This article was originally published by Justin P. Walsh on The Amateur Law Professor.
As attorneys, we receive calls to action more than the typical American. We’re called to look over rule changes both locally and statewide. We’re often called to help out friends politically. Many of us serve on boards and commissions where we routinely review mounds of paperwork and attempt to act in an organization’s best interests. Some of these calls we answer; many we ignore. I urge each and every one of you not to ignore the FCC’s proposed changes to its “Net Neutrality” rules.
The FCC is at a crossroads. The current iteration of its net neutrality rules were rejected by the Supreme Court. The fix for this is easy: a reclassification of ISPs to conform to the neutrality rules currently governing other telecommunications. This would actually create a little less confusion in the industry, as those of us who have navigated the current rules, regulations, and statutes know it is a myriad of square pegs shoved into round holes — concepts designed before the Internet applied to the Internet.
Currently, the FCC wants to create a fast lane for providers of certain services. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll blink and think, “Don’t they already do that?” Yes. Yes, they do — for XFinity, Centurylink, and other providers that typically charge the end user for various download and upload speeds. The change the FCC is making is not on the end user, but to other service providers, such as Netflix or DropBox.
While this may not seem like something an attorney should be worried about, many of us use cloud-based data storage. Many of us also use remote computing software such as LogMeIn or virtual private networking (VPN). Under the new rules, an Internet service provider could charge a computing service provider (such as Netflix, Amazon, DropBox, LogMeIn, or even packet data routed using certain VPN protocols) a fee for “fast lane access.” However, what this really translates to is a likely stalling of current speeds or even a decrease of speeds unless the added fee is paid.
I’ve already paid for my Internet traffic to reach me. Netflix has paid for Internet access for its data to reach me. I should not have to pay an additional fee, passed on by Netflix or another computing service provider, for certain traffic to reach me. This will stifle innovation in application services going into the future. Television personality John Oliver has explained the new regulations and the impetus behind them on his show. He details the current shaping of the FCC, to favor Internet service providers like Comcast, by the current chair — a former lobbyist for ISPs. If you watch or read one thing on this issue, make it this:
There are several other resources you can use to educate yourself on the issues:
- Net Neutrality (Wikipedia)
- The FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal Explained (The Nation)
- The Net Neutrality Battle Has Been Lost; But now we can finally win the war. (Slate)
So what do you do? Here’s a copy of a comment that I have written and submitted to the FCC. While John Oliver so eloquently called on the Internet trolls to step up and treat the proposed rule changes with as much vitriol as they usually reserve for cat videos (about the same vitriol that Skeletor reserved for He-Man), I believe the attorneys can use their superpower: the written word. If you oppose the new rules, as written, draft a comment. The comment period is open until Sept. 10. To comment, click “Take Action” on the FCC Comments page and add your own letter on the topic.
You can read my comment here. Feel free to use it as an example. Feel free to make it your own. Feel free to disregard it entirely. But please comment on this important issue.