But for the second link, you have to already know which issue you are speaking out on, and the key point to make is that we are asking the FCC to "reclassify internet service providers as common carriers."
JB: Simple enough, but what does "reclassify[ing] internet service providers as common carriers" mean? I want to make sure that we know what we're doing as well as why.
PEN: In the archaic legal jargon, a common carrier is one who transports people or freight. And there is a principle in law that such a one cannot discriminate against one customer versus another, because this is an essential public service. In the modern context of the internet, our "freight" - as in our downloads - is clearly a parallel situation. The FCC has already embraced this principle in other communication contexts, and the fact that the internet service providers are not already so classified stands as an oversight, one which, again, the FCC can simply correct, and court has already told them they have the power to make it happen. Our mission is to tell them how important this is to us and to demand that they do so.
JB: This sounds like a case of the big cable companies bullying both the competition and their client base. Is it connected at all to the fact that the the cable companies have gotten huge subsidies over the years to lay down an infrastructure that would reach every corner of the country? I understand that, in fact, that infrastructure is very far from being completed and, as a country, that we are falling farther and farther behind other industrial nations. What's with that?
PEN: That of course is yet another reason why the classification issue is right and proper. We, the people PAID for the creation of the internet, starting with DARPA [ed. note: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the Dept. of Defense and charged with the development of new technologies for military purposes], and as you point out, with generous subsidies to these companies who now want to use what we have given them for their own private, selfish profit and control. And yes, this is also a peculiarly American problem, as other countries have recognized the strategic national importance of giving their citizens the cheapest, fastest internet service possible, and are already miles ahead of us while we have greedy telecom providers trying to squeeze the last nickel out of us by slowing our service down, and then using that booty to buy political influence to keep us in the Dark Ages, comparatively. And as we have already discussed, they are using those same windfall profits to try to buy other systems to extend their monopoly even further.
JB: Throw out a figure here, PEN, if you can. I recall that we're talking about billions of taxpayer dollars that have been given to the cable companies for services that they, in fact, haven't even provided, in terms of expanded and improved infrastructure.
PEN: To focus just for a second on quality of service, let's talk about Comcast in particular. Their fastest current service is 305 Mbps for $320 a month, that's to you as a subscriber. In Hong Kong, you can get faster 500 Mbps for $25 a month. And that's just one example. Here are a lot more.
JB: Yikes! That's a pretty stark example of how and why we're falling behind. What about the actual number of taxpayer dollars pocketed by these "enterprising entrepreneurs"? Am I misremembering or have we become so jaded that a billion here, a billion there, isn't real money?
PEN: Your memory is quite sound. In 2012, for example, this very same FCC provided $115 million dollars to subsidize rural internet connections . And all together, the Connect America Fund has a budget of 4.5 billion dollars a year.
JB: So, what has all that money gotten for us, besides for serious slippage in our former competitive edge?
PEN: What it's gotten us is a handful of corporate oligarchs who think they are the sphincter of all US communications, and are only interested in squeezing us as much as they can get away with. But we have an incredible opportunity here. The FCC is an independent regulatory agency, currently composed of a reasonable group of commissioners. They are not up for election. They are not swayed by campaign contributions to buy ads on these same telecom networks. They WILL listen to us. They are ASKING for your comments. Will you speak out now? The next thirty days on the FCC public input docket will determine the future of the internet in America for all time.
JB: Anything to add before we wrap this up?
PEN: Over 100,000 people recently petitioned the White House to do this unilaterally. President Obama responded by saying that, while he strongly supported the issue, the FCC was an independent agency empowered to make the call here. That is precisely our own point. And when the FCC solicits public comment on what they should do, it means that we, the people, have the power to tell them what we want them to do, as it should be in a true democracy. The people on our own participant list have already been responsible for 5,000 submissions. We need everybody who cares about the future of the internet as a viable political forum to jump all over this.
JB: Okay, PEN, we're jumping! Net neutrality is a biggie that affects all of us, now and going forward. Thanks once again for being on top of this and putting out user-friendly action alerts that anyone can do, quickly and easily.
If people want the free bumper sticker they can go here .
JB: Good to know, sign me up!