back to article Net neutrality crunch poll: Americans want to know WTF it is

With commissioners at US watchdog the FCC due to vote on proposed net neutrality rules next week, a poll of Americans has revealed two interesting and important aspects: Most of them don't know what on Earth net neutrality actually is. Most of them want to see the rules before they are approved. This is unlikely to stop …

  1. frank ly

    A prediction

    "74 per cent of Americans are unfamiliar with the term "net neutrality" or what it refers to"

    70% of them will remain in that condition.

  2. Steven Jones

    The devil is in the detail

    Most people have no idea what "net neutrality" actually means in practice, apart from something that sounds desirable. Once you try and map this aspiration onto the the reality of the Internet with its complex web of content delivery networks and peering connections it becomes immensely complicated. For instance, can a content supplier who optimises their own costs at the expense of an ISP expect the same service as one that assists ISPs by interconnecting at more points?

    Of course it might be reasonable to treat all traffic equally at any one point in an ISPs network, but that's far from the same thing as all network traffic is treated the same overall.

    The Internet isn't just a cloud to which an ISP simply leases a bit of bandwidth. The reality, both technically and commercially, is very different.

  3. Michael Habel

    OTOH: You have the Cable Co's crying with Cap in Hand that Title II will give Obama Taxation Powers over the Internet. Just like the Landlines of today! AND THAT'S BAD!!! (If you believe the Comercials over there!)

    OTOH: Do you really want to see this happen? 'Cause I don't!!

  4. Steve Knox

    Poll with leading introductions results in "facts" that support pollsters' opinions SHOCKER!

    Information prior to question: One1 principal concern raised by some people is that ONLY the five members of an unelected2 Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, will decide the future of the Internet3 without providing an opportunity for the public to see and understand the regulations prior to a vote. Opponents of the Internet regulation plan to seek public disclosure of the exact rules and specific regulations prior to the FCC's official vote. These groups say that, given the importance of the Internet in the daily lives of Americans, the FCC should provide greater information about the proposal to regulate the Internet to better understand its costs and benefits.

    1. Providing only one side of the debate to people already determined to be unfamiliar with the issue biases responses in favor of that one side.

    2. Loaded term "unelected" creates impression of political overreach.

    3. Stressing (to the point of exaggeration) the importance of the proposed regulations increases the odds of an emotionally-influenced response.

    Information prior to question: Over the past 22 years, the Internet has developed and grown into what we have today, with little government oversight, and has resulted in major private investment by the nation's wired and wireless providers in modern, high-speed broadband networks.4 President Obama5 is now proposing that the federal government regulate and oversee the Internet similar to how it oversees the electric or gas public utility industry. Specifically, President Obama proposes allowing the FCC, for the first time, to regulate the Internet with the same authority it has used in the past to regulate monopoly telephone service.

    4. Rose-tinting the past without ever discussing ISPs plans to restrict/tier access.

    5. Tying it to Obama to guarantee a strong Republican response.

    And what is the opinion of the pollsters?

    “These findings suggest that the FCC’s bid to impose outdated telephone regulations on the Internet is driven more by professional activists than by the public, which seems instinctively to resist the idea,” said Will Marshall, PPI President. “That’s why Congress should take a closer look at what the FCC is up to and make sure these issues get a thorough public airing.”

    Wow. They're not even trying to hide their bias at all. Are we so cynical, or so lazy, that we're willing to allow these people to pass off a clearly manipulated piece of bullshit as a set of legitimate data?

    Even setting that aside, you could have stopped with:

    74 per cent of Americans are unfamiliar with the term "net neutrality" or what it refers to

    Given that, what's the point of asking people who don't understand the issue to begin with more detailed questions about how to deal with it?

    (all quotes taken from the PPI press release about their poll, linked in the article.)

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Poll with leading introductions results in "facts" that support pollsters' opinions SHOCKER!

      A bit of research points out that the Progressive Policy Institute is a centrist democratic organization. Ok.. so far so good... but a big chunk of their funding comes from.... wait for it..... AT&T. Sorry but the poll is fatally flawed.

      And Steve is right. There should have been no further questions after the first one. We don't really have an unbiased news source and most folks don't even read the news. Unless it's reported by one of the celebzines, they don't have a clue what's going on in world.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poll with leading introductions results in "facts" that support pollsters' opinions SHOCKER!

        > [ ... ] the Progressive Policy Institute is a centrist democratic organization [ ... ]

        The PPI is a neo-liberal (read: Republican Lite or Corpocrat) Think Tank. They shill for the Wall Street/Corporate arm of the Democratic Party - namely the Clinton Faction.

        The policies promoted by the PPI are not that different from those of the Cato Institute or The Heritage Foundation.

        A few landmark pieces of legislation associated with Bill Clinton's presidency, and of relevance to the FCC and Title II:

        - Telecommunications Act of 1996

        - Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998

        Reach your own conclusions.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Poll with leading introductions results in "facts" that support pollsters' opinions SHOCKER!

        Yet we do have a nominally democratic regime. If there is no need to ask after opinions in the case of proposed FCC rules for US internet operation, why is there a need to ask after them when it comes to NSA communication surveillance, where the level of ignorance may be even higher?

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Poll with leading introductions results in "facts" that support pollsters' opinions SHOCKER!

      The wording of the questions is somewhat biased. However, the real bias in the two middle questions is the implicit one which will lead most of those who favor "good government" to disfavor what seems to be, and is, taking significant government action in secret. Nearly all respondents will know that is undesirable and the surprising thing, if there is one, is that fewer than 4/5 of them gave an answer favoring more complete (Q2) or verbatim (Q3) disclosure.

      The answers to last question suggest a reasonably high general level of satisfaction with internet service as now delivered, conditioned by the fairly strong hint in the preliminary information about how those with a political party leaning should view the question. For the (sample) population as a whole, and as well for both the "informed" and "uninformed" subsamples an absolute majority think the regulation is more likely to harm than help; and in the "informed" group, those who think the it likely to be harmful outnumber by 4 to 3 those who think it will be helpful. The numbers are good enough to support a prediction that if the matter were subjected to a national vote tomorrow, net neutrality would fail rather badly.

      Political Ignorance is a problem, especially with technical and engineering questions at issue, and especially when, as now, there is a good deal of distrust for both the government and traditional elites. Unlike some possible cases, however, it appears it would not affect the outcome in this one - those who claim knowledge lean the same way, although not as strongly, as those who don't.

  5. Hud Dunlap

    The FCC is just following Nancy Pelosi.

    "We have to pass this sucker to see whats in it."

    1. Michael Habel

      Re: The FCC is just following Nancy Pelosi.

      "We have to pass this sucker to see whats in it."

      There's just One small detail your overlooking. Net Neutrality (With added Title II Taxation or not!) will be a good thing in the long term. The ACA? Not so much...

      Now if you'd rather see this happen to the Internet then please vote no.

      (LIKE AN IDIOT!)

      P.s. Just thank <DEITY> that Harry Reid is gone... Now if only Nancy would get the drift and, blow away!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The FCC is just following Nancy Pelosi.

      No. The FCC is secretly controlled by Lenin, from his tomb at the Kremlin.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is almost as if the FCC is trying to sabotage this

    Chairman Wheeler can make it seem like he's not in the pocket of his former masters (he used to be chief lobbyists for the national cable organization, for those who don't know) by "trying" to pass net neutrality regulations, but doing it in a way that will leave the FCC exposed to lawsuits that can delay it until republicans potentially take over in 2017 and shitcan the whole deal under the guise of "avoiding government regulation".

    Gotta admit, that's a more crafty strategy than the lobbyists usually use, so maybe I'm overthinking this a bit. But it is mind bogglingly stupid to withhold details from the public as it just opens the whole thing up to a ton of criticism and potential legal challenges.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pole might not be partisan, topic is though

    74% of all questioned don't know what NN is, but 80% of Republicans say FCC regulation of it is bad.

    America is just a fcuked up country.

  8. CarbonLifeForm

    What's the problem net neutrality is proposed to solve?

    I just wish somebody would explain it to me. What problem do we think we have, and how do these as of yet invisible rules address them? It seems the most pressing question to answer. Fairness doctrines in Federal jurisprudence have sometimes served to cement existing cozy corporate / regulatory relationships. As the regulators are unelected and protected from public pressure, all that is needed is to classify your undesirable activity as "unfair " and the onus is on you to disprove the bureaucrats assertion. It just smacks of corporatism to me...

    Color me an uninformed American I guess. But it's not by choice I'm uninformed if they don't publish the rules.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What's the problem net neutrality is proposed to solve?

      Net Neutrally means the big players cannot control the Internet.

      From content to transmission speed to pricing, they want to control it all and this is bad for small companies and individuals alike.

      Never forget, it was OUR tax money that created the Internet.

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    This is all you need to know

    Mark Cuban opposing the rules

    100 startups agreeing with the rules

    Local governments and small ISPs in favor

    Tells you all you need to know right there and that NetNeut is a good thing.

    It's already been noted on other websites that Cuban made billions from an open Internet and now wants only the big players be able to dictate its use.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: This is all you need to know

      You forgot the parts where none of these groups know the actual terms of what the FCC wants to do.

      Conclusion: All of them are talking out of the arse.

      I can honestly say I don't know what NN is. I know what it SHOULD be, but I don't know what the FCC want to do and CALL it NN. I suppose you could argue NN is what it is, and the FCC's opinion doesn't matter, but pragmatically, that's an incredibly naive position.

  10. veti Silver badge

    "The government is considering changing the rules that govern the internet. Do you know about this?

    Do you think you ought to know about it?"

    Yeah, no way is that a leading question...

    I'm sure, if the rules were published, those 73% who want it to be published would immediately go and read them through in detail, and not in any way take their opinions predigested from their choice of talking heads on TV or talk radio.

  11. msknight
    Thumb Up

    "Now you could, of course, argue that having 26 per cent of Americans aware of any public policy issue is a remarkable achievement"

    ...give that journalist a bacon sarny. And that was so good that I'll even pay for my own replacement keyboard.

  12. MacGyver

    Big surprise

    It should come as no surprise that Republicans don't want government regulation. They have had this concept drilled into their minds for years by the leaders of their party. They'll scream all day about deregulating this or that, never once making the association that clean water, safe food, and the ability to use whatever phone you want all come FROM regulations. Ask them if they want the internet to change, they'll say no, then try to explain that the "regulations" in question were perceived to have always been there, it's only now that the ISPs have gotten so big that they are chewing on the leash and we need to better define the rules. I mean this is the party who's actual presidential candidate was advocating disbanding the EPA.

    Why is it again that we don't give IQ and personality tests to candidates prior to letting them run for office?

  13. Anonymous Coward


    The public have been overwhelmingly in support of 'net neutrality but the FCC want to keep the proposed laws a secret until the vote.

    Seems to me that the carefully selected Tier II laws won't be what the neutrality advocates were after.

  14. Tom 13

    The PPI is a well known Democrat front group.

    As such, the odds of them running an unbiased poll are similar to the odds of the Tobacco Institute producing an unbiased scientific study.

    That the poll came back as lopsided as it did against Net Neutrality is a sign of the complete failure of The Big 0's power grab.

  15. skizzerz

    Not really unbiased

    While I cannot comment on the selection method used to find people to poll, the background information section was heavily biased. It mentions repeatedly that the idea is President Obama's and that Obama is the one leading the charge to get this to happen by putting forth the proposal (which is actually false, Obama stated that he supports Title II but acknowledges that the FCC can do whatever the hell it wants because he has no power over them). By mentioning Obama, you get the predictable reaction from the people who self-identified Republican in that the majority of them absolutely hate the idea. An unbiased question would have left Obama entirely out of it as that detail is irrelevant to what the FCC is actually proposing. Additionally, the only other fact stated was regarding broadband investment, which has absolutely nothing to do with Net Neutrality at all -- the ISPs have even gone on record to their investors saying that the outcome of this won't impact their investments. The cherry-picking of that investment figure without giving other facts or a link to other facts may have also biased the results.

  16. HKmk23

    In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

    Remember only 10% of US citizens hold a passport, so expecting net neutrality to be even understood is simply asking too much. Anyway, close down Google and you will not need any net neutrality laws.

  17. earl grey

    Just say NO to net neutrality

    and YES to last mile resale at current market prices.

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