Net neutrality and 'Restoring Internet freedom'
- This essay is on Wikiversity to encourage a wide discussion of the issues it raises moderated by the Wikimedia rules that invite contributors to “be bold but not reckless,” contributing revisions written from a neutral point of view, citing credible sources -- and raising other questions and concerns on the associated '“Discuss”' page.
Quite possibly the single most consequential action of the Trump administration short of nuclear war is their efforts to destroy net neutrality. They claim they are "restoring Internet freedom", being the freedom of major Internet access providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Spectrum (formerly Chartered and TWC) to block, throttle, alter (including stripping encryption), and redirect your requests for information from the Internet.
This is an issue that many people have not even heard of.
It's not well known partly because the mainstream media have a conflict of interest in reporting on it.
It's consequential, because if Trump's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) succeeds in destroying net neutrality, it will be much harder for individuals and small businesses to reach an audience, and much harder for Internet entrepreneurs to develop new ways of using the Internet. That's because Internet access providers have in the past and will in the future, block, throttle, alter, and redirect content they don't like and increase their rates to deliver content at the standard high speeds that everyone now expects. Internet access providers do not want competition from individuals, small businesses and Internet startups.
What is net neutrality, and why is it important?
Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet access providers.
- Net neutrality means that anyone with an Internet connection can compete in the marketplace of ideas based solely on the quality of their presentation.
Net neutrality is important, because
- Progress on many and perhaps all substantive issues facing humanity today is blocked, because every countermeasure threatens someone with substantive control over the media.
We next consider a few examples of media bias.
Saudi Arabia and Islamic terrorism
A US government document declassified July 15, 2016, included summaries of FBI records from 1999 of incidents apparently funded by the Saudis testing US security measures in preparation for the September 11 attacks. Moreover, the Bush administration knew this before invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Why is the US still supporting the Saudis?
Less than three years after Dwight Eisenhower's presidency, he wrote that everyone he had communicated with who was knowledgeable about Vietnam agreed “that had elections been held at the time of the fighting [leading to the defeat of the French in 1954], possibly 80 percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh”. If Eisenhower had supported Vietnamese elections planned for 1956, the US would not have supported a government whose mistreatment of its own population was a primary contributor to its defeat in 1975. However, Eisenhower felt unable to do this, apparently because Ho Chi Minh's popularity was virtually unknown in the US.
- If all of Eisenhower's sources agreed about this, why was the US public so uninformed?
Eisenhower was hoping to be elected to a second term as President in 1956 and may not have wanted to explain why he had "lost Vietnam to Communism."
How terrorist groups end
A 2008 RAND study reported that among the 268 terrorist groups they found that ended between 1968 and 2006, more terrorist groups won than were defeated militarily. Far more effective were negotiations, like those with the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, and law enforcement.
- Why is the West using the least effective approach to terrorism?
U.S. incarceration rate
After being relatively stable for the 50 years from 1925 to 1975, the incarceration rate in the US shot up by a factor of five in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This increase in incarcerations occurred without a corresponding change in crime rates. This change has been explained as a product of decisions by mainstream commercial broadcasters to focus on the police blotter while firing nearly all their investigative journalists. A few popular programs like “60 Minutes” were exceptions.
- Major broadcasters made out like bandits, while their audiences were largely unaware of what they had lost from the near elimination of investigative journalism.
Progress blocked by media bias
These examples, and similar analyses of other intractable problems, can be explained as natural products of two general principles:
- Every media organization in the world sells changes in audience behaviors to the people who pay their bills.
- Media organizations rarely bite the hands that feed them. They must flinch before disseminating any information that might offend a major advertiser or anyone else with substantive control over their budgets or operations.
Many if not all major problems facing humanity today are impacted by these two issues. Other factors impact different major problems differently, but media funding and governance is an underappreciated universal issue.
Better media in general and net neutrality in particular are threats to major leaders the world over, which explains the “Great Firewall of China” and why Turkey is blocking Wikipedia. Net neutrality makes it easier for the bottom 99.5 percent of the human population to obtain better information on options available to them and to organize to better defend and promote their own interests.
One theory, based on "following the money", would seem to explain the difficulties in achieving progress in these and other intractable problems:
- The most important information Americans need to protect their interests is rarely fit to print in the New York Times, because it would offend major advertisers -- and is similarly not fit to disseminate in other commercial media.
Trump's FCC tries to overturn net neutrality
Everyone, including major Internet access providers and the Trump administration officially agrees with net neutrality. However, Trump and his supporters claim that the 2015 Title II Order that made it possible to enforce "net neutrality" increased regulatory uncertainty, which forced major companies in this market to reduce their capital expenditures (CapEx) for investments in new high speed Internet infrastructure.
The drop in 2015 CapEx sounds big at almost a billion dollars but is less than three quarters of the annual changes since 1996. This is visible in the accompanying plot of U.S. Broadband CapEx investment, cited but not plotted in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on "Restoring Internet Freedom" published May 18 by Trump's FCC. The damage they claim does NOT make sense if one actually looks at the available data.
To save the nation from this minuscule damage, which they claim is major, they propose transferring net neutrality enforcement to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the antitrust division of the Department of Justice.
Those opposing this action argue the following:
- 1. History records that the Title II Order provides the only way that a typical American will be able to find an Internet access provider who will NOT block, throttle, alter (including stripping encryption), or redirect their requests for information from the Internet. FTC and antitrust enforcement cannot adequately protect consumers, small businesses and Internet startups. Previous abuses by Internet access providers led to several things:
- eight years of increasing activism on this issue,
- multiple lesser remedies by the FCC that were blocked by courts,
- 3.7 million comments on a proposed FCC action in 2014
- that led to the Title II Order, and
- almost 22 million comments on “Restoring Internet freedom” filed by the August 30 deadline.
- 2. All relevant data that is reasonably available and credible indicate that the Title II Order is working to benefit society as a whole without seriously damaging Internet access providers. The New York Times said Trump's FCC had to cherry-pick their data to get numbers supporting their desired policy change. Ernesto Falcon, Legislative Council with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the publicly traded companies in that market have not mentioned the Title II Order in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is the only place with credible penalties for misleading comments. There, they've said that business is good. Free Press analyzed 26 different financial measures that could reflect the impact on the industry of the Title II Order. Only five of the 26 were negative. Only two seemed statistically significant, and those showed improvements (not damage as Trump's FCC claims). It's not clear if any of these changes resulted from the Title II Order.
- 3. Since the Title II Order, consumers have benefitted from being able to use Internet applications and devices that had previously been blocked.
- 4. If the FCC decides to move forward with parts of their proposed changes, “the result will have a disastrous effect on innovation in the Internet ecosystem”, according to Internet engineers and pioneers: Without enforceable net neutrality, effective deployment of new Internet capabilities would require permissions that would rarely be profitably available to a startup.
However, it seems likely that this issue will move from the FCC to Congress, because the stakes are huge, as indicated above. Ernesto Falcon, Legislative Council for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “People need to take it to the next step, which is ... meet your elected officials, your two Senators and member of the House ..., because it’s only through mobilization that we’ll win this.”
Many consumer advocacy groups are organizing around this issue through a coalition called “BattleForTheNet.com”.
- ACLU reply comments (2017) American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (2017-08-30), Joint reply comments of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/1083079239110
- EFF Comments (2017): Comments of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, U. S. Federal Communications Commission, 2017-07-17, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/1083079239110
- EffectiveDefense.org reply comments (2017): Graves, Spencer (2017-08-30), EffectiveDefense.org Reply Comments in Opposition to Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM, U. S. Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/10831368603881 . See also Winning the War on Terror, Wikiversity, https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Winning_the_War_on_Terror .
- Engineers' letter (2017): 191 Internet Engineers, Pioneers, and Technologists (2017-07-17), Joint Comments of Internet Engineers, Pioneers, and Technologists on the Technical Flaws in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rule-making and the Need for the Light-Touch, Bright-Line Rules from the Open Internet Order, U. S. Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/1071761547058
- FCC Restoring Internet Freedom (2017): Federal Communications Commission (May 18, 2017), Restoring Internet Freedom, WC Docket 17-108, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-17-60A1.pdf
- FCM Reply Comments (2017): Friends of Community Media Reply Comment in Opposition to Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM, U. S. Federal Communications Commission, 2017-08-30, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/1083118363145
- Kahneman, Daniel (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 978-0374275631
- Wikipedia net neutrality in U.S. (2017): Net neutrality in the United States, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality_in_the_United_States
- EFF Comments (2017). EffectiveDefense.org reply comments (2017). FCM reply comments (2017). Wikipedia, "Net neutrality in the United States," accessed 2017-09-01
- FCC Restoring Internet Freedom (2017).
- Engineer's letter (2017).
- FCM Reply Comments (2017)
- Engineer's letter (2017). EFF Comments (2017).
- Engineer's letter (2017). EFF Comments (2017).
- Graves, Spencer (July 17, 2017), EffectiveDefense.org Comment in Opposition to Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM, U. S. Federal Communications Commission, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/10717083022106 . See also EFF Comments (2017, pp. 24ff).
- Wikiversity, "Winning the War on Terror", accessed 2017-09-02
- This included incidents in 1999 where an individual tested security measures on the U.S. Southwest border and two others tried to enter the cockpit of an America West flight. None of these three seem to have been part of the 19 suicide mass murderers of September 11, 2001. See s:Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified), pp. 418-419 and 433-434. This document is officially available from the web site of the U.S. House Intelligence committee. However, a link to that web site from the Wikipedia article on "The 28 Pages" is generally unresponsive. Anyone questioning the veracity of the Wikisource version of this document is encouraged to ask a representative in the U.S. House of Senate about this -- and post any responses to the "Discuss" page associated with this article.
- This information was classified "Top Secret". See s:Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified).
- The leadership of ISIL reportedly came, at least initially, almost exclusively from Saddam's military officers: These men were thrown out of work by the U.S. "De-Ba'athification" program without reasonable alternatives for how to use their time constructively. The rest of them have largely been inspired by the Wahhabi / Salafist branch of Islam, which has been promoted for decades by Saudi Arabia. This is the most violent strain of Islam. Other motivation includes revulsion over the death and destruction created by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the corruption in the post-Saddam Iraqi government sustained by U.S.-imposed censorship of the Iraqi media, and torture of prisoners at places like Abu Ghraib. For more, see the Wikiversity article on "Winning the War on Terror," accessed 2017-09-01. This includes the observation from Lt. Col. Brian Steed, who teaches history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, is fluent in Arabic and the author of a recent book on ISIS, that islamic terrorists comprise between 0.03 and 0.14 percent of Islam. This is his personal, professional observation and is not an official policy of the U.S. government.
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1963), The White House Years: Mandate for change, 1953-1956, Doubleday
- Jones, Seth G.; Libicki, Martin C. (2008), How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, RAND Corporation, ISBN 978-0-8330-4465-5, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf
- Sacco, Vincent F (2005). When Crime Waves. Sage. ISBN 0761927832., and Youngblood, Steven (2017). Peace Journalism Principles and Practices. Routledge. pp. 115–131. ISBN 978-1-138-12467-7.. See also Sacco, Vincent F. (May 1995), "Media Constructions of Crime", Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Sciences 539 , reprinted as Sacco, Vincent F. (1998), Potter, Gary W.; Kappeler, Victor E., eds., Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems, Waveland press, ISBN 0-88133-984-9 , and the Wikiversity article on "Winning the War on Terror," accessed 2017-09-01.
- On February 29, 2016 Les Moonves, President and CEO of CBS, bragged to an investor conference that the Trump campaign "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS. ... The money's rolling in, this is fun." He'd said essentially the same thing the previous December. And in 2012, Moonves similarly noted that, "Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS." Fang, Lee (February 29, 2016), "CBS CEO: “For Us, Economically, Donald’s Place in This Election Is a Good Thing”", The Intercept (First Look Media), https://theintercept.com/2016/02/29/cbs-donald-trump/ . See also the discussion of this in the Wikiversity article on "Winning the War on Terror," accessed 2017-09-01.
- For other examples of problems made intractable by flinching by mainstream media, see the Wikiversity article on "Winning the War on Terror," accessed 2017-09-01.
- Kahneman (2011). See also the discussion of human psychology and how people make decisions, based on Kahneman, in Winning the War on Terror, Wikiversity, https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Winning_the_War_on_Terror
- Censorship of Wikipedia has been documented in many countries including China, France, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. However, censorship of Wikipedia in many of these countries has been quite limited, with the well-known exceptions of China and Turkey.
- Mozur, Paul (13 September 2015). "Baidu and CloudFlare Boost Users Over China's Great Firewall". The New York Times.. See also w:Great Firewall.
- "Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason". BBC News. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.. See also w:2017 block of Wikipedia in Turkey.
- For a more in-depth discussion of this, see the Wikiversity article on "Winning the War on Terror," accessed 2107-09-01.
- Broadband Investment Remains Large, but Ticked Down in 2015, USTelecom, December 14, 2016, https://www.ustelecom.org/news/press-release/broadband-investment-remains-large-ticked-down-2015
- Joint Comments by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) documented both (a) statements supporting net neutrality and (b) actions inconsistent with those statements by several leading Internet access service providers. Internet access providers stand to gain billions of dollars in additional revenue by destroying net neutrality; ACLU and EFF have only their reputations to protect. ACLU reply comments (2017)
- FCC Restoring Internet freedom
- FCC Restoring Internet Freedom (2017)
- In addition to the EFF comments (2017), the Engineers' letter (2017), and the Wikipedia article on "Net neutrality in the United States", Commissioner Clyburn noted in her dissent in FCC Restoring Internet Freedom (2017) that FCC Chairman Pai and others complained in 2015 that the Obama administration had not invested enough time and other resources in economic research to evaluate the impact of their Title II Order before adopting it. However, Pai and others proceeded to overturn the Title II Order without any apparent consideration of research like what they had previously requested. In fact, there are two economists who are acknowledged leaders in studying "market power", focusing especially on the structure of telecommunications. They found, in brief, that there is little honest competition in this market, and this is a problem for the future of the international economy: Jean Tirole, who won the 2014 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for seminal research in this area, and Eli Noam, author and editor of many recent works in this area. See Crawford, Susan P (October 14, 2014), Nobel-Winning Message for the FCC: U.S. telecommunications policy makers long ago turned their backs on Nobel-winning economist Jean Tirole's sensible assessments of private communications utilities -- with disastrous results, Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2014-10-14/nobel-winning-message-for-the-fcc , Laffont, Jean-Jacques; Tirole, Jean (2000), Competition in telecommunications, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-12223-5 and Noam, Eli M. (2009), Media ownership and concentration in America, Oxford U. Pr., ISBN 978-0-19-518852-3
- EFF comments (2017)
- Engineers' letter (2017)
- Per count at fcc.gov/ecfs with "Proceeding" = "17-108", checked on 2017-08-30 and 2017-08-31.
- If you know exceptions, please modify this essay appropriately. Or post links to such data in the "Discuss" page associated with this article.
- "F.C.C. Invokes Internet Freedom While Trying to Kill It", New York Times, April 29, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/opinion/sunday/fcc-invokes-internet-freedom-while-trying-to-kill-it.html?_r=1
- Business could be better for them without the Title II Order, which is why they are fighting it. For Falcon's comments, see Graves, Spencer; Falcon, Ernesto (July 25, 2017), $15 minimum wage on Aug. 8 ballot in KCMO plus Trump’s attack on net neutrality, KKFI, http://www.kkfi.org/program-episodes/15-minimum-wage-aug-8-ballot-kcmo-plus-trumps-attack-net-neutrality/ .
- We say, "seemed" rather than "were" statistically significant, because the assessment of statistical significance assumes statistical independence, which may not hold. See the summary in the Appendix to Friends of Community Media (August 30, 2017), Friends of Community Media Reply Comment in Opposition to Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/1083118363145/FCM%20reply%20comments%20to%20FCC%2017-108.pdf
- Engineers' letter (2017)
- Engineers' letter (2017)
- Graves and Falcon (2017)