Thursday, May 25, 2017

FCC unshackles Cable Industry to start restricting U.S. internet services and consumer choices.

When your one single cable company offered bundle packages that included telephone service, they committed themselves to being a telecommunications service, an essential public service like a utility company providing heat and electricity. It "subjects them to tough, utility-style regulation." They should have known this.

But with the Republican free market FCC repealing net neutrality, we're getting a taste of a repressive government movement that will be difficult to unwind, if ever. 
The Verge: At the end of the day, internet providers are still doing well and have seen their stock prices rise, which suggest investors aren’t as devastated by net neutrality as they let on.

The Internet Association, a group that represents more than 40 top internet companies, including Google, Facebook, and Netflix, said there was no reason to change the rules. A group of 800 startups and investors, led by Y Combinator, also released a letter this morning FCC directed to Pai, saying, “We’re deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework.” While the ACLU and 170 other advocacy groups wrote Pai last month asking for him to preserve the 2015 rules.
Hold onto to your seats, the corporate takeover and profiteering has begun:
1. CABLE INDUSTRY LOBBYISTS WRITE REPUBLICAN TALKING POINTS ON NET NEUTRALITY: House Republican lawmakers received an email from GOP leadership on how to defend the decision. Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference. “Here is a nifty toolkit with news resources, The attached packet of talking points came directly from the cable industry. “The FCC is wisely repealing the reckless decision of its predecessors to regulate competing internet service providers,” reads one of the document’s talking points.
Here’s their press release:
Victims whose stolen names and addresses were used to submit fake anti-net neutrality comments send letter to FCC demanding investigation: Victims of a campaign that spammed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with over 450,000 fake anti-net neutrality comments have sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to remove the fraudulent comments from the public docket and demanding an investigation into who is behind the identity theft.  

“Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, exposed our private information in a public docket without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto,” the letter reads. The letter also warns that “hundreds of thousands of other Americans may have been victimized too.” See the full letter here. Following the launch of Comcastroturf.com, a site encouraging Internet users to investigate the fake comments, Fight for the Future received dozens of verified reports from impacted people across the country. 
Then this happened:
2. Comcast tries to censor pro-net neutrality website calling for investigation of fake FCC comments potentially funded by cable lobby: Fight for the Future received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s attorneys for our site Comcastroturf.com. Without net neutrality rules, Comcast could have censored the site outright.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future has received a cease and desist order from Comcast’s lawyers, claiming that Comcastroturf.com - a pro-net neutrality site encouraging Internet users to investigate an astroturfing campaign likely funded by the cable lobby - violates Comcast’s “valuable intellectual property.” The letter threatens legal action if the domain is not transferred to Comcast’s control.

“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “If Ajit Pai’s plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies,” she added. “It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?”

The legal notice can be viewed here. It claims that Comcastroturf.com violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and infringes on Comcast’s trademarks. Of course, these claims are legally baseless, since the site is clearly a form of First Amendment protected political speech and makes no attempt to impersonate Comcast. (See the case “Bosley Medical Institute vs. Kremer” which held that sites critical of a company’s practices could not be considered trademark infringement.)
And finally, the ultimate insane act of right wing political belligerence. Try and find this freedom in the Constitution:
3. Robocalls swamped my voicemail, and they snuck in without a ring: Republicans and others want the FCC to give the OK for spammy messages that slip into your voicemail without notice. Free speech? Or voicemail meltdown?

No ring, no "call" -- which would let the messages sidestep a rule that says groups must get your written consent before targeting your phone with pleas for votes or pitches for products. That's the thinking anyway, and supporters of the strategy want the FCC to make it official.

Subjecting such sneaky robocalls to the prior consent rule "would not only restrict an important form of nonintrusive communication; it would have serious consequences for the First Amendment rights of those engaged in political communication via telephone," the Republican National Committee said in comments filed with the FCC earlier this month (PDF). The RNC didn't respond to a request for further comment.

Critics, on the other hand, say bye-bye voicemail. Margot Freeman Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, told Recode that allowing this kind of stealthy spam would leave many people "completely overwhelmed by messages" they can't block.

No comments: