News Article | May 11, 2017
There's a huge court case you need to hear about. It might not be on your radar yet because, frankly, some of it gets pretty technical. But the outcome is likely to have enormous repercussions for online privacy, net neutrality and the broader economy. For months, policymakers have been struggling with the implications of this case, FTC vs. AT&T, in part because it overturned roughly a century of established legal practice — and, analysts say, because it appeared to open a tremendous loophole that businesses might use to evade federal oversight almost completely. This week, the federal appeals court responsible for the ruling agreed to rehear the case, potentially opening the door to a different result. Here's what you need to know. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dealt the Federal Trade Commission a major blow — calling into question one of the consumer protection agency's most important powers. Over the course of 21 pages, the court said the FTC should be banned from regulating a company if even a small part of that firm's business is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission as a telecom service, otherwise known as a "common carrier." This was a major departure from the previous norm, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge. "It was huge because it was totally unexpected," Feld said. "Nobody's ever ruled that way before." The FTC is one of America's foremost law enforcement agencies. In the tech sector alone, it has investigated or filed lawsuits against companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google. It has returned millions, if not billions, of dollars to Americans after moving to stop scams and fraudsters of all stripes. But it can go after companies only if they're within its jurisdiction. August's ruling effectively shrank the FTC's jurisdiction by placing a whole class of companies off limits. What's more, it gave businesses everywhere a massive incentive to try to gain entry into that class, thus wriggling out of FTC oversight. And it wasn't as if the FCC could pick up the slack, either; by law, the agency may regulate common carriers only to the extent that they are engaged in providing common-carrier services. Any other parts of a common carrier's business is off limits to the FCC. The result, legal experts say, was a new, gaping loophole in regulatory coverage that nobody anticipated. "This decision raised the question [of] whether any company with a common carrier business could escape FTC enforcement for all other aspects of its business," said Robin Campbell, a lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs. This is why FTC vs. AT&T is such a big deal. Under the August ruling, virtually any company in any industry seeking lighter regulation could try to claim common carrier status to exempt the rest of its business from FTC and FCC oversight. "Facebook could buy some dinky little telephone company, and then become totally exempt from the Federal Trade Commission," Feld said. Replace "Facebook" with the name of any other company, he said, and you begin to see how significant this gets. The court's decision this week to rehear the case happens to nullify the ruling, so the loophole is temporarily closed. But it could easily be reopened if the court comes to the same conclusion, analysts say. Other possibilities include reversing the court's prior position entirely, or perhaps coming down somewhere in the middle. AT&T said in a statement that it looked forward to participating in the rehearing. The outcome of the case will affect more than the FTC: It may also lend momentum to the FCC's effort to repeal its own net neutrality rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the FTC, not the FCC, should be responsible for policing Internet service providers. Right now, the FTC has no power over Internet service providers, because the net neutrality rules consider all those providers to be common carriers. Permanently undoing the Ninth Circuit's August ruling would mean giving the FTC the ability once again to go after the parts of an Internet service provider’s business that aren't common-carrier-related. But the FCC wants to go further than that. Pai has proposed to take Internet service providers out of the “common carrier” category, which could give the FTC even greater jurisdiction over the providers. "The court's [decision to rehear] strengthens the case for the FCC to reverse its 2015 Title II Order and restore the FTC's jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices," Pai said in a statement Tuesday. The FTC declined to comment. This debate over which agency should do what may seem arcane. But it has real consequences for businesses and consumers, because it represents the difference between, on the one hand, establishing preemptive rules to prevent customer abuse — and, on the other, asking customers and the government to take action to punish corporate transgressions after they occur. Preemptive regulation may cost businesses more in terms of extra paperwork, lawyers' fees and lost innovation, but after-the-fact enforcement shifts those costs onto customers and smaller businesses that can't afford to wage lengthy legal battles, according to Robert Cooper, a lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner. "There is a role for antitrust enforcement in this space, but it is not a substitute for prescriptive rules," Cooper said in an earlier interview about the FCC's net neutrality plan. "[It] is expensive and time-consuming and thus favors those with the greatest resources. Moreover, it necessarily requires that an alleged violation already has occurred."
News Article | May 10, 2017
But at its heart, the issue was simple: Internet service providers should treat all content equally. Within a few years, the phrase - shortened to the slightly less-wonky net neutrality - became a rallying cry for Silicon Valley technology companies, liberals and online free-speech advocates. For broadband companies and free-market conservatives, net neutrality became code for a government meddling in the vibrant internet economy. Now, after some bizarre pop culture moments, an embrace by a young senator on his way to the presidency, three major court rulings and more than 4 million public comments (and counting) to federal regulators, the term has become part of the online and political lexicon. It's in the spotlight again because the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wants to dismantle tough net neutrality regulations enacted in 2015. Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed to head the FCC by President Trump after his inauguration, is pushing the agency to repeal the tough regulatory oversight for internet service providers that Democrats approved in 2015 over the objections of the broadband industry. It's been a long, strange trip - and it's not over. Eight months before a group of Harvard students launched a website called thefacebook.com and more than a year before Google Inc.'s initial public stock offering, a young associate professor at the University of Virginia, Tim Wu, coined the phrase network neutrality in a student-run academic journal. His paper pondered the "conflicts between the private interests of broadband providers and the public's interest in a competitive innovation environment centered on the internet." For example, Wu discussed the possibility that cable companies could close off competition for certain internet services by limiting access to what applications could be used on their networks. Wu proposed to strike a balance that would "forbid broadband operators, absent a showing of harm, from restricting what users do with their internet connection." He would allow operators to manage technical aspects such as "bandwidth consumption" to keep the network operating properly. The concepts were mostly academic, but the real-world conflicts Wu pondered were on their way. The Republican-controlled FCC unanimously adopted four principles "to encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature" of the public internet. Later to be known as the four freedoms, they were based on principles outlined in a 2003 speech by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a Republican, and said that consumers were entitled to: -Access the lawful content of their choice -Run applications and services of their choice -Connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network -Have competition among network, application and content providers Among the concerns at the time were restrictions by cable companies on customer use of virtual private networks and Wi-Fi. But he said the case for government regulations was "unconvincing and speculative." In its 2005 vote, taken after Powell left the agency, the FCC did not adopt net neutrality rules but said it would incorporate the principles in its policymaking. Foreshadowing the political fights to come, Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps said he would have preferred a formal rule that would allow the agency to take enforcement action. Pushed by Google and other Silicon Valley companies, some members of Congress - mostly Democrats - tried to add the FCC's net neutrality principles to a Republican-drafted overhaul of the nation's telecommunications law. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who wrote the legislation, didn't want to place restrictions on telecommunications companies. And at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that he chaired, the 82-year-old Stevens gave a rambling speech describing the internet as "a series of tubes." The digital rights group Public Knowledge posted an audio clip of the speech on the internet and it started spreading like wildfire through those tubes. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" seized on Stevens' comments, helping bring awareness of net neutrality to the masses. Stewart said that Stevens sounded like "a crazy old man in an airport bar at 3 a.m." It reinforced the image that many in Congress weren't tech-savvy enough to deal with net neutrality. Opponents of net neutrality regulations said it didn't matter because the rules were a solution in search of a problem. There were no high-profile examples of broadband providers choking off competitive content. That was about to change. An Associated Press report in late 2007 contended that Comcast Corp. was blocking some customers from using BitTorrent's popular software to download online videos. Public-interest groups complained to the FCC. And they got action. By a 3-2 vote, the Republican-controlled agency found that the cable company had tried to cripple online video sites that competed with its on-demand service. The move violated the FCC's four internet freedoms. The FCC's Republican chairman, Kevin J. Martin, sided with two Democratic commissioners in rebuking Comcast. The company was ordered to stop the blocking but wasn't fined. Comcast told the FCC it would see it in court. Trying to thread the needle Judges were not kind to net neutrality. In 2010, a federal court tossed out the FCC's rebuke of Comcast and said the agency lacked the authority to enforce its net neutrality principles. The FCC now was controlled by Democrats and chaired by Julius Genachowski. He had been appointed by President Obama, who had embraced net neutrality regulations as a senator and then during his campaign. Genachowski was the next FCC chairman to take a crack at net neutrality. In 2010 the agency voted 3-2 along party lines to adopt its first formal regulations on net neutrality, prohibiting internet service providers from blocking access by their customers to any legal content, applications or services. This time Verizon Communications Inc. sued. In January 2014, a court sided with the industry again, saying the FCC still hadn't used its limited authority correctly. Genachowski had stepped down, and Obama replaced him with Tom Wheeler, a hard-charging former cable TV and wireless industry lobbyist. Wheeler tried to thread the legal needle by establishing new regulations prohibiting broadband providers from discriminating against online data but not specifically outlawing charging some sites for faster delivery of their content, a concept known as paid prioritization. His plan pleased neither side. Republicans complained that it was too much government interference. And net neutrality supporters weren't happy either. They wanted Wheeler to ban paid prioritization and pass rules that they hoped would withstand industry lawsuits by classifying broadband providers as more highly regulated utilities like conventional phone companies under Title 2 of the telecommunications law. The FCC voted 3-2 to start a formal rule-making procedure. Wheeler still thought that he had found a workable middle ground. Then another TV comedian changed the debate again. HBO's "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" took on the issue of net neutrality and aimed some of its fire at what it said was Wheeler's industry-friendly rules. "The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it," Oliver said on the show. "That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo." The wolves were out for Wheeler's plan. Oliver's bit went viral (the video clip has been viewed about 12.8 million times), helping fuel so many public comments that the FCC's website crashed as a filing deadline approached. Most of the 4 million comments supported tough regulations. Wheeler's proposal was in trouble. Then another online video - this one from the White House - helped push the plan over the edge. Obama had been an early supporter of net neutrality. In 2007 he was one of 11 senators who signed on as co-sponsor of a bill to write net neutrality protections into federal law. Obama touted his support for net neutrality during the 2008 campaign, in contrast to the opposition of his opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Net neutrality was a big deal to Obama. And as the FCC was nearing a vote on Wheeler's proposal, Obama took the unusual step of going public with his views on a matter being considered by the independent agency. In a two-page statement and an online video, Obama pushed the FCC to enact the toughest possible regulations by reclassifying broadband providers for utility-like oversight. Wheeler said there was "more work to do" on his proposal and a vote was delayed. The debate over net neutrality raged online and in Washington. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said tough net neutrality regulations were "Obamacare for the internet." On Feb. 4, 2015, Wheeler released a revised proposal that prohibited broadband companies from blocking websites, slowing connection speeds and charging for faster delivery of content - and subjecting those providers to the utility-like oversight Obama sought. Net neutrality supporters cheered Wheeler's revised proposal and jubilantly packed the FCC's meeting room the day of the vote. The regulations were approved along party lines by a 3-2 vote that installed the once-arcane concept of net neutrality as a guiding government doctrine for broadband networks. AT&T Inc. joined other telecom companies and industry trade groups in suing the FCC, saying it overstepped its authority in classifying broadband service for utility-like regulation. Less than five months later, Americans elected Republican Donald Trump as president. In 2014, he had slammed Obama's plan as "another top-down power grab." Now Trump was in position to install a new FCC chairman. Pai, who Trump appointed as chairman, is fond of making pop culture references and using plain language to describe complex telecommunications issues. After the election, Pai said the FCC agency needed to "fire up the weed whacker" to slash unnecessary regulation. Net neutrality was the biggest weed on his list. On April 26, he announced that he intended to push the FCC to rescind the utility-like oversight of broadband providers. And in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times, Pai reached into the NBA to help explain why he wanted to block the FCC's net neutrality shot. He noted that in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a young trio of outstanding players that included James Harden. But fearful that their salaries at some point would be unaffordable, the team traded Harden to Houston. He went on to become a superstar, and this spring led the Rockets over the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. "Many Thunder fans would give anything to undo a trade motivated by speculative fears," Pai wrote. The fears were similar to those behind the FCC's decision to enact utility-like oversight for broadband providers, Pai said. He called them "hysterical prophecies of doom" in a speech April 26. And the "overhang of heavy-handed regulation" imposed by the FCC was hurting the broadband industry and hindering investment in expanded networks, Pai said. The regulations led the nation's 12 largest internet service providers to decrease their capital expenditures on broadband by $3.6 billion, or 5.6 percent, in 2016 compared with 2014, Pai said. Net neutrality supporters dispute Pai's claim of an investment drop. Continuing the basketball analogy, Pai noted that Oklahoma City can't get Harden back because he's under contract with Houston until 2020. "But at the FCC, we can correct a past mistake by moving away from government control of the internet," Pai wrote. "And that's exactly what we intend to do."
News Article | May 1, 2017
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit said Monday it's upholding its earlier decision that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules, which prevent broadband and wireless companies from blocking or slowing access to the internet, are lawful. A three-judge panel in June upheld the FCC's 2015 regulation and ruled the agency could reclassify broadband as a public utility. Opponents of the rules, which sued the FCC, can now appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. Daniel Berninger, a network engineer who joined several internet service providers in suing the FCC over the rules, told The Washington Post he intends to file an appeal. Industry trade groups USTelecom and the NCTA, which were also involved in the suit, said they're still evaluating their legal options. Those involved in the case have 90 days to decide if they want to pursue further. The court's decision comes less than a week after new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, introduced his plan for unwinding the Obama-era regulation. Pai says the rules discourage investment in broadband networks and have resulted in job losses. Even though Pai has repeatedly said he's in favor of an open internet, his proposal guts the legal foundation of net neutrality and asks whether there should be any rules at all. Supporters of net neutrality say without the regulation broadband and wireless companies, which provide access to the internet, will abuse their power and favor their own services over competitors' offerings. They say this will hurt innovation and result in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers. Net neutrality supporters, who have promised to sue the FCC when changes to the rules become official, saw Monday's ruling as a victory. "The DC Circuit has once again confirmed that the FCC's Open Internet rules are lawful and supported by the evidence," said John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge. Pai said in a statement Monday that he wasn't surprised the DC Circuit decided not to review the case given his proposal to roll-back the rules. Most experts agree that it's unlikely the Supreme Court will take up the case, given the FCC's plans to repeal the rules. Paul Gallant, an equities analyst with Cowan and Company, put the chances of the Supreme Court hearing the case only at 25 percent. "Net neutrality is major national policy," he said in a research note. "But the actual legal question is less exciting -- did the agency have a reasonable basis to change its earlier policy? That's not usually Supreme Court material." Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech." CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.
News Article | May 8, 2017
HBO comedian John Oliver is a strong supporter of net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be treated equally. He made that clear in 2014 when he urged viewers to flood the Federal Communications Commission's website with comments supporting robust open internet safeguards. The resulting deluge crashed the FCC's website. Three years later, Oliver is at again, and this time he's targeting President Trump's recently installed Republican FCC Chairman, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, who last month announced a plan to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections. Public interest advocates call Pai's plan a brazen corporate give-away that will allow giant broadband companies like AT&T and Verizon to favor their own online services, discriminate against rival offerings, and sell access to internet "fast lanes" to the highest bidder. During Sunday night's episode of "Last Week Tonight," Oliver urged viewers to visit his recently-purchased URL gofccyourself.com, which redirects to the FCC's comment submission page, and express opposition to Pai's plan. Apparently, many people did just that, because the FCC's website promptly crashed. (Comments can also be submitted via this website.)"Every internet group needs to come together like you successfully did three years ago," Oliver declared. "Every subculture must join as one. Gamers, YouTube celebrities, Instagram models, and even Tom from MySpace, if you're still alive." Oliver also implored "Donald Trump's internet fans on sites like 4Chan and Reddit" to join the fight. "This subject is one of the things that we actually really agree on," Oliver said. And of course, the comedian couldn't resist taking a few light hearted shots at Pai himself, specifically the FCC Chairman's dorky habit of quoting lines from "The Big Lebowski" on Twitter, as well as his strange fascination with an "infamous" oversized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups coffee mug that Pai totes around the office. Open internet advocates argue that the FCC's net neutrality policy is necessary for maintaining the internet as an open platform for economic growth, online innovation, citizen empowerment, political organizing and free speech. And these activists are mobilizing a grassroots effort to resist Pai's plan, which will face an initial vote during the Republican-controlled FCC's May meeting later this month. The nation's largest broadband companies oppose the FCC's policy because it treats them as "common carriers" under the Title II of the Communications Act, a strict regulatory classification that subjects the industry to strong FCC oversight. Pai has argued that the FCC's policy has caused a decrease in broadband capital investment, but public interest groups vigorously dispute that assertion. Open internet advocates, who face an uphill battle in their effort to resist Pai's plan to roll back the FCC's net neutrality protections, were grateful to have Oliver's support. "Once again, John Oliver nails it on the importance of strong open internet rules for our democracy and to prevent broadband price gouging," Chris Lewis, Vice President at DC-based digital rights group Public Knowledge, said in a statement late Sunday. "His wit revealed the hypocrisy of FCC Chairman Pai's effort to pad the pockets of cable and broadband monopolies by dismantling essential protections against internet discrimination." "It's time for the public to weigh in and tell Chairman Pai, Congress and the White House to keep their hands off the open internet," Lewis added. Subscribe to Science Solved It , Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.
News Article | April 20, 2017
President Trump's recently-installed Federal Communications Commission chief, Republican Ajit Pai, has made clear that he wants to roll back US rules protecting net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible to consumers. But the forthcoming Republican assault on net neutrality is just one component of an escalating effort by Trump's FCC to deregulate the broadband industry in ways that benefit corporate giants like AT&T and Verizon, and hurt consumers, according to public interest advocates. For example, the FCC voted today to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The price caps, which have been in place for years, are designed to protect small businesses and other community institutions from predatory behavior by monopoly broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon. FCC Chairman Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, justifies the BDS rollback by claiming price caps aren't necessary in markets where "sufficient competition" exists. So how does Pai define "sufficient competition"? Believe it or not, Pai's FCC claims that "sufficient competition" exists if a local BDS market is served by one broadband provider, as long as there is a second broadband provider within a half-mile. Public interest advocates say the removal of the BDS price caps will deliver a massive financial windfall to broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, while driving up costs for consumers. That's because every time you use an ATM or a credit card at the gas pump or grocery store, the transaction takes place over a BDS network. Higher costs for businesses inevitably lead to higher prices for consumers. "This is crony capitalism that favors broadband giants, is anti-business, and kicks consumers," Chip Pickering, CEO of pro-competition tech industry trade group INCOMPAS, said in a recent statement. According to Pickering, Pai's BDS proposal is likely to result in a 25 percent broadband price increase for small businesses, ultimately costing consumers billions of dollars per year—dollars that will flow straight into the corporate coffers of companies like AT&T and Verizon. "Instead of looking out for millions of 'little guys,' the majority has again chosen to side with the interests of multi-billion dollar providers," Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the measure, said at Thursday's FCC open meeting. "Communities where competition is unlikely to ever develop will see substantial deregulation, so rural and poor areas will see prices go up without the hope of any relief." "Today is a sad day for the proud small business owners across this great nation, for rural hospitals, schools, libraries, and police departments, indeed, for all consumers," Clyburn added. Pai's plan to deregulate the BDS market is particularly troubling for public interest advocates because, contrary to the Trump FCC's assertions, the market for BDS services is already woefully uncompetitive, and has been for many years, hence the need for price caps to prevent monopoly broadband providers from jacking up prices to sky-high levels. In 2016, the Obama-era FCC cited research showing that 73 percent of BDS locations are served by only a single broadband provider, and only 24 percent of BDS locations are served by two providers. That means 97 percent of the tens of thousands of BDS locations across the country—small businesses, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other local institutions—face monopoly or duopoly market conditions. And yet Trump's FCC under Pai blithely asserts that there is "strong competition in the business data services market," hence the need to "ease the regulatory burdens" on BDS broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon, a contention that is vigorously contested by public interest advocates. In fact, as a result of the lack of competition in the BDS market, US businesses are forced to pay an estimated $20 billion annually in market failure-driven overcharges, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which argues that Pai's plan will increase BDS overcharges by as much as an additional $20 billion per year. These business costs will be transferred to consumers, to the tune of $300 per household every year, according to the CFA. "This is a huge rip-off," Mark Cooper, CFA Research Director, told reporters earlier this week on a conference call. Cooper said that the FCC proposal, which relies on what he called "contradictory data," likely violates several sections of the federal Communications Act, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act. Pai's BDS plan is just the latest example of Trump's FCC putting the interests of corporate giants like AT&T and Verizon ahead of the interests of the American people, according to Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at DC-based digital rights group Public Knowledge. "The BDS order is another in a long list of issues on which Chairman Pai has chosen to side with the biggest telcos and cable companies possessing market power, instead of the public interest and consumers," Berenbroick told reporters. "The common theme of Chairman Pai's young tenure as head of the FCC is that his FCC will stand up for the biggest companies that are regulated by the agency, rather than consumers." Pai has only been in charge of the FCC for three months, but his record of anti-consumer actions is already substantial. For example: What's next on Pai's anti-consumer hit list? You guessed it: Net neutrality, the internet's open access principle. Pai is expected to soon launch a formal FCC proceeding designed to roll back the agency's net neutrality rules, which in turn will give Republican lawmakers in Congress political cover to pass legislation stripping away the FCC's power to enforce strong net neutrality protections. Trump's "crony capitalism" agenda is picking up steam—and FCC Chairman Pai appears more than willing to do the president's bidding. The question now is whether open internet activists can organize enough grassroots opposition to stop Pai's forthcoming assault on net neutrality in its tracks. This story was updated after initial publication to reflect that the FCC indeed voted to eliminate the BDS rate caps.
News Article | May 2, 2017
A top US court on Monday upheld the legality of federal rules protecting net neutrality, the internet's open access principle, providing a much-needed boost to activists who are resisting efforts by Trump's top telecom regulator to dismantle the Obama-era FCC's policy. Net neutrality means that the nation's largest internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon can't favor their own content, block rival services, or sell online "fast lanes" to the highest bidder. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission codified the principle through its landmark Open Internet order, in a major victory for public interest advocates. Broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon oppose the FCC's policy because it subjects them to utility-style regulation, and they promptly sued the agency to kill the rules. Last summer, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the policy, in a bitter defeat for the broadband giants. In response, the ISPs asked for a rare "en banc" review by the full DC Circuit. On Monday, that request was denied. Open internet advocates cheered the latest decision, even as they vowed to resist efforts by Trump's FCC chief Republican Ajit Piai to overturn the US net neutrality policy through a FCC rule-making process. The DC Circuit's ruling was important—and emboldening to activists—because it reaffirmed that the FCC is on solid legal footing with the Open Internet order, effectively knee-capping the legal arguments of net neutrality opponents. "The DC Circuit has once again confirmed that the FCC's Open Internet rules are lawful and supported by the evidence," said John Bergmayer, senior counsel at DC-based digital rights group Public Knowledge. "Now, the primary threat to these important consumer protections is FCC Chairman Pai's determination to roll them back, and to hand more power to monopolistic internet access providers." "The case against net neutrality and Title II is weak, and it should be settled by now." Pai's crusade to overturn the FCC's net neutrality policy is consistent with the latest Republican ideology that has led to dramatic efforts by the Trump administration to roll back consumer protections across broad swaths of the economy, including safeguards protecting online privacy, public health and the environment. The nation's largest ISPs oppose the FCC's policy because it classifies them as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act, thereby requiring them to ensure open and equal access to their networks. Despite the fact that the FCC declined to apply many of the more onerous features of Title II to the ISPs, like rate regulation, the industry still views Title II as a gross regulatory overreach. That's why they want to see the policy dead. Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, appears more than happy to oblige, despite broad opposition from consumer advocates, technical experts, online startups, and Silicon Valley giants. Last week, Pai launched a campaign to dismantle the net neutrality policy—and potentially replace it with unenforceable, voluntary commitments by ISPs. This process is expected to take several months, starting with the FCC's open meeting in May. "The case against net neutrality and Title II is weak, and it should be settled by now," said Matt Wood, policy director at DC-based public interest group Free Press. "The rules are working, and the only uncertainty is coming from Ajit Pai and his industry friends. It's too much to hope that they'll get the memo this time around, but the most important thing today is that internet users have notched yet another legal victory for their rights." In dismissing the broadband industry's request for an "en banc" hearing, the DC Circuit majority, led by Judge Sri Srinivasan and Judge David Tatel, rejected the two main claims advanced by opponents of the FCC's policy. First, the DC Circuit affirmed that the FCC had ample authority to reclassify ISPs as common carriers. Second, the court dismissed the much-ridiculed argument that the FCC's policy somehow infringes the free speech rights of broadband companies. Big Telecom now must decide whether to appeal the DC Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court—or simply wait for Pai to do the industry's bidding. Even if the high court grants certiorari, which many experts believe is unlikely, the case would not be heard until next year. By then, Pai's FCC may have successfully repealed the net neutrality policy, setting up yet another legal showdown if public interest advocates can show that Pai acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Open internet activists want to defeat Trump and Pai now, which is why they're organizing a grassroots effort to oppose Pai's plan at the FCC, in Congress, and in the streets, if necessary. In 2014, some 4 million people filed comments with the agency, most supporting strong net neutrality protections. Activists hope the forthcoming uprising in support of the FCC's Title II rules will improve upon that showing. "Chairman Pai's anti-net neutrality proposal, backed by the country's largest ISPs—the same industry whose petition was just denied—would dismantle this framework and undermine Americans' ability to rely on the internet as an open forum for speech, commerce, and other important uses," said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a progressive organizing group. "In the months ahead activists and the public have every intention to continue to mobilize and oppose Pai's plan each step of the way."
News Article | April 4, 2017
So it finally happened, to no one's surprise but against everyone's opposition: internet privacy is no more. U.S. President Trump has signed the controversial resolution that repeals internet privacy rules protecting consumers that required internet service providers to obtain permission before using and possibly selling their online data. The rules were adopted by the Federal Communications Commission during the previous Obama administration but had yet to take effect. The repeal is a victory for internet service providers and a loss for consumer groups. The then-bill prompted a spike in the search for VPNs as people looked for ways to protect their online privacy. The repeal would allow internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to get a free reign on consumers' online data. These include web browsing history, geolocation, financial information, app usage, health information, and other personal data. Before, the ISPs would need permission to use these data. But with the scrapping of the rules, the companies could sell the data to advertisers and interested parties like insurance companies without users' consent and with little government oversight. According to tech experts, self-regulation may not protect consumer privacy at all. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai welcomed the repeal, saying it effectively "invalidated one part" of the efforts of Obama in regulating the internet. "Those flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers," Pai said in an official statement. Pai echoed the contention of opponents of the privacy rules, such as the ISPs. For them, the rules excluded internet companies like Facebook and Google, which could use its users' online data. Instead of drafting rules that would address this contention and apply to all businesses, both houses of Congress decided to scrap the rules altogether. Broadband companies and internet companies vary in terms of their position in the market, according to experts. While Google and Facebook are market leaders in their own fields, they are not used to access the internet per se, unlike the nature of internet service providers. Moreover, there is little or no competition among the handful of broadband companies in many markets. "You can live without Google or Facebook," said Dallas Harris, a legal fellow at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group. "It's pretty difficult to walk away from internet service altogether." Internet providers found an ally in Trump, who earlier expressed support for the bill. "This will allow service providers to be treated fairly and consumer protection and privacy concerns to be viewed on an equal playing field," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CSA-SA | Phase: INCO-2009-2.2 | Award Amount: 597.73K | Year: 2010
ERA-Can II aims to increase opportunities for cooperation and greater coordination between Canadian and European researchers in areas of common priority by improving the level of knowledge, quality of strategic information and practical assistance available to Canadian policy-makers, researchers and research managers on FP7 programs, networking tools and research activities. To that end, it adopts a strategic approach that: (a) complements, through close collaboration, the efforts of federal, provincial and private sector research funding agencies, organizations and networks in Canada and the work of the European Commission, trans-national, national and private sector research funding agencies, organizations and networks in Europe; (b) focuses on areas and sub-areas of strategic importance to Canada, Canadian stakeholders and the European Commission; (c) builds on the successes and lessons learned from past and continuing initiatives. It applies this approach in pursuing the following strategic objectives: (1) improving the processes for obtaining timely strategic information on FP7 programs, networking tools and activities, in areas of common priority, for Canadian policy makers, researchers and research managers; (2) improving the processes for providing timely strategic information and practical assistance to Canadian policy-makers, researchers and research managers that encourages and facilitates international coordination for policy-makers and the participation of researchers and research managers in FP7 programs, networking tools and activities in areas of common priority; (3) improving Canadian and European knowledge of Canada-Europe S&T cooperation, identifying issues and advancing best practices in the field.
News Article | March 2, 2017