Perhaps us “wingnuts” were right about the government trying to take over the Internet. First we warned that the radical, anti-property Left wanted the FCC to wrest control of the web through Net Neutrality – which looks like will happen in some form by the end of the year.

And now it seems the FEC’s in on the act, too.

Late last week, partisan commissioners at the Federal Election Commission proposed that Internet blogs which publish political advertising / speech be regulated in the same burdensome manner as TV and radio broadcasts.

Notes Ann Ravel, Vice Chair of the FEC:

In the past, the Commission has specifically exempted certain types of Internet communications from campaign finance regulations. In doing so, the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena…

…[T]he distinctions between the Internet and other modes of communication are not what an earlier group of Commissioners may have anticipated. In fact, as nearly everyone now knows, you can watch TV on the Internet. Cable companies even advertise the ability to access the same content—including ads — on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or TV. So why hasn’t the Commission reevaluated its approach to keep up with the changing times? 

Good question, Ann. Perhaps, because the changing times have passed y’all by, and the Right-leaning side of the aisle realizes that you and your fellow censors should stay out of the picture?

Just sayin’.

The most revealing line in Ravel’s statement is: “the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.”

It cannot be controlled.  And, political speech is dangerous (to them).  It upsets the status quo.  Increasingly, that’s really getting under the skin of campaign finance / media reformers like Ravel.  The collision that the Internet forces on the issue shows that campaign finance reform and media reform are the same thing (as the video below, with former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, further illustrates).  So, they need a hook to tamp that dangerous speech down, and quickly.  Call it ensuring that the “intent of campaign finance laws” remains observed, or “protecting Internet openness” – whatever, political speech on the Internet demands a government-recommended food triangle, or Surgeon General’s warning label of sorts, because speech must be as clean, sanitized and “balanced” as an NPR news story for it to “properly serve” the public weal.

“You will smile when we force you to eat your digital broccoli. It will do you good,” say the nanny censors at the FEC and FCC.

Hooey.

Conservatives should be especially concerned because Right-leaning voice / political speech – which is virtually non-existent in the mainstream media – proliferates on the web. Funny that as the web has matured, and with it the Right’s minority voice, the Left now wants to shut the joint down.

Perhaps more ironically is the fact that “hands-off” policies enacted in 2005 and 2006 by the aforementioned agencies led to massive growth and popular uptake of the Internet / web. These polices were purposely designed to encourage small voices to participate in our democratic process. Now, the reward for that success is speech-chilling rules.

What a bait-and-switch.

_______

The First Amendment is 45 words long.

FEC rules are 555 pages long.

The FCC’s Net Neutrality proposal spans 99 pages.

Do we really want the FEC’s and FCC’s regulatory labyrinth to “guide” speech on the web? For a low-cost medium that is almost entirely dominated by small, independent voices like Average Joe and Josephina?

You know, the small guy can follow the First Amendment.  But only well-organized political parties, unions, corporations and the 1% can afford to learn and then follow – through banks of lawyers and experts – the FEC’s and FCC’s rules.

And that’s exactly the point. Those agency rules aren’t about protecting the little guy.  Rather, they’re about protecting the powers that be.

That ain’t right.

VOTE ON TUESDAY!!!

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The title says it all.

So does this screen shot from a recent Twitter conversation I had on Net Neutrality with a “clicktavist” (pictured at right).

Paraphrasing, me (@Polisoniccom): What do you want from Net Neutrality / Title II?  Clicktavist (@RavenWolf_Yula): To hobble corporations.  Me: That’s not the FCC’s job.

Net Neutrality as killer corporate killer app.

Net Neutrality as killer, corporate-hobbling app.

This type of exchange on Twitter is par for the course.  In fact, it’s tame in comparison to others I’ve seen.  Basically, they follow the radical group Free Press and its anti-corporate, er, I mean, pro-Net Neutrality talking points.

Free Press’ co-founder, Robert McChesney, set the ball rolling with these gems:

  • “Any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.” (The U.S. Media Reform Movement – Monthly Review, September 15, 2008)
  • “There is no real answer (to the U.S. economic crisis) but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.” (A New New Deal under Obama? With John Bellamy Foster – Monthly Review, December 21, 2008)
  • “Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism. It is impossible to conceive of a better world with a media system that remains under the thumb of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, under the thumb of the owning class.” (Journalism, Democracy, … and Class Struggle – Monthly Review, November 2000)
  • “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” (Media Capitalism, the State and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles: An Interview with Robert McChesney – The Bullet Socialist Project, August 9, 2009)
  • “What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. We want an Internet where you don’t have to have a password and that you don’t pay a penny to use. It is your right to use the Internet.” (Media Capitalism, the State and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles: An Interview with Robert McChesney – The Bullet Socialist Project, August 9, 2009)
  • “Advertising is the voice of capital. We need to do whatever we can to limit capitalist propaganda, regulate it, minimize it, and perhaps even eliminate it. The fight against hyper-commercialism becomes especially pronounced in the era of digital communications.” (Media Capitalism, the State, and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles: An Interview with Robert McChesney – The Bullet Socialist Project, September 8, 2009)

It seems knee-capping corporations is as much the end-game for “Net Neutrality” as is “protecting” the open Internet, as this video further amplifies (below).

Hobbling corporations isn’t the FCC’s job.  If the Commission thinks it is, it is time to fire it.

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No one loves their public utilities. They’re slow, unresponsive to change, and only just good enough for government work, which isn’t saying much.

If you’d talk to progressives working in the Internet space, though, you’d hear a different story. They think that utilities, and the 19th Century regulation used to control them, are the greatest things since sliced bread.  You see, they want to make private U.S. broadband providers public utilities, and radical groups like Free Press, Public Knowledge and MoveOn.org have pulled out all of the stops to get the Federal Communications Commission to do so.

Why?

Clearly, the Internet is one of the greatest communications tools ever. And broadband providers – such as cable, fiber, DSL, wireless, satellite and Wi-Fi operators – allow users to access the Internet.  Though broadband has exploded with growth and innovation these past 10 years, the Left believes the Internet is simply too important to be left to corporate access providers to develop it any further.

U4In their view, the FCC should turn all 1,700 private U.S broadband providers into public utilities to “protect” the Internet’s “openness” and development. Not only would this indenture them to government servitude, it would make Internet access a general-purpose tool where all who use it – from the biggest corporations down to the Average Joe – move at the same “fair” speed, without “discrimination,” no one ahead of the other.

Good idea, eh?

Well, not really.

First of all, the Internet exploded precisely because regulators decided not to regulate it like a utility. Each year, U.S. broadband providers pour approximately $70 billion into upgrading Internet access, totaling well over $1 trillion of investment since 1996. Consequently, choice abounds.  And that choice doubles in speed and quality every three years without increase in price.  Can your water, gas, electricity providers do that?  Didn’t think so.  That’s because they’re regulated to death as utilities.

Second, the Left wants to flat-out ban so-called “discrimination” of content, applications, services and devices, making everyone suffer with the same undifferentiated Internet experience that treats all traffic “equally,” without any priority. But we should want reasonable discrimination. It is a well-accepted business practice employed in every segment of our economy to improve consumer welfare. It means providers can differentiate their offerings from their competitors, bringing new value to Internet users and the ecosystem. Reasonable discrimination actually makes the Internet better.  Banning it would end a constantly evolving Internet.

Finally, we’ve tried utility regulation before with our communications laws, and all it succeeded in doing was delaying by decades the rollout of cellular, digital and other important communications infrastructure to “protect” the provision of plain old telephone service. Similarly, broadband infrastructure advancements would decelerate because utility regulation greatly limits profit and flexibility, dampening incentives to invest and innovate.  Moreover, once such regulation has been unleashed on broadband providers, regulators will eventually use that to regulate well beyond, to companies like Google and Netflix. This, of course, would further devastate the entire Internet ecosystem.  Having to ask permission to innovate and invest would slow the Internet’s development down to government speed.

When has that ever been good?

The Internet is the very opposite of government speed, or just good enough for government work.  It does not ask for permission to innovate, help consumers, or change society.  It just does it and waits for us to decide.  This has resulted in tremendous consumer and societal benefit.  Not just for Americans, but for the entire world, too. It will stay that way to the extent it remains unencumbered by government-mandated utility regulation.

No one loves their utilities. Why put the Internet in with such terrible company?

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Dear Mr. Hunt,

A recent story in the Washington Post (“Inside the collapse of the FCC’s digital infrastructure – and the rush to save it,” by Nancy Scola) reports that in the run up to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s September 15th deadline for Net Neutrality Reply Comments, FCC staff and “grass-roots activists” supporting the rule worked actively and exclusively to ensure not only that their comments made it into the agency, but also that the most positive public relations spin could be put on the number of activists’ comments for the media at large.  If the Post’s report is accurate, MediaFreedom believes this “unusual collaboration” undermines the Commission’s open rulemaking process, revealing in it a bias that defeats the needed reason and factual underpinning for a lawful rule to result.  To this end, MediaFreedom urges the Office of Inspector General to look into the matter to ensure that no fraud, waste or abuse in FCC programs and operations has occurred as a result of these actions.

In pertinent part, the Post report notes:

“…[The] number [of comments coming in to the FCC] that would eventually spit out of that creaky online machine mattered a great deal to those [on the left] trying to show how invested the mainstream American public had become in the net neutrality debate.  Holmes Wilson is the co-founder and co-director of Fight for the Future, one of the handful of networked activist groups leading the charge [for Title II regulations].”

 “The final count was extremely important to us,” Wilson says. “When you have a protest, the first thing anyone says is, ‘How many people came?’”

 …The ability to funnel large numbers of people through online channels of civic engagement has become a sign of tangible power.  Marvin Ammori is a lawyer and activist who sits on the board of some of the [progressive left] advocacy groups involved in the open Internet fight.

 “It’s a political question,” says Ammori, “how you count these numbers.”

 …[As the September 15th deadline for reply comments came closer, a] trail of e-mails that shot back and forth between activists and the agency around that mid-September deadline revealed an unusual collaboration. All involved saw the deluge coming, and activists — planning a one-day “Internet Slowdown” that called on the public to contact the FCC — reached out to the bureaucrats to see how they might help keep the system afloat…

 …While the agency was piecing together those measures, the advocates saw that overnight their backlog had grown to three-quarters of a million comments. But by midnight, only a fraction had been formally filed into ECFS. So they asked the agency to pass along any press inquiries to the advocacy groups so that they could relay their unofficial but accurate count.

 But press management is an imperfect science, and word that the total number of file comments was an underwhelming 100,000 found its way out of the FCC press shop. “That was wrong,” Ammori, the activist-lawyer, says of the tally. “Very wrong.” That figure, though, was printed and reprinted widely on Thursday, including — to the particular annoyance of the organizers — in the New Yorker. Feeling that they’d held back filing some of their batched comments because of the FCC’s guidance, the advocates were dismayed.

To ease minds and soothe tensions, the advocates and bureaucrats worked together to correct the record. Shortly after 1 p.m. Sept. 11, the FCC press secretary sent out a carefully crafted tweet: “Due to high number of comments received in last 24 hours, we do not yet have an official comment count. Will provide update ASAP.”

 The activists kept up their bulk submission of comments over the weekend, and by the following Monday, all were in. Near the end of the day on Tuesday, Sept. 16, the FCC spokesperson sent reporters a note with a final, official tally: some 3.7 million comments. A whopping 828,000 came in during just the last few days of the activists’ push… (All emphasis / bolds added)

It is clear from these excerpts that an extraordinary amount of FCC coordination, support and resources were devoted to the activists to help get their (and apparently the FCC’s) message out to the public.  If one took the report entirely at face value, one could be forgiven for believing that only the activists cared or commented on this issue before the agency.  Of course, that is not the whole truth of the matter.

The FCC Open Internet rulemaking will affect the prospective legal rights of others.  In accord with the Administrative Procedure Act, the Commission invited comments from all affected parties and the public at large to develop a reasoned rationale for its rule. Nearly four million comments poured into the Commission during the Comment and Reply phases of the rulemaking process.  Almost one million of those came from parties who stand against the agency’s proposed regulations.  Yet, from the Post’s article, it appears the Commission’s staff worked to advance and promote only one side of this picture – that is, those pushing for Title II-oriented regulations, and nothing else.

The one million voices against the rule were not offered any assistance to get their side of the story out.  Moreover, in “correcting the record” it seems FCC staff were willfully blind to the fact that a majority of the filings in the closing phase of the Reply Comments process came from those who did not agree with the FCC’s position.

In choosing to count only the activists’ numbers and go no further to find and publicize the true tally, the FCC purposely disenfranchised almost one-million opposing voices, simply wishing them away because they did not comport with a “narrative” that supported the agency’s position.  In doing so, the Commission’s actions say: The polls are closed and your “vote” will not be counted.  Ironically, they seem to reflect the very same type of unreasonable discrimination, which the agency seeks to “protect” the Internet from in its proposed rule.

This appearance of bias undermines the agency’s credibility, as well as its disinterested search for solutions from concerned citizens, to protect the public interest.  It limits debate, not promotes it.  Why comment when it appears that dissent will not be considered in any meaningful way? More to the point, if significant portions of the debate have been automatically red-lined as of no import, how can any resulting rule be considered “reasoned,” and thus lawful, when viewed by a court of law?

It is already bad enough that the FCC is about to impose controversial and dubious rules that lack clear and unambiguous congressional authority, essentially regulating through loophole an immense swath of our economy.  This land grab is not an exhibit of an expert agency in action for the public.  Rather, it is a political exercise, a Star Chamber. The public interest deserves better than “regulatory decisions” made by a de facto Commissioners Marvin Ammori and Holmes Wilson. “Unusual collaborations,” which put the fox in charge of the hen house are not due process.

We respectfully urge the Office of Inspector General to look into this matter to ensure that the public interest was not harmed by the reported actions.

Thanks,

Mike Wendy – Director, MediaFreedom.org

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Free Market Coalition Decries FCC’s “Unusual Collaboration” with Title II Groups

October 2, 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler: We write to express our concern that the FCC is losing what should be one of the greatest assets of any independent agency: its perceived objectivity. As an independent, expert agency, the FCC has an obligation to weigh arguments and evidence evenly before making decisions. Increasingly, however, FCC staff appear to be […]

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Video: Say No to Muni Broadband, with Scott Cleland

September 30, 2014

Among other nonsense, the FCC is in the middle of determining whether it should preempt state laws that limit the provision of muni-provided boondoggles, er, broadband.  NetCompetition’s Scott Cleland reminds us why muni networks are such a bad thing for taxpayers and competition.

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Video: Even Supporters Don’t Understand Title II Net Neutrality

September 25, 2014

This video shows a representative from Namecheap as he tries to describe Title II Net Neutrality, and the need for it.  Not surprisingly – because even the professional FCC lobbyists can’t tell you exactly what Title II Net Neutrality is – he stumbles along, and then finally comes to the conclusion that the entire Internet […]

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Slippery Net Neutrality

September 20, 2014

The concept known as Net Neutrality is essentially a creature of the Left – a vessel into which it has poured all of its societal or other angst, framing a “problem” – which purposely has no defined edges – and then creating a “solution” to “fix” it.  If one has to generalize, Net Neutrality means […]

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NOI for Tom Wheeler – 5 Net Neutrality Questions

September 11, 2014

Since mid-May reports have circulated that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is under such immense pressure from the Left to regulate the Internet via FDR-era rules that he’s about to squirt out a diamond from one of his orifices. Consequently, to reduce some of that pressure, especially as the Net Neutrality comment period deadline approaches, he’s […]

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At Least 60% of FCC Net Neutrality Comments Robo-Filings Says New Study

September 3, 2014

Progressive-oriented Sunlight Foundation came out with a deep-dive of the approximately one million Net Neutrality rulemaking comments sent to the FCC in July. In its new study, Sunlight asks: “What can we learn from 800,00 public comments on the FCC’s net neutrality plan?” Well, of the 800,000 comments it examined, Sunlight estimates that fewer than […]

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