans consider broadband," and that "the use of this benchmark discourages broadband providers from offering speeds at or above the benchmark." If these sound exactly like talking points from Verizon, Comcast, and other major ISPs, that's because they are: Comcast loves to tell Americans that they don't need faster internet, and ISPs join together every time they are about to be regulated to say that regulations will chill their future investments. Ars Technica reported that Republicans in Congress echoed ISP spin about network investments in hearings over net neutrality, but then just three months after the net neutrality rules took effect last year, Comcast posted earnings that showed its capital expenditures actually increased by 11 percent. So the idea that creating a standard will discourage ISPs from meeting that standard is total nonsense.
What about you lot? Does your connection meet the new broadband definition? Mine matches the download side but fails by two thirds on the upload side.
In a warehouse basement in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood late last year, a handful of self-taught network engineers gathered to casually discuss how they might make Time Warner Cable irrelevant in their lives.
Toppling—or at least subverting—a telecom monopoly is the dream of many an American, who are fed up with bait-and-switch advertising campaigns, arbitrary data caps, attacks on net neutrality, overzealous political lobbying, lackluster customer service, and passive-aggressive service cancellation experiences that are a common experience of simply being a broadband internet customer these days. The folks at NYC Mesh are actually doing something about it.
The Verge has published an interview with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler which touches on net neutrality, software defined radio, software defined networking, zero-rating cell-phone data plans, opening up the cablebox to 3rd party access and how his experience as a telecom lobbyist has inured him to lobbyist tactics. In recent days, Wheeler has suggested that, contrary to convention, he might not leave his seat at the FCC when Obama leaves office.
There's a a growing trend to close off publishing platforms by demanding a login in order to view the content. Which is a move away from an open web. In December 2015 Facebook launched its own in-app browser, which is basically a web-view that loads links you tap on using the Facebook app. It may provide convenience for some but the primary goal is to keep users inside the application longer. This opens up more advertising exposure and associated revenue. This poses a challenge to the open web because this overrides the user's default mobile browser keeps the eyeballs in a closed ecosystem. The feature Instant Articles for publishers is done such that it loads articles available nearly instantly in the app compared to a mobile browser. This opens up for monetizing viewing and privacy invasions by Facebook on users. The in-app browser lack decent privacy controls.
Facebook is trying to accomplish a closed version of the internet. The Free Basics initiative with Facebook as the gatekeeper offers users free access to select websites. This initiative made privacy advocates in India, who play an instrumental role in the makeup of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to vote on 2016-02-08 that all data pricing must be equal, and that companies cannot offer cheaper rates than others for certain content. The decision favours net neutrality and essentially bans Facebook's initiative in that country. The Indian TRAI ruling states that pricing must be content agnostic. Facebook has become a monolithic platform that tries to mimic existing services by offering video uploads (YouTube), money transfers (PayPal) etc. Facebook is expanding like a invasive species similar to the Borg from Star Trek trying to absorb everything that touches their sphere of interest.
In the future, could resistance be futile because you will miss out essential information?
Angry Netflix customers are a force to be reckoned with, and they're the ones owed an explanation about why the company would slow the transmission of video streams to some wireless customers without informing them.
Netflix found itself in the hot seat after admitting, in a Wall Street Journal story Thursday, that for five years it had been tamping down service to Verizon and AT&T customers. What's more, the Los Gatos, California, company said the policy excluded customers of T-Mobile and Sprint.
Critics immediately cried foul on Netflix, seeing hypocrisy on the part of a company that two years ago led a fight to require the Federal Communications Commission to adopt "strong" Net neutrality rules that would ban Internet service providers from slowing traffic under almost any circumstances. Netflix also wanted the FCC to require operators to be more transparent in how they manage their networks.
But the most galling aspect may be that Netflix never notified its customers that it was imposing a slowdown.
"There is nothing wrong with what Netflix is doing," said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a group that has opposed the FCC's Net neutrality regulations. "Except for not making it public."
In a bit of good news for the Obama administration (and most Americans), the U.S. D.C Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC's Open Internet Order rules:
High-speed internet service can be defined as a utility, a federal court has ruled, a decision clearing the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users.
The court's decision upholds the F.C.C. on the declaration of broadband as a utility, the most significant aspect of the rules. That has broad-reaching implications for web and telecommunications companies and signals a shift in the government's view of broadband as a service that should be equally accessible to all Americans, rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision.
The court's opinion can be found here.
Two separate submissions on the same topic here.
Verizon to Disconnect Unlimited Data Users Who Use "Extraordinary" Amounts of Data
According to sources of ours, Verizon is working on an Unlimited Data Plan Migration for the highest unlimited data users on their network. Starting tomorrow, July 21, Verizon will begin notifying users who have been flagged as using that "extraordinary" amount via mailer and through bill messages and explain to them their options to stay with Big Red.
What are their options? Verizon is forcing these out of contract "extraordinary" data users to move to The Verizon Plan (a tiered plan) by August 31 or they will shut down the line. If they don't take that option by August 31 and their line is disconnected, they will have up to 50 days to re-activate, but of course, they can only do so by switching over to The Verizon Plan.
Verizon to disconnect unlimited data customers who use over 100GB/month
Verizon Wireless customers who have held on to unlimited data plans and use significantly more than 100GB a month will be disconnected from the network on August 31 unless they agree to move to limited data packages that require payment of overage fees.
Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new smartphone customers in 2011, but some customers have been able to hang on to the old plans instead of switching to ones with monthly data limits. Verizon has tried to convert the holdouts by raising the price $20 a month and occasionally throttling heavy users but stopped that practice after net neutrality rules took effect. Now Verizon is implementing a formal policy for disconnecting the heaviest users.
The news was reported by Droid Life yesterday, and Verizon confirmed the changes to Ars this morning.
"Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016," a Verizon spokesperson told Ars. "These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB). While the Verizon Plan at 100GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device."
The 100GB plan costs $450 a month.
Facebook is interested in bringing zero-rated "Free Basics" Internet access to Americans, after its failure in India:
Facebook has been in talks for months with U.S. government officials and wireless carriers with an eye toward unveiling an American version of an app that has caused controversy abroad, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The social media giant is trying to determine how to roll out its program, known as Free Basics, in the United States without triggering the regulatory scrutiny that effectively killed a version of the app in India earlier this year. If Facebook succeeds with its U.S. agenda for Free Basics — which has not been previously reported — it would mark a major victory for the company as it seeks to connect millions more to the Web, and to its own platform.
The U.S. version of Free Basics would target low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed Internet at home or on smartphones. The app does not directly pay for users' mobile data. Rather, it allows users to stretch their data plans by offering, in partnership with wireless carriers, free Internet access to resources such as online news, health information and job leads.
After a rare setback, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is still pushing for votes on plans to reform the cable TV set-top box market and impose new privacy rules on broadband providers.
The FCC was scheduled to vote on the cable TV plan at its last meeting on September 29 but removed it from the agenda when the commission's Democratic majority couldn't agree on all the details. Last-minute negotiations aren't uncommon before FCC meetings, but this was a rare case of Wheeler not having enough votes to move forward with a controversial agenda item.
The cable TV proposal—which would require TV providers to make video applications for third-party set-top boxes—is not on the agenda for next week's FCC meeting. But it could theoretically be passed at any time, as commissioners can vote on it between meetings. It's not clear whether a vote is imminent, but Wheeler touted the plan again in an op-ed on CNET yesterday.
"There is currently a proposal before the FCC that would end the set-top box stranglehold," Wheeler wrote. "If adopted, consumers would no longer have to pay monthly fees to rent a box. Instead, they would be able to access their pay-TV content via free apps on a variety of devices, including smart TVs, streaming boxes, tablets and smartphones. Consumers would also enjoy a better viewing experience thanks to integrated search and new innovation that will flow from enhanced competitive choice."
The TV plan has faced persistent opposition from the cable industry, even though the FCC changed it to assuage some of the industry's concerns. Industry opposition hasn't stopped the FCC from approving other controversial rules, such as the reclassification of broadband and imposition of net neutrality regulations. But in this case, the vote was delayed because Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel seems to be concerned about how cable company applications would be licensed to third-party device makers.
In his final days as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler has accused AT&T and Verizon Wireless of violating net neutrality rules with "zero-rating" policies:
Wheeler described his views in a letter to US senators who had expressed concern about the data cap exemptions, or "zero-rating." FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau staff today also issued a report concluding that AT&T and Verizon zero-rating programs are unfair to competitors. Both Wheeler's letter and the staff report can be read in full here.
The main issue is that AT&T and Verizon allow their own video services (DirecTV and Go90, respectively) to stream on their mobile networks without counting against customers' data caps, while charging other video providers for the same data cap exemptions. The FCC also examined T-Mobile USA's zero-rating program but found that it poses no competitive harms because T-Mobile offers data cap exemptions to third parties free of charge. T-Mobile also "provides little streaming video programming of its own," giving it less incentive to disadvantage video companies that need to use the T-Mobile network, the FCC said.
Several news sites are reporting that Donald Trump is looking to elevate Ajit Pai to head up the FCC:
Ajit Pai, a Republican Federal Communications Commission member and foe of net neutrality regulation, will be named to head the agency, according to a person familiar with the transition.
Pai has often dissented as FCC Democrats voted for tighter regulations, including the 2015 open internet, or net neutrality, decision that forbids internet service providers from unfairly blocking or slowing web traffic. The rule opposed by AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. is among those likely to be reversed by president Donald Trump's FCC, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts.
Full of confidence in Ajit Pai – the new boss at the FCC, America's communications watchdog – groups representing US telcos are seeking a repeal of the regulator's privacy rules.
Citing the appointment of Pai and the imminent decision to roll back the previous administration's net neutrality protections, industry groups now hope that the little requirement for an opt-in for the collection of user data will be frozen, if not done away with completely.
[...] "For over twenty years, ISPs have protected their consumers' data with the strongest pro-consumer policies in the internet ecosystem," the group writes.
"ISPs know the success of any digital business depends on earning their customers' trust on privacy."
FCC Tries Something New: Making Proposals Public Before Voting on Them
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday announced a seemingly simple step to make the FCC's rulemaking process more open to the public: the FCC intends to release the full text of rulemakings before they're voted on instead of days after the vote.
Pai and fellow Republican Michael O'Rielly repeatedly complained about the secrecy of rulemakings when Democrat Tom Wheeler was chairman. Wheeler followed the practice of previous chairs by publicly releasing a summary of the proposed rules a few weeks before the FCC's meetings, while negotiations over the final text of orders continued behind closed doors. The actual text of rulemakings wasn't released until after the vote. In the case of net neutrality, Pai complained three weeks before the vote that he couldn't share the full text of the draft order with the public. The full text wasn't released until two weeks after the vote.
"Today, we begin the process of making the FCC more open and transparent," Pai said yesterday. He then released the text of two proposals scheduled for a vote at the commission's meeting on February 23, one on allowing TV broadcasters to use the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard and another on "giving AM radio broadcasters more flexibility in siting their FM translators."
[...] This would certainly make it easier for journalists to report on the impacts of rulemakings before they're voted on. Congressional Republicans pressed Wheeler to make releasing the text of orders in advance a standard practice, and there is pending legislation that would make it a requirement. But Wheeler said during his chairmanship that such a practice would cause long delays in rulemakings. Wheeler told Republicans in Congress in May 2015 that making the full text public in advance could make it easier for opponents to kill proposals they don't like.
[...] While Pai hasn't yet committed to making the pre-vote release of orders permanent, O'Rielly said he's confident that the pilot project will go smoothly. "If this initial attempt goes well—and I see no reason why it wouldn't—I think we will all find this to be a significant upgrade in terms of quality of feedback, quality of process, and ultimately quality of the commission's work product," O'Rielly said. O'Rielly acknowledged that the change "may make our jobs a bit more challenging," but he added that "it is the right thing to do for the American people, the practitioners before the commission and the professional press who report on commission activities."
FCC Rescinds Claim That AT&T and Verizon Violated Net Neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission's new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions. The FCC released its report on the data cap exemptions (aka "zero-rating") in the final days of Democrat Tom Wheeler's chairmanship. Because new Chairman Ajit Pai opposed the investigation, the FCC has now formally closed the proceeding.
The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA notifying the carriers "that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward." The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau also sent a letter to Comcast closing an inquiry into the company's Stream TV cable service, which does not count against data caps.
The FCC issued an order that "sets aside and rescinds" the Wheeler-era report on zero-rating. All "guidance, determinations, and conclusions" from that report are rescinded, and it will have no legal bearing on FCC proceedings going forward, the order said.
[...] Pai opposed Wheeler's zero-rating investigation, saying that free data offerings are "popular among consumers precisely because they allow more access to online music, videos, and other content free of charge." He has also vowed to overturn the FCC's net neutrality rules and hasn't committed to enforcing them while they remain in place. "While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories," Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said today.
ISPs with 250,000 or fewer subscribers won't have to follow rules that require greater disclosures about fees and data caps after a vote today [pdf] by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC's Republican majority approved the change to help small providers avoid "onerous reporting obligations" included in the 2015 net neutrality order, they said. But by setting the threshold at 250,000 subscribers and exempting small ISPs owned by larger companies, the FCC is effectively "exempt[ing] billion-dollar public companies" from rules that can be complied with in mere hours each year, said Mignon Clyburn, the FCC's only Democrat.
The commission's 2015 order temporarily exempted ISPs with 100,000 or fewer subscribers from the so-called enhanced transparency requirements, but that exemption expired in December 2016. Clyburn said she would support reinstating the exemption for ISPs with 100,000 or fewer subscribers, but she [pdf] dissented from today's order.
The 250,000-subscriber exemption won't apply to the top broadband providers such as Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, and others. But it will exempt many ISPs owned by conglomerates, Clyburn said.
"Many of the nation's largest broadband providers are actually holding companies, comprised of many smaller operating companies," Clyburn said. "So what today's Order does is exempt these companies' affiliates that have under 250,000 connections by declining to aggregate the connection count at the holding company level."
The original exemption [pdf] for ISPs with 100,000 or fewer subscribers was applied to the aggregated total of subscribers "across all affiliates," so that small ISPs owned by big holding companies wouldn't be exempt. That changed today, according to Clyburn.
Also at TechCrunch
Common Dreams reports:
Proponents of an open internet are holding a rally on Monday [February 27] to mark the two-year anniversary of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote that enshrined net neutrality protections that the new Trump administration has already begun eroding.
The 3pm event in Washington, D.C [was] backed by the Color of Change, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Center for Media Justice, and Free Press, and will feature the FCC's only Democratic commissioner, Mignon Clyburn.
[...] According to Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy for Free Press, "No FCC chair over the past 40 years has been so bent on undermining the agency's public-service mission and destroying the safeguards on which hundreds of millions of Americans rely."
Laying out the stakes, Max Anderson, coordinator for Human Rights Watch's general counsel's office, wrote last week:
Should net neutrality be scrapped in the U.S., it will enable service providers to throttle internet speeds or block access to websites based on commercial deals they cut with media providers. That would undermine freedom of expression and access to information. Once these practices have been established, it's a short step to other human rights consequences. Governments that already attempt to stifle lawful online expression will welcome a new tool for silencing critics. The FCC should retain its good example to the world and enforce net neutrality. If the internet stands a chance of enabling the realization of human rights, then access needs to be nondiscriminatory and in line with human rights in the widest sense.
[...] So, what can people do?
"The short answer is to raise hell", said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, to Mercury News columnist Troy Wolverton.
"Net neutrality is an issue that a lot of people care about--millions and millions more than the FCC ever expected", Aaron said. "We need to hear from those people again."
The good old days: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules in Full
What's that? You thought we fought this one before? FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period (Again)
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Back in 2014 over 3 million Internet users told the U.S. government loudly and clearly: we value our online security, we value our online privacy, and we value net neutrality. Our voices helped convince the FCC to enact smart net neutrality regulations—including long-needed privacy rules.
But it appears some members of Congress didn't get the message, because they're trying to roll back the FCC's privacy rules right now without having anything concrete ready to replace them. We're talking here about basic requirements, like getting your explicit consent before using your private information to do anything other than provide you with Internet access (such as targeted advertising). Given how much private information your ISP has about you, strict limits on what they do with it are essential.
[...] Late last year, the FCC passed rules that would require ISPs to protect your private information. It covered the things you would usually associate with having an account with a major company (your name and address, financial information, etc.) but also things like any records they keep on your browsing history, geolocation information (think cell phones), and the content of your communications. Overall, the rules were pretty darn good.
But now, Senator Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Blackburn (R-TN) want to use a tool known as a Congressional Review Act [CRA] resolution to totally repeal those protections. The CRA allows Congress to veto any regulation written by a federal agency (like the FCC). Worse yet, it forbids the agency from passing any "substantially similar" regulations in the future, so the FCC would be forbidden from ever trying to regulate ISP privacy practices. At the same time, some courts have limited the Federal Trade Commission's ability protect your privacy, too.
With the hands of two federal agencies tied, ISPs themselves would be largely in change of protecting their customer's privacy. In other words, the fox will be guarding the henhouse.
[...] So please, take action and call your senator and representative today, and tell them not to use the CRA to repeal the FCC's privacy rules.
A story on Ars Technica notes:
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Years in the making, a proposal to mandate the installation of fiber conduits during federally funded highway projects might be gaining some new momentum.
If the US adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished.
The idea is an old one. US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband—her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband.
Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure."
The Inquirer reports
Donald Trump has signed the bill that will allow ISPs to share or sell customers' browsing history for advertising purposes.
Last week, the Republican House of Representatives passed a resolution which overturns a rule laid down by the FCC during the Obama administration that meant that users had to give their permission before such data was used by third-parties and any breach would be reported as a hack.
President Trump signed the bill on Monday [April 4], which means while many ISPs say they will not sell respect[sic] customers privacy and won't flag their browsing history and other personal data, they can now do so under the new rules. Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast will no longer be obligated to obtain consent before selling and sharing data, and they don't have to notify customers about what kind of data they collect.
[...] There's one winner of this privacy-destroying bill, though, and that's VPN providers.
NordVPN said it has already seen an 86 per cent spike in [inquiries].
Common Cause published, via Common Dreams, a comment from Statement of Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner & Common Cause Special Adviser:
Despite a campaign filled with rhetoric about the plight of forgotten Americans, Trump has once again come down on the side of corporate profiteering at the expense of Americans who don't sit on corporate boards and can't afford a $200,000 membership at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Trump has flip-flipped on his own campaign promises and handed over Americans' right to privacy to those with the deepest pockets.
Last month, Congress voted to repeal FCC rules that would prevent internet service providers from selling your personal web browsing and app usage data. It was a decision that's unpopular across the country, regardless of party affiliation. If the politicians that voted in favor of the reversal thought no one would notice, there are some big ass signs in their districts that say otherwise.
The internet activists at the non-profit Fight for the Future have crowdfunded four billboards, so far, that shame the members of congress that voted for the repeal. The lawmakers that have the honor of being called out will now have to see their face along the highway when they return home. Those lucky few are Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Rutherford (R-FL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). These four lawmakers accepted a combined $196,905 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry in the last election cycle. Blackburn, in particular, has been a longtime enemy of net neutrality. Just last year, she brought up SOPA and tried to frame it as an initiative that would have increased cybersecurity.
Common Dreams reports
Last Week Tonight host John Oliver on [May 7] issued another powerful rallying cry to save net neutrality protections, and, repeating the outcome of his 2014 plea, his viewers flooded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) site, causing it to temporarily crash.
[...] Oliver said it's worth noting that [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai is "a former lawyer for Verizon", a company which "won a lawsuit which meant that if the FCC wanted strong, enforceable protection, its only real option was to reclassify the ISPs, and yet he cheerily insists under questioning that there is just not evidence that cable companies were engaging in rampant wrongdoing".
"Title II is the most solid legal foundation we have right now for a strong, enforceable net neutrality protections", Oliver said, and urged "we, the people, [to] take this matter into our own hands".
To that end, Last Week Tonight bought the domain name gofccyourself.com, which redirects users to the official FCC page where open internet advocates can leave a comment and call for these protections to remain in place. (Oliver notes that it simplifies the commenting process the FCC "has made more difficult since three years ago".)
"Everyone needs to get involved. Comment now, and then maybe comment again when the FCC makes its proposal official. Even call you representative and your senators", Oliver urged.
So successful was the start of his campaign, according to Motherboard, that there was such a high volume of traffic flooding the Federal Communications Commission that the site temporarily went down. As of this writing, it is up and running again.
 The fcc.gov page is almost entirely behind scripts.
A bot is thought to be behind the posting of thousands of messages to the FCC's website, in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality.
Late last month, FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced his agency's plans to roll back an Obama-era framework for net neutrality, which rule that internet providers must treat all internet content equally.
Since then, the FCC's public comments system has been flooded with a barrage of comments -- well over half-a-million responses at the time of writing -- in part thanks to comedian John Oliver raising the issue on his weekly show on Sunday.
[...] But a sizable portion of those comments are fake, and are repeating the same manufactured response again and again:
[...] "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation," the comment says. "I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years."
NotSanguine called it! https://soylentnews.org/comments.pl?sid=19421&cid=506966
[Public News Service of West Virginia Reporter Daniel Ralph Heyman] has been arrested and charged with "disruption of government services" in the state capitol for "yelling questions" at visiting Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway.
[...] "The above defendant was aggressively breaching the secret service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol," the complaint states. It adds Heyman caused a disturbance by "yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price."
The misdemeanor carries a possible fine of $100 and up to six months in jail.
[...] The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia called the charges "outrageous" and said the arrest was "a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press."
"Freedom of the press is being eroded every day, " it said in a statement. "We have a president who calls the media 'fake news' and resists transparency at every turn."
The statement said this is a "dangerous time in the country."
Price and Conway were in West Virginia to discuss opioid addiction in the state, which has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.
In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit dealt the Federal Trade Commission a major blow by calling into question one of the consumer protection agency's most important powers. The court said the FTC should be banned from regulating a company if even a small part of that firm's business is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission as a telecom service, otherwise known as a "common carrier."
[...] The court's decision this week to rehear the case served to nullify the ruling, so the loophole is temporarily closed. But it could easily be reopened if the court comes to the same conclusion, analysts say. Other possibilities include reversing the court's previous position entirely or coming down somewhere in the middle.
AT&T said in a statement that it looked forward to participating in the rehearing.
The outcome of the case won't just affect the FTC; it may also lend momentum to the FCC's effort to repeal its own net neutrality rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the trade commission should be responsible for policing internet providers, not the FCC. Right now, the FTC has no power over ISPs because the net neutrality rules consider all ISPs as common carriers.
Undoing the 9th Circuit's ruling for good would mean giving the FTC the ability once again to go after the parts of an ISP's business that aren't common carrier-related. But the FCC wants to go further than that. Pai has proposed undoing the classification of ISPs as common carriers, which could give the FTC even greater jurisdiction over internet providers.