This Is Your Last Chance To Save Net Neutrality (Updated)

Update, 5/16/18, 1:15pm PT: The Senate passed the disapproval. The vote fell largely along party lines, with Republicans Susan Collins, John Kennedy, and Lisa Murkowski joining Senate Democrats and Independents in rejecting the appeal. The victory for net neutrality advocates is likely fleeting, however, as the House is not expected to vote the same way.

The Senate will vote today on whether or not to repeal the latest rollback of net neutrality rules by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress used the CRA last year to cancel the broadband privacy framework passed by the previous FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules

In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules (the Open Internet Order) passed in 2015 by the former FCC leadership, which the D.C. Circuit Court upheld in 2016. The net neutrality rules prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online.

Democratic Senators now worry that if the net neutrality rules are repealed, this will mean more discrimination against internet startups that can’t pay for “prioritized access” to the ISPs’ customers, even though those same customers already pay the ISPs on a monthly basis for an unfiltered and neutral internet. The Senators also worry that the ISPs will block or cripple competing services.

Forcing A Net Neutrality Vote

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced today that their Senate Democratic colleagues, as well Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), will vote to undo FCC’s recent order to rollback net neutrality rules.

Senator Schumer said:

The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay. The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.

Senator Nelson added:

The time has come for Congress to undo the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules. Will we stand with the American public, who understand why net neutrality is vital, or will we side with those who wish to control how we use the internet? The choice should be clear – the American public should always come first.

The vote will happen at 3p.m. EST today, so this may be your last chance to call your Senators and ask them to cancel FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order through the CRA.

One other thing the vote will achieve, whether or not the net neutrality repeal will be undone, is to have every Senator’s vote on this issue on record, ahead of the midterm primaries and general elections, which may sway some Senators' votes.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • tacgnol06
    "This Is Your Last Chance To Save Net Neutrality"

    BS. There's still lawsuits to consider, and the law-making powers of a future Congress that actually cares about the issue.
  • PhilFrisbie
    This so called 'net neutrality' was nothing more than a ploy by a few huge Internet companies to not pay their fair share of bandwidth costs and force the costs on to ALL internet subscribers.
  • Aspiring techie
    Relax, the bill probably won't make it past the house. Thank goodness.
  • canadianvice
    @PhilFrisbie: Found the shill.

    We pay our ISPs to access content. They are already appropriately compensated because they set the terms - it doesn't matter if a packet is a netflix packet or a facebook or jimbob's personals minisite packet - the data still counts against your caps and you as a consumer make the choice on how it is spent. If the company offers unlimited without further restriction, that's their problem, not yours.

    Net neutrality is necessary because we do have borderline monopoly situations on critical services such as search, and loathe as I am to say it, social networking. These platforms can afford to pay out what is required to retain access to the consumer.

    The trouble is the little guys can't. Let's presume, oh, say, YouTube starts banning videos on controversial subjects and censoring their authors in favour of a social justice agenda. Which is not actually that far from reality. Here's the issue: If there are no smaller platforms that can host these people and pay the access requirements, it removes a huge portion of their ability to speak publicly.

    I know that companies are not obliged under the tenets of free speech by law to do so ( - yes, I'm aware of it) but one must recognize the sheer size of their influence on the public. It is fundamentally disempowering to free speech for people to be excluded from such platforms - or in the case of net neutrality, excluded all-together because any platform they could find is unable to get traction in the first place. The problem is becoming that they control such a large platform that they end up resulting in restriction on others by their presence.

    Or, as another example, take Facebook's Russia scandal. Evidently, they wield enormous influence over the fickleminded views of their users and enormous control over what they see for news and fact - something required for useful civic participation and the functioning of a free society.

    Let us presume that independent, more... capable media exists which should be viewed for a well-rounded worldview - FB can pay for access, they can't. Again, you are artificially restricted from important sources of information solely on the basis of economics.

    You're not subsidizing other people to use the net - those people are paying the same cost you would be for the same allotment of service. It's their prerogative on how to spend it, so don't peddle that BS.

    Net Neutrality is about recognizing the fundamentally important role of the internet in modern life - its influence cannot be overstated. In order to maintain healthy societies where information is accessible and verifiable, not subject to the whims of economic giants, the internet must be regulated as a neutral ground, in the same way a public sidewalk would be. What if protest was limited to those who could purchase special protestors' rights, and just exclude you? Free speech only functions properly if even the smallest speech is able to be made.

    The whole thing is it is vitally important for a healthy civic society that functions on the western basis of freedom and individual rights. When you start allowing money to dictate who gets to see what and who controls primary sources of information to the exclusion of others, you will soon see major problems with how your country is functioning.

    Or did Citizen's United teach you nothing?

    Edit: Really, let's make it simple instead of TLDR:
    Imagine your participation in society worked like how websites' on the web did. Now, let us presume that there's some gatekeeper, akin to an ISP, so... say, government. Government one day decides that the "in" cost for protesting is $500 at the start. Let's say you're protesting some malicious action by Walmart. Here's the trouble - private capital entities will take what they can get. Walmart will buy up the protest rights at a high cost, likely insurmountable to yourself. Now, suddenly, you cannot protest. As giants like Walmart buy up the rights, the cost is only going to increase because they can pay it, but you cannot.

    This is why web neutrality is needed. Your ISP is compensated for every factor regarding wear, tear, and use on their devices. Data is data. You paid for it - at a speed the ISP claims it can maintain. Where that data comes from does not affect the ISP in the slightest - they get their money and if they're dumb enough to not have suitable limits in place for your usage (quantity and rate for all data) then that's really a fool being parted from their money, non? However, the amount of control they get if they can dictate the data they pass along is obscene.

    I don't know why I bother... if a person is so dull they need an explanation to understand the implications of this on the larger scale since they can't logic through it themselves.... what I have to say isn't about to convince them. I really wish you lot could get your own little place to call your own and see how it all works out without dragging the rest of us down with you.
  • Dantte
    Where to start...

    "The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay."

    WRONG, the internet is a privilege, not a RIGHT. Graduate high school, get a job, be a productive member of society and PAY for your use of the internet... Even if you argue this is a RIGHT, still doesnt change the fact that you should still have to pay for it; lets use the 2nd amendment for example (this is a RIGHT) and I still have to pay for my guns and ammo!

    "but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses."

    ...and more proof that Democrats are racist bigots, because if your a "community of color" its automatically assumed your poor, uneducated and require government handouts to function in society...

    Good bye and Good riddance NN!
  • knowom
    I'm totally in favor of ad neutrality where do I sign up?
  • canadianvice
    20975285 said:
    Where to start...

    "The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay."

    WRONG, the internet is a privilege, not a RIGHT. Graduate high school, get a job, be a productive member of society and PAY for your use of the internet... Even if you argue this is a RIGHT, still doesnt change the fact that you should still have to pay for it; lets use the 2nd amendment for example (this is a RIGHT) and I still have to pay for my guns and ammo!

    "but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses."

    ...and more proof that Democrats are racist bigots, because if your a "community of color" its automatically assumed your poor, uneducated and require government handouts to function in society...

    Good bye and Good riddance NN!

    Your comment shows you don't even actually know what NN is. Don't be a dullard shill and do some research. You should actually be ashamed of yourself for commenting and making it so clear you do not understand what it is and then condemning it - as Einstein said, condemnation without understanding is the height of ignorance. It used to be saying something abjectly stupid made a person feel shame. I guess that's not the case anymore, sadly.

    NN is multifaceted, but the basic idea is that the internet is an essential utility in modern life (and factually, it is. Many places of employment, as a small example, will not even accept hand-applications anymore. Jobs are often not listed in other sources either.... and that's probably one of the single smallest examples). If we could give it to people for free, I honestly feel that'd be a great step in social progress.

    However, warm fuzzies aside, perhaps that's not so practical. So fine, we still make people pay, whatever. Nobody was ever arguing that point - the point they are arguing is that data in and of itself is completely neutral. Comcast and Verizon and stuff already have every right to charge you for your use of their offerings - what Net neutrality is about is recognizing that fundamental fact and recognizing that philosophical attachments to the data do not influence how much it costs.

    The electrons carrying your netflix frames or your cat pictures are identical. Data is data. There's no extra cost associated with getting someone their netflix packet vs. their cat picture packet vs. their news packet. You pay your ISP for an amount of data (or unlimited, but that's their fault.) and a speed at which it should be received. It is not harder to push a netflix packet than it is to push that email to your congressman regarding an issue of importance to you.

    So, now that we have that out of the way, what did I mean when I was discussing "philosophical attachments"? Well, let's use a notorious Canadian example. Telus was caught during a labour dispute completely blocking access to the website of the union that was engaged in the dispute with them.

    Showing that site costs them no extra money, and their subscribers are paying for the data and rate required to view it, should they wish to see that website. It was blocked solely because Telus didn't like the contents.

    The ISP is the gateway to the most prodigious source of information on the planet and additionally one of our single most powerful tools for speaking freely, promoting social change, and engaging in civic society in a meaningful and responsible manner.

    Net neutrality dictates that since the ISP pays no more and no less for the contents of the data, only the data itself, they are not allowed to implement changes that would allow prejudicial transmission of said data - because otherwise you are effectively giving them complete control of a vital tool and huge influence for the sake of money.

    The internet itself is a public platform. All voices are heard there - without NN, big powers can push those voices out or silence them entirely.

    Let me ask you - if you had to pay to protest, but that price was related to what anyone else wanting to protest (or stop them) would pay..... how do you think that would work out? Suddenly, Walmart can simply pay a million bucks and I doubt you have that much lying around - and now you have no access to protest.

    The fact is the internet is very much like a public sidewalk. Certainly, the big players are not obliged to humour you on their platforms, but if you can find a platform, you should not be functionally censored because nobody is able to see it since your platform cannot pay the fees compared to the big players that can.

    Con types are horrified at social justice. So let's take that for an example: Youtube is de facto a monopoly on video services. They are known to push a social justice narrative without apology. Repealing NN could make them literally the only service for video you would be able to access because nobody else could pay the ISP for consumer access (which is something they can do without NN protections in place). Would you want a company with so much social power and influence to be the ONLY one that people could see? Or, perhaps, let us pretend you're anti-abortion. Imagine there's Hitler the Abortioner running as a candidate next to Saintly Jim the good guy. Your ISP knows Hitler is willing to pay more to be seen, and will give them kickbacks. So, they block any and all access to pages mentioning Saintly Jim, along with his campaign site.

    You see - in the States in particular this is dangerous because ISPs are huge conglomerates with large territorial control and EXCLUSIVE rights of provision for service. So if Comcast were to decide something like this, huge numbers of people could be affected and unable to see the pages of candidate offerings that COMCAST DECIDES you shouldn't get to see. Starting to make sense why this whole NN thing is so important?

    Plus, if not for the higher principles of it all, don't you think it's a bit of a dick move that you already pay so much to your ISP, and then they get to turn around and extort the services you love for even more money, despite having been compensated appropriately already?

    Anyway - learn what NN actually is and do some serious thinking about the implications of repealing it. It doesn't take a lot of thought to realize that the implications are almost entirely negative - and potentially very dangerous for free, liberal society. (note: small L liberal).

    Keep in mind: This is based in the realm of possibility. Is it likely? Perhaps not. Though infringements have already happened, so I would bet that it is. However, once you extend this power, you don't get it back. That's never how it works - and while people complain about slippery slopes being a fallacy..... there's some legitimacy in standing away from a slope covered in ice if you can do so.
    The fact is without regulation with the simple mandate that all data is equal, it is left only to the imagination what ISP's would be allowed to do to manage content. Given how much they value money, I'd imagine there's quite a few unpleasant things that one could do. Given the essential nature of the internet combined with their monopolies and exclusivity, it also means a captive market and therefore you can't easily argue that "well, if they do that then another will come along who doesn't" because that "other" is barred from participation. FB wants to pay your ISP to block all other social media? Under a non-NN bound ISP, that's a possibility. Certain political candidates decide they want to pay for exclusivity? Again, your ISP would be allowed to do that - the only concern is if the price is right....

    Because I'm not sure if you've genuinely noticed this, the capitalist system is wonderful and our best for provision of services, but it is most certainly not predicated on anything approaching a rational morality. If they could skin you alive and sell it, they would. I wouldn't fault them - dem's the rules, but I think as a rational individual it might be somewhat more objectionable. Business is for profit - nothing wrong in that, but it means that business is only as moral as profitability requires, and that's a bit more of an issue. So enabling them to have free guardianship of access to an essential part of modern life and THE source for information is.... well, problematic.
  • canadianvice
    20975347 said:
    I'm totally in favor of ad neutrality where do I sign up?

    If you're in the united states, contact your congressperson. Best via phone, as that carries more weight, but use any vector you find to be suitable at your disposal.

    If you're not in the US, protect your own net neutrality legislation as best you can and hope that the impact of the American choice is not too damaging, considering they're a big traffic hub.
  • stdragon
    95th Percentile - because you really don't want to pay for a dedicated pipe; most of you either couldn't afford it, or don't want to pay for it.
  • mihen
    The ISP regulation guidelines created in 2015 were pretty counter productive. Broadband investment declined in the 2 years following it's implementation. This is the first time this has happened in a non-recession year. The Netflix/Comcast thing was fabricated and the story was never corrected. The issue Netflix was experiencing on Comcast's network had to do with an error on L3 Networks side that was later corrected that month. Comcast offered to host Netflix directly on their network which would significantly increase the quality of the streams while decreasing Comcast's overhead for getting data out of network.
    Most of the fear-mongering of the issue is self-regulatory as it has been since the change of ISPs regulatory structure. It also only affects Internet Only services as Cable Companies offer Phone Service which puts them into a different regulatory category.
    The big issue that we see with Net Neutrality is people don't understand how ISPs work in the United States. Instead of going to the local level where all the monopoly issues are, they immediately jump to the highest level possible. Yet the structure of ISPs and their deals with dozens of other companies keeps them in check. Also sniffing every packet to determine it's priority is just a slow method in handling internet traffic. The electrical costs and equipment alone would make it impractical. The only company I know who would even contemplate that type of nickel and diming is Time Warner/Spectrum.