back to article Net neutrality: The world speaks its brains on secret 'open' 'net rules

Look at this photo of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler holding hands and smiling with the two Democrat commissioners who backed his "open internet" regulations, the pair wearing vivid blue outfits. It sums all that was both good and worrying about the decisions today to pass secretive net neutrality rules. Here, we see a historic …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top Secret

    So a sweeping new policy that affects much of the world is 'achieved' by a tiny trio of officials who are not actually legislators, and they did not see fit to let the rest of us know the details of their plan ahead of time.

    I can only speak for myself, but any time I see politicians fixing things that are not clearly broken and keeping it all a secret, alarm bells ring.

    But who cares what a sore loser thinks?

    1. Mike VandeVelde
      IT Angle

      Re: Top Secret

      "a sweeping new policy that affects much of the world"

      I've seen this sentiment numerous times, and I don't understand it so I have to ask - how will these rules affect anyone or anything outside the jurisdiction of the USA? I mean they do usually try to apply their laws across the globe, with varying degrees of success, but here in Canada we had an open internet last week, we still have one today, and as far as I can tell we will still have one next week and into the forseeable future. What is going to change in any other country?

    2. ZAM

      Re: Top Secret

      First you should educate yourself on how things work before you spout off.

      FCC operates within its legislatively defined mandate. Which is why Verison's lawsuit forced the FCC to develop these NN rule. The court told the FCC it could not implement NN unless it classified the ISPs as common carriers.

      The FCC has never releases rules prior to vote. Rules have to be published in Federal Register and are not effective for 30 day after published.

      The FCC is an independent executive agency. President nominates members but has no direct control of commission and can not remove members except in extraordinary circumstances. Members have to include both Dem. and Rep.

  2. Jordan Davenport

    Hey, Verizon

    First off, I'm not taking a side on the matter until I actually know what was decided. We all knew this was coming, whether it's good for the public interest or not. It's ridiculous to worry about the specifics until we actually know what they are.

    That said, "rules [...] that were written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph" aren't inherently irrelevant to modern society. I'm pretty sure that that Constitution of ours is still pretty relevant despite being written before that era.

    All that aside, I will grant that it's worrying that five people decided the fate of the Internet in the United States. Don't assume that the dissenting voices were entirely unheard. What really scares me is the idea that they may have taken a gamble by influencing language they thought was terrible, ceding the battle to win the war.

  3. Mark 85

    Wouldn't it be hilarious...

    ... if the FCC merely voted on 317 pages of blank paper? With everyone either praising or condemning and they haven't a clue what's in it yet. (Ok... supposedly but I think the press would have wind of it if had been leaked.)

    Yep... Congress admits they can't do crap... but then, that's never stopped them before. Bury any legislation in another bill, or wait for the next election. Or... wait for the lobbyists to pay off... err... influence a few from the other side.

  4. Robert Helpmann??

    Godwin's Law, MK II

    Godwin's Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

    So, how do we rework this to handle overblown, partisan rhetoric by pols? Perhaps something like this:

    In any public political statement concerning a matter of partisan disagreement, the current matter will be compared immediately to the major partisan disagreement of the last preceding election. By tradition, whoever made the comparison should be censored voted out of office shot along with everyone else who uttered a word on the subject.

  5. big_D Silver badge


    Didn't Obama tell Wheeler he should use Title 2 as the solution to the problem, after the courts had already told the FCC that they couldn't enforce net neutrality under existing rules and should implement Title 2 and come back once they had done that?

    The argument over net neutrality had been ongoing for a while, before Obama stuck his nose into the discussion.

  6. big_D Silver badge

    Land of the Fettered

    What always makes me laugh is that the Americans go on about the land of the free, about capitalism being the new religion, free competition etc. And then they turn around and moan about net neutrality being used to counteract monopolistic cable companies that use their lobbying power to ensure they are the exclusive suppliers in their markets, get bans put in place to stop other companies and local municipalities from being able to compete with them and provide a free market.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Land of the Fettered

      "What always makes me laugh is that the Americans go on about the land of the free, about capitalism being the new religion, free competition etc. And then they turn around and moan about net neutrality"

      You seem to be referring to 300-odd million people as if they had a single, unified, opinion.

      Surely not?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Land of the Fettered

        More the press and bloggers.

        They moan about Verizon et al having a monopoly on cable and that they block competition from other suppliers through local legislation. Then, when the FCC tries to do something, the press says the FCC should keep their nose out, they don't want federal interference.

      2. lambda_beta

        Re: Land of the Fettered

        Correct! 300-odd million people don't a single, unified, opinion. They just have no clue about what's going on. So, in a way they do have a single, unified, opinion; complete lack of intelligence and understanding.

  7. dan1980

    Regarding Verizon being the ones who set this off, well, that's probably true. Of course, Verizon were actually in the right and the FCC was trying to enforce regulations that were in opposition to their own rulings.

    That struck me as a bit ridiculous at the time and therefore had the ring of hollow posturing - as though the FCC wanted to look like it was doing something, despite not really wanting to. Now, perhaps it is shown in a different light; perhaps the FCC was baiting the big providers into just such an action.

    I still believe that the best result is actual legislation, so that the partisan squabbles of the FCC can't punt this foot ball back and forth, but of course passing legislation is no cooperative 'for the good of the people' affair anyway so you take what you can get.

    In the end, it would be nice if this was seen as a lesson to powerful players in monopolised industries - come to the table in good faith to address concerns and make real efforts to operate in a fair manner. Or be regulated.

    In other words: do the right thing or be forced to.

    We have it periodically with media in this country as in the UK, with noises being made every so often to regulate and then the media companies getting all up in arms and screaming about censorship and government control of the press before making some weak promises to for some industry bodies and self-regulate. Until a few years have passed and nothing whatsoever has changed and we do the dance again.

    Nice to see something actually happen.

    1. Aedile

      The blame can be split between Verizon and Comcast.

      Aug 2008 - FCC tells Comcast to stop mucking with BitTorrent.

      Sep 2008 to Apr 2010 - Comcast responds with lawsuit and win saying what the FCC wants doesn't have force of law since there isn't an order saying they can't.

      Dec 2010 - FCC says fine. Here is a real order enforcing NN

      Sep 2011 - Verizon sues saying FCC can't issue such and order under Section 706. Courts agree that FCC can only issues such an order if carrier are Title 2.

      Feb 2015 - FCC says FINE! You're all now Title 2. NOW DO NN!

      ?? 20XX - AT&T take FCC to court. Court decides the FCC Can/Can't make them Title 2.

      Link for the above info and more:

  8. PapaD

    I find it amusing that many republicans who are opposed to those proposed (secret, as yet unseen) 'Net Neutrality' rules on the basis that they are based on documents from the 1930's, but are still perfectly happy basing many other decisions, laws and such based on documents that are at least 1400 years old, if not older

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      America was discovered in 1492, founded in 1776. The Constitution of the United States was created in 1787. The Constitution established basic freedoms and rights that have stood the test of time. The internet as we know it is 25 years old, the foundations of the network are 45 years old. The internet is a vastly more complex technology to 1930s telegraph, and you would expect the rules governing them to be too.

      I don't know which documents you are specifically referring to, the Quran is believed to be about 1400 years old... maybe you are referring to this?

      1. PapaD

        "I don't know which documents you are specifically referring to, the Quran is believed to be about 1400 years old... maybe you are referring to this?"

        I meant the bible, I should have said compiled about 1600+ years ago, but I was erring on the side of caution - nevertheless, its an exceptionally old series of documents, which was finished being compiled around 397AD, and which many Americans use to create modern laws, without regard for 1600+ years of cultural, technological and intellectual progress.

        As for the Title II issue, right or wrong will depend on the contents of those 300+pages, until then, its still likely to be better than allowing the telecoms monopolies to continue in their current form

  9. Someone Else Silver badge

    Really, Kieren?

    The press will surely rise above this partisan nonsense. Just take a look at Fox News, [...]

    Fox News is to the press as a fish is to a bicycle.

  10. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Wearing vivid blue outfits

    I don't know about that. I think we'll need a second opinion on that color.

  11. Getmo

    Partisan, much?

    This entire article. So much it's silly.

    You mention ISP lobbying arms, as if their opinion is a surprise

    Fox News, who have never been "fair & balanced" and chant republican rhetoric so loud they don't even deny it anymore,

    The Liberals, who are just jumping on the bandwagen for the good reviews (because of course everything is politics, if one side wants it the other has to hate it)

    You are correct, we don't know the details, but you don't even mention the one thing we do know: this reclassifies internet under "Title II" regulation, making it a public utility, just like phone lines are.

    Meaning: all traffic is treated equally no matter where it's going, ISPs can't throttle speeds based on where it's going, ISPs can't charge customers (customers in this case being companies with web services, like Netflix) more to use their magic packet inspection powers to make customers connect to their sites "faster", meaning well established companies who could pay to keep traffic headed to their servers from being throttled won't have an upperhand over disruptive startups who can't.

    Basically a new Netflix competitor won't suffer from "lag", and have to pay to make it go away.

    However, I do agree that Title II provides broad regulatory power to the FCC, being over 100 pages long it always makes me uneasy to have to "trust" that the FCC will only prevent network providers from discriminatory actions and nothing more.

    On the other hand, we in the U.S. are ranked 13th in worldwide in internet speed, and we still pay more than most of you for it. Comcast owns 75% of ISP market, making it a damn near monopoly. There's absolutely zero incentive for ISPs to improve speeds or lower prices. So if FCC says, "you can't call it broadband unless it's 25 down and 5 up" then I say "o.k."

    Will ISPs have to pay a lot more into their networks to improve them? Yes. Fuck them.

  12. John Sawyer

    Something not made clear in the article (maybe it implies it by its reference to others jumping on the bandwagon for misplaced credit) is that the main "deciders" on this decision weren't just a few people at the FCC, and President Obama. Leading up to this decision, millions of Americans (and probably a fair number of people outside the US) contacted the FCC and told them they wanted net neutrality/Title II applied to the Internet. Prior to this deluge of input, the FCC commissioners were inclined to make the opposite decision. So if anyone didn't get the point, this wasn't some elitist, in-the-dark diktat.

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