The Battle for the Internet Came to Texas

Nov 24, 2014 | Policy

Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of traveling to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas for an FCC panel discussion and open forum. It was hosted by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, and featured Edward Henigin, Data Foundry CTO, on the panel. Read Edward Henigin’s testimony on Internet regulation and maintaining an open Internet, or watch the live recording of the panel and forum.

Commissioners rarely leave Washington to meet with the public, and as of now, this event was the only one of its kind on the calendar. It was complemented by a rally organized by our friends at the Free Press that drew media attention and many folks in favor of an open Internet.

During the discussion, Ed strongly argued that the as part of promoting an open Internet, the Commission should promote open access by reclassifying the broadband transmission component of “last-mile” networks as a Title II telecommunications service.

Although some on the panel have joined with the large telecom and cable companies to resist the push for Title II reclassification, almost everyone in the audience agreed!

Ultimately the discussion goes far beyond the need for Title II reclassification. Unfortunately, the proposed Open Internet rules currently being considered by the FCC will allow providers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner to manage their networks to a “commercially reasonable” standard. This would include allowing them to charge content providers for “fast lane” access. While this might make Netflix stream a little faster, it effectively ends any hope of a truly open Internet. For example, the proposals would not prevent ISPs from blocking encryption or other privacy-enhancing technologies. This will allow ISP’s to snoop and track their Internet users habits to provide “context-relevant” ads and assist in government surveillance. The proposed rules will leave us with the same broken Internet where users do not have have options, and where ISP’s will not have to compete on pricing, quality of service and overall customer service and satisfaction.

Data Foundry opposes the telecom and cable companies because the simple fact is that broadband Internet access in the United States is currently not subject to any real competitive forces and abuses have in fact occurred. Data Foundry does not support the proposed Open Internet/”Net Neutrality” rules because they would eviscerate Internet users’ privacy rights. The “non-discrimination” rule presented by some advocates would actually require discrimination, and they are decidedly not “neutral.”

We believe an open and free Internet means all traffic should be transmitted without special treatment except when the user has expressly requested priority treatment for a given application or service. We strongly disagree that telecom and cable companies should be able to charge special fees for “prioritized” delivery. We certainly disagree that they should be allowed to make you waive all privacy and effectively ban encryption so they can inspect your traffic – which is the only way they can implement their scheme.