The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org:

Mt. Vernon, VA, March 12, 2015 - The President’s 400-page Net Neutrality Order issued by his “independent” FCC today represents the single most anti-speech and information law since Woodrow Wilson’s takeover of the telephone networks in 1918. If the rules are allowed to go into effect, they will gravely harm consumers and society.

The Administration, FCC and other organs of our government consider the medium to be akin to broadcasting, and then some – like a guitar amp turned to “11.” As Tom Wheeler has been wont to say, “The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It’s simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field.”

The new law reflects the fact that speech and information control are baked into the core of the FCC’s regulatory DNA. That genetic makeup drives the vague public interest standard underlying most grants of authority from the Commission. It has allowed the Commission to impose content controls on broadcasters, based on notions of spectrum scarcity, and the pervasiveness, ubiquity, ease of access and general importance of the medium to Americans. And, it enables the FCC to determine market pricing and other information that guides the supply of communications technologies and services to consumers.

That anti-free speech and information DNA is now being grafted onto the Internet.

As the President / FCC note time and again in the Order, the core goal of the law is to protect and promote political and other societally-valuable speech on the Internet. It does so by both compelling speech and association, and banning speech and association. In this regard, it prohibits so-called throttling, blocking and prioritization, meaning networks must allow all speech from all parties all the time – even if that is not desired by the privately owned networks. And, networks may not “unreasonably” discriminate or differentiate their offerings with third-parties or affiliates, in a practical sense both denying Americans of new and innovative choices, as well as constricting important information required by the marketplace to meet consumer demand.

Moreover, the Order has a catch-all, case-by-case approach to the provision of new services, which will judge among other factors whether certain “[p]ractices that threaten the use of the Internet as a platform for free expression would likely unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage consumers’ and edge providers’ ability to use BIAS to communicate with each other, thereby causing harm to that ability.” (Emphasis added) The FCC’s past makes it hard to see how this new “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” standard could comport with the First Amendment. In any event, it will be abused by policymakers working with “competitors” in the ensuing regulatory process, thwarting free expression and any innovation those practices might have brought to the marketplace.

The discretion granted by the FCC to itself makes it now the de jure arbiter of Internet innovation and growth. This is hardly inspiring from a Commission that has a hard time keeping its own website up, it crashing temporarily today as the Order was first given unto the world.

On the whole, the President’s / FCC’s Order reflects a profound disdain and mistrust of private industry to serve Americans and the world. This is a speech and information takeover, pure and simple. Woodrow Wilson would be proud. He distrusted private enterprise and the free expression it engendered, too. Sadly, Americans will suffer as a result. Congress and the Courts remain the only avenues now to stop this harmful agency from killing the Internet and our prosperity.

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There are many lessons to be learned from the President’s takeover of the Internet almost two weeks ago. A key one in my mind is that, well, our side didn’t show up in the flesh. And the anti-property Left’s did. Their grassroots were vocal, open and notorious. They put a human face on Net Neutrality.

Our side? Not so much.

Here’s a good listing (from Free Press’ Craig Aaron) of the groups that the Left brought to the Net Neutrality battle:

Aaron

Free Press’ Craig Aaron (at right), with cut out Tom Wheeler drone.

The long but probably still incomplete list of key groups that share in the credit for this victory includes 18 Million Rising, Access, the ACLU, the Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange.org, Common Cause, Consumers Union, CREDO Action, DailyKos, D.C. Action Lab, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, EFF, Engine Advocacy, Fight for the Future, Free Press, the Future of Music Coalition, the Internet Freedom Business Alliance, the Media Action Grassroots Network, the Media Democracy Fund, the Media Literacy Project, the Media Mobilizing Project, MoveOn, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Open Media, the Open Technology Institute, PCCC, Popular Resistance, Presente.org, Public Knowledge, Revolutions Per Minute and SumOfUs.

It’s true that, as this story reports it, “The Ford Foundation, which claims to be the second-largest private foundation in the U.S., and Open Society Foundations, founded by far-left billionaire George Soros, have given more than $196 million to pro-net neutrality groups between 2000 and 2013.” 

Added to that, it remains highly likely that corporate interests, such as Google and Netflix, were behind other Net Neutrality funding, too.

That’s a lot of cabbage. But, so what. I don’t even care about the hypocrisy that every single one of those groups wants to eliminate money in politics, yet uses tons of it to speak and achieve their political wins and policy changes.

It doesn’t matter. We lost after we had drawn a line in the sand – NO TITLE II! This is not to belittle our think-tanks, academics and market-oriented groups, which in all did a massive amount of impressive work to lay out the mechanical case against Net Neutrality. On the blackboard, we won.

But we missed gluing that story together with Average Joe’s daily struggles.  Further, we failed to elicit his participation and excitement as expressed in real world activation (i.e., preaching on the streets, at the coffee shops, in places of work, etc.) for the cause, too.

The tide turned decidedly last winter after a Federal Court threw out the FCC’s second try at Net Neutrality. From that stinging rebuke, the FCC got serious and began intense “outreach” to the grassroots. The anti-property Left’s, that is. Consequently, they were able to put the big P in politics, and elevate their concerns with a human face so that the “99%-ers” could understand and get behind a pro-Title II, Net Neutrality message (even if no one on their side really understands what that means for the Internet ecosystem).

Title II rang out as a populist, Screw-The-Man thing that resonated with the property haters. Math was not required (nor wanted). It inspired the troops. And, with some old-fashioned “community organizing,” it resulted in pro-Net Neutrality rallies across America all year long.

I went to most all of the DC-area rallies. Simply put, the anti-property Left brought IT. Yes, a good portion of them were professional activists. Still, they were persistent and definitely not fair weather fans. They were there Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In perfect weather. In shitty weather. Some even camped out at the FCC over night for a week.

Spring protester at the FCC.

Spring protester at the FCC.

 

I’ll be brutally frank – I do not recall seeing a one of us out there during this period. Not a single conservative protester (or even group leader). Zero.

A missed opportunity, to say the least. But the non-confrontational tactic had its cost, too: It meant that there were no real-world, human faces for the press to see to even attempt a credible counter-punch for the conservative / free enterprise side of the Net Neutrality debate.

 

Here’s some video from their Net Neutrality rallies:

May Rally at the FCC

July Rally at the FCC

July FCC Rally, etc.

July Senate briefing

September Rally at the FCC

September Rally in Philadelphia

November Rally at the White House

December Rally at the FCC

December FCC Open Meeting and its Net Neutrality protester outbursts

Sure, they look pretty silly. But they were there (even if it might be a game). And the reporters saw it all and covered them. A lot.

Policymakers saw it, too, and lauded the troops with bon mots and support.

And, importantly, Tom Wheeler, along with his two other majority Commissioners saw it (because they orchestrated it, but still…). They created all the cover they needed to take over the Internet for the President.

This activation – in the streets and online – represents an aggressive new tactic in the tech policy battles now and going forward. It purposely disrupts the old guard of lobbyists, lawyers and economists, and puts in its place a plebiscite of sorts. As a result, our chalkboards filled with math, and the various methods we (and others) use to transmit that, have become even less persuasive / effective in this new environment.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A simple, key element in competing with this new activation is that we’ve got to get out there and REPRESENT! Truly.  

We have to play in the Left’s sandbox. We must use their “rules” and their messaging tools and beat them at their own “community organizing” game.

They showed the world in the simplest way possible that it mattered to them (or it certainly appeared that way).

We must do the same.

We need to get angry, feisty and be willing to do what it takes to participate and speak out. If we cannot meet this challenge and put a human face on OUR issues, then we will lose, and we will continue to do so until it’s simply too late to do anything.

We cannot just “modem-in” our battle. That’s lame. And, if it ever worked before, it no longer does.

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The FCC says the President’s new Title II rules are not about controlling speech. I guess that memo never made it to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who seems to believe that controlling free speech is the very heart of the new Internet takeover.  

In her statement at the FCC’s open meeting last week, when she voted for the President’s new plan, she said:

“So here we are, 224 years [after the Bill of Rights and it First Amendment became law], at a pivotal fork in the road, poised to preserve those very same virtues of a democratic society – free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, freedom of assembly and a functioning free market.

“As we look around the world we see foreign governments blocking access to websites including social media — in sum, curtailing free speech. There are countries where it is routine for governments, not the consumer, to determine the type of websites and content that can be accessed by its citizens. I am proud to be able to say that we are not among them.”

Really, Commissioner Clyburn?  So, the FCC isn’t regulating Internet content?

Hardly. 

“We are here to ensure that there is only one Internet where all applications, new products, ideas and points of view, have an equal chance of being seen and heard…[Consequently the Order] contains strong, clear rules to ensure that all content, all applications and all bits are treated equally.”

Gosh, that sounds awful lot like the affirmative action for Internet content to me.  A plan and/or legal routine which will use the force of government law to curtail the free speech of private communications companies so that all content is treated “fairly.”

Clearly, the Order clamps down on speech, association and protected First Amendment rights and behaviors. That is its very design. Otherwise, why impose it? I mean, we do nothing other than communicate, share information and associate with others via the Internet. And the President’s new rules limit those relationships substantially.

If you’re not convinced, then what’s this about? In explaining the 300-plus page Order (which the public hasn’t yet seen), FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler notes:

The Order also includes a general conduct rule that can be used to stop new and novel threats to the Internet. That means there will be basic ground rules and a referee on the field to enforce them. If an action hurts consumers, competition, or innovation, the FCC will have the authority to throw the flag”. (Emphasis added)

Stopping “new and novel threats” through a general conduct rule – which, I’ll add, cannot be found in the Communications Act – sounds all but tailor made for government content controls.

Others seem to think that, too. Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz points out on Monday that the so-called general-conduct rule “reportedly has seven standards, one of which is the ‘effect on free expression.’ [And while] Net neutrality was supposed to ban online discrimination based on content, [instead] it is empowering the FCC—the agency that for decades enforced the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and that last year proposed studying ‘bias’ in newsrooms—to chill speech.”

Ambiguity and amorphous standards are the tools of tyranny. The President’s new Internet takeover laws were built on fear and speculation over what ISP “gatekeepers” might do, not what has actually happened. Their genesis came from just four specious “Net Neutrality” violations over the past decade among literally trillions upon trillions of Internet communications. They reflect the fact that speech control is baked into the core of the FCC’s regulatory DNA. It’s what drives the vague public interest standard underlying most grants of authority from the Commission. And, it’s what has allowed the Commission to impose “Red Lion” and “Pacifica” oriented content controls on broadcasters at various points since 1949, based on notions of spectrum scarcity, and the pervasiveness, ubiquity, ease of access and general importance of the medium to Americans.

That mindset is now being grafted onto the Internet.

According to the FCC, “scarcity” is present because broadband competition is essentially “non-existent,” it being constricted by n’er do well wired, broadband “monopolists,” as well as limited by government-licensed spectrum grants to wireless operators. This is not to mention all the local controls which ostensibly subvert the aims the broadband economy, further creating “scarce” broadband competition in the U.S.

Of course, we’re reminded in every FCC speech that the Internet is pervasive, everywhere (except where it isn’t, by self-serving agency definition), easy to use and important to every facet of daily life. Heck, where would we be without the Internet (which the FCC seems to credit itself for the medium’s growth and survival)?

All of this works to help the agency justify and impose its expansive, shape-shifting Section 706 “virtuous cycle” authority to protect the edge by micromanaging how core infrastructure grows. And, its 1934 Title II telephone regulations for the Internet, which clamp down on behaviors, information and speech in the name of making sure no one is unduly disadvantaged by anyone else’s communications flowing over the Internet.

Tom Wheeler inadvertently confirmed this last week, saying:

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules…[So, the agency’s new rules are] no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the 1st Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

Except the First Amendment declares it’s not the government’s job to be making those kinds of rules. Consequently, Tom Wheeler, and the rest who want to regulate “Net Neutrality,” have the concept exactly on its head.

We can worry about what this means in a practical and legal sense later. But, let’s put away the prevarication that these regulations aren’t about controlling free speech.

That is their essence. Period.

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In this short video, TechFreedom’s Berin Szoka says Title II-like public utility regulation works for only for railroads and true monopolies – neither of which operate on the Internet today. So, how is that regulation going to grow the medium? Answer – it won’t.

Seems the FCC is more interested in a power grab than anything else. The Internet ecosystem and Americans will be harmed as a result.

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Statement: Today’s FCC Actions Create ObamaNet, and Americans Will Suffer for It

February 26, 2015

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Mt. Vernon, VA, February 26, 2015 – Welcome to Occupy the Internet – that is, ObamaNet. Today’s two White House Orders from its “independent” FCC have effected a virtual and physical takeover of the Web. It cannot be put any more plainly than […]

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Video: Randolph May Discusses the FCC’s Momentous, Misguided Net Neutrality / Title II Order

February 25, 2015

If you were listening to the Rush Limbaugh Show today, you would have heard Rush talk about Net Neutrality (btw – he thinks it’s an Obama takeover of the Internet), and, in particular, Randy May’s important take on it. And what is that, you may ask? Well, Randy believes that in the four decades that […]

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Video: Internet Takeover Will Be the Stupidest Thing Done by the FCC Since 1934, with Scott Cleland

February 23, 2015

I was able to catch up with NetCompetition’s Scott Cleland on Capitol Hill last Friday.   In the accompanying (short) video, he’s not pulling any punches: In his view, the President’s takeover of the Internet this coming Thursday – via his FCC and its imposition of old-fashioned telephone rules for the Internet – is about […]

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Video: The President’s Internet Power Grab Hurts Free Markets and Free Speech, With Less Government’s Seton Motley

February 16, 2015

On February 26th, the President will begin his Internet takeover with the FCC’s planned implementation of Title II-oriented Net Neutrality rules. So, what does President Obama’s power grab mean for free markets and free speech? Not a lot of either, states Less Government’s Seton Motley in a video he and I shot this weekend. Take […]

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The President Wants Politics? OK, Credit Barack Obama for the Internet Takeover Starting February 26th

February 14, 2015

</begin rant> The other day, a Washington Examiner story on the Federal Election Commission caught my eye, providing further confirmation that the waning days of Internet freedom are here. The piece notes: Claiming that thousands of public comments condemning “dark money” in politics can’t be ignored, the Democrat-chaired Federal Election Commission on Wednesday appeared ready […]

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Government’s Internet Takeover Officially Begins February 26th!

February 7, 2015
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