U.S. May­ors Defy the FCC with Cities Open In­ter­net Pledge

Trillions - - Contents -

The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (FCC) may have ruled that telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­ter­net providers have the free­dom to ig­nore net neu­tral­ity, but a group of may­ors hopes to make busi­ness more dif­fi­cult for those who will not honor it.

As of March 2018, the may­ors of 11 cities banded to­gether against the FCC. They signed a pledge.

On March 11, the may­ors of New York City; Austin, Texas; and Port­land, Ore­gon, an­nounced they were sign­ing a pledge to stand to­gether against the FCC’S de­ci­sion. The an­nounce­ment was made at the South by South­west Con­fer­ence.

The agree­ment those may­ors signed, known as the Cities Open In­ter­net Pledge, is short but im­por­tant for all to read and know about. Its pre­am­ble sets the stage well:

“The open In­ter­net is un­der threat. Late last year, the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion voted to strip In­ter­net users of their rights to choose what they do, where they go and whom they con­nect with on­line. With­out these net neu­tral­ity pro­tec­tions, large phone and ca­ble com­pa­nies can block, throt­tle and slow ac­cess to sites and ser­vices at will.”

The may­ors see the threat of the FCC rul­ing as a se­ri­ous at­tack on their cities’ abil­ity to func­tion prop­erly. As they say in the pledge, “Cities can­not al­low pri­vate In­ter­net ser­vice providers to be the gate­keeper be­tween our res­i­dents and the lo­cal govern­ment ser­vices on which they de­pend ev­ery day.”

They go on to state the fol­low­ing:

“We each com­mit our city to take all avail­able steps to en­sure the In­ter­net re­mains open and to keep gate­keep­ers from throt­tling, block­ing or lim­it­ing govern­ment con­tent on the In­ter­net. To that end, to the ex­tent per­mit­ted by law and within our con­trol, we will:

1. Pro­cure ap­pli­ca­ble In­ter­net ser­vices from com­pa­nies that do not block, throt­tle or pro­vide paid pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of con­tent on sites that cities run to pro­vide crit­i­cal ser­vices and in­for­ma­tion to their res­i­dents.

2. En­sure an open In­ter­net con­nec­tion with any free or sub­si­dized ser­vice we of­fer to our res­i­dents.

3. Not block, throt­tle or en­gage in paid pri­or­i­ti­za­tion when pro­vid­ing In­ter­net ser­vice directly to our res­i­dents, such as through free pub­lic Wi-fi or mu­nic­i­pal broad­band.

4. To the ex­tent per­mit­ted, re­quire clear and ac­ces­si­ble no­tices of fil­ter­ing, block­ing and pri­or­i­ti­za­tion poli­cies with en­force­able penal­ties for vi­o­la­tions to protect con­sumers from de­cep­tive prac­tices.

5. Mon­i­tor the prac­tices of In­ter­net ser­vice providers so con­sumers and reg­u­la­tors can know when a com­pany is vi­o­lat­ing open In­ter­net prin­ci­ples or com­mit­ments.

6. En­cour­age con­sumer use of ISPS, in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal op­tions, that abide by open In­ter­net poli­cies.”

As of March 2018, those who had signed that pledge in­cluded the fol­low­ing:

Mayor Bill de Bla­sio — New York City, New York

Mayor Steve Adler — Austin, Texas

Mayor Ted Wheeler — Port­land, Ore­gon

Mayor Ron Niren­berg — San An­to­nio, Texas

Mayor Sly James — Kansas City, Mis­souri

Mayor Mark Farrell — San Fran­cisco, California

Mayor Cather­ine E. Pugh — Bal­ti­more, Mary­land

Mayor Bar­ney Seney — Put­nam, Con­necti­cut

Mayor Paul Soglin — Madi­son, Wis­con­sin

Mayor Sam Lic­cardo — San Jose, California

Mayor Ja­cob Frey — Min­neapo­lis, Min­nesota

County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair Zach Friend — Santa Cruz County, California

With the col­lec­tive buy­ing power of all these cities, their pres­ence and de­mand for ser­vice hon­or­ing net neu­tral­ity should cause some im­pact on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions providers who at­tempt to ma­nip­u­late In­ter­net ser­vice in any way.

The cities are not the only ones tak­ing col­lec­tive ac­tion against the FCC rul­ing.

On Jan­uary 16, a sin­gle suit was filed col­lec­tively by 21 state at­tor­neys gen­eral to chal­lenge the FCC’S ac­tion. In it, they charged that the elim­i­na­tion of net neu­tral­ity was an “ar­bi­trary and capri­cious” ac­tion and broke fed­eral law. As At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric T. Sch­nei­der­man of New York said in an­nounc­ing the suit, “The re­peal of net neu­tral­ity would turn In­ter­net ser­vice providers into gate­keep­ers — al­low­ing them to put prof­its over con­sumers while con­trol­ling what we see, what we do and what we say on­line.”

The same day, the pub­lic in­ter­est groups The Free Press and Pub­lic Knowl­edge also filed suits on roughly sim­i­lar grounds.

The Open Tech­nol­ogy In­sti­tute, part of the New Amer­ica or­ga­ni­za­tion, also filed suit, al­leg­ing that In­ter­net busi­ness cre­ators might have to pay fees for faster delivery of con­tent and ser­vices to con­sumers. With In­ter­net providers now hav­ing the abil­ity to con­trol such con­tent, they also ef­fec­tively have the power to sti­fle com­pe­ti­tion – an­other vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral law.

On Fe­bru­ary 27, House Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Doyle (D-PA) and Se­na­tor Ed Markey (D-mass) in­tro­duced nearly iden­ti­cal res­o­lu­tions that would ef­fec­tively elim­i­nate the FCC rul­ing. Both were filed un­der the author­ity of the Con­gres­sional Re­view Act. The Se­nate ver­sion is only one vote away from pas­sage. If it gets that last vote, the ac­tion will go to the House, but the re­sult there is more a ques­tion be­cause of the larger Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity.

California and half of the states in the na­tion have also in­tro­duced their own net neu­tral­ity leg­is­la­tion, with each bill at var­i­ous stages in its process. Dur­ing the mid­dle of March, California state se­na­tor Scott Wiener in­tro­duced SB 822. It is a com­pre­hen­sive act with pro­vi­sions to stop the block­ing and throt­tling of web­sites as one ma­jor part. It would also make it un­law­ful for ISPS to of­fer “paid pri­or­i­ti­za­tion” con­tracts, where a com­pany like ESPN might buy the rights to get pri­or­ity rights over smaller com­peti­tors with less money to put on the ta­ble.

With all this pres­sure, one might hope for the laws to change some­time soon in fa­vor of net neu­tral­ity once again. Un­less it hap­pens in Congress via the bills al­ready work­ing their way through, the le­gal bat­tles run­ning in par­al­lel will likely take a long time. This is why the move by the may­ors stand­ing to­gether with their Cities Open In­ter­net Pledge is so im­por­tant. It could be the means of ap­ply­ing enough con­cen­trated eco­nomic pres­sure on the ISPS to hold back on any block­ing or throt­tling moves they might be con­sid­er­ing right now.

Then again, the counter-chal­lenge from the ISPS and the FCC it­self might be that what the may­ors are do­ing is in­ter­fer­ing with in­ter­state com­merce. That is some­thing only the fed­eral govern­ment has the right to reg­u­late.

Para­dox­i­cally enough, the ISPS could also claim the may­ors are in­ter­fer­ing with the ISPS’ right to Free Speech un­der the First Amend­ment. That would be even cra­zier than re­peal­ing net neu­tral­ity in the first place.

You can stand up for net neu­tral­ity by boy­cotting com­pa­nies like Ver­i­zon, Com­cast, and AT&T who op­pose net neu­tral­ity and con­trol the FCC, and by sup­port­ing com­mu­nity owned telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions.

We get what we pay for and when we do busi­ness with crim­i­nal cor­po­ra­tions we can ex­pect to be cheated and have our rights taken away from us.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.