Google/Verizon Proposal Limits Internet Regulation

August 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Obama Administration, Politics | Leave a comment

The other day, the Curmudgeon published a story advocating that the FCC reassert its authority over internet common carriers. The story said that the Google/Verizon deal had foundered. At the same time, Google and Verizon released a “policy proposal” that would seriously limit FCC regulation.

With blatant insincerity, the proposal says that the FCC should indeed regulate the internet–but only in specific ways. It proposes that internet service providers (like Verizon) should not be allowed to block access to information providers, or offer a paid “fast lane.” It says that the FCC ought to have the power to prevent or stop such violations.

But there would be exceptions. (Remember the overused phrase “the devil is in the details?”) Wireless access to the internet would not be covered. New services that internet service providers might offer would not be covered. Essentially, the proposal is to allow the FCC to have authority over existing wired services only.

This “proposal” changes nothing, except to make it more important that we tell the FCC to take back the authority it relinquished and impose reasonable regulation on the existing internet services (wired, wireless, or what-have-you) and on all new services as well. It is critical that the internet remain open and equally available to all, at reasonable cost.

According to Jay Schwartzman, senior VP and policy director of the Media Access Project, the plan “creates an Internet for the haves and an Internet for the have-nots.” He goes on to point out that implementing the proposal “may make some services unaffordable for consumers and access to those services unavailable to new start-ups.” That is to say, the proposal would result in a tiered internet, where you’d have to pay more for some services and some data. Not good for the consumer—you and me—and not good for start-up businesses.

One FCC commissioner, Michael J. Copps, opposes the proposal and feels that “It is time…to reassert F.C.C. authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.” But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is wishy-washy on the subject. Although he says that “it is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it,” he also says that there may be benefits in broadband providers “offering managed services in limited circumstances.”

Chairman (and Commissioner) Genachowski needs some backbone, and ought to stop playing nice-nice with the big internet service providers. They are, as I have said before, common carriers, and the FCC should not negotiate with them. The FCC needs to assert its authority to regulate all common carriers providing services over the internet, whether wired or wireless. Then it needs to do what the Communications Act of 1934 told it to do 75 years ago: make the wired and wireless communication networks equally available to all of the people of the United States.

If you have not already done so, please write Mr. Genachowski and tell him so. His email address is Send copies to the President and your senators and congressman, whose contact information is easily available at If you want to send snail mail, Chairman Genachowski’s address is: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.


The Muslim Menace

August 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Religion | Leave a comment
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New York City last week approved the application of a Muslim group to erect a mosque and community center only two blocks away from Ground Zero. The project has been vigorously protested as a “slap in the face” of those who died on September 11, and as a political statement rather than a religious one. Stories circulated that the mosque would be at Ground Zero, rather than two blocks away.

I wonder how far away would be far enough? I wonder whether those opposed to the project know that there were Muslims–workers like others in the Twin Towers–who died in the attacks. I wonder whether the opponents know that the center will focus on interfaith dialogue, will have members of other religions on its board, and will include what the developer called “a September 11 memorial and contemplation space.”

The New York City mosque and community center project is not the only one being protested. According to the New York Times, protests were mounted recently against similar projects in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Temecula, California; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

So what’s the big deal? People protest against new church, synagogue, and other building projects all the time, because such projects may generate traffic and noise.

The big deal is that people are protesting these projects because they are Muslim projects. There’s a groundswell of bigotry against Islam that started after the September 11 attacks. People found out that Muslims were behind the attacks–and generalized their hatred of the attackers to include all Muslims. These people have decided that all Muslims are a grave danger to us. They have become bigots.

But there are a few things they don’t understand. They know little or nothing about Islam, which is one of the world’s major religions, ranking second only to Christianity in number of adherents. Like Christianity, Islam includes a contingent of fanatic extremists. Like Christians, the vast majority of Muslims are mainstream. It is the fanatic Muslim extremists, the lunatic fringe, who have perverted the religion: they are the danger. They are the terrorists.

These bigots don’t seem to realize that by spouting hatred against Islam they are playing right into the hands of the terrorists. Osama bin Laden and others like him can point to these bigots and tell prospective terrorists that the West is making war on Islam. He can say that we hate all Muslims, and that Muslims must destroy the West in self defense. We are not trying to destroy Islam, we are fighting the terrorists. The bigotry we see around us is wrong–and it encourages the very thing we’re trying to prevent.

The bigots don’t seem to understand the Constitution either. Amendment 1, the very first amendment, says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech , or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ” I don’t think it takes a constitutional lawyer or scholar to interpret that. Muslims must be allowed to practice their religion as freely as Christians, and Jews, and Buddhists, and Baha’is, and everybody else does.

Terrorists certainly pose a serious threat, one we must fight. But trying to prevent Muslims from freely practicing their religion is not fighting terrorism, it is bigotry. It is morally wrong, it is un-American, and it is unconstitutional.

Want to Pay More to Use the Internet?

August 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Obama Administration, Politics | Leave a comment

The internet is a whole lot like the telephone network… and the railroads…and even the roadways…except that the internet carries data for the most part. Data like email messages, movies, files you found by searching on Google travels between internet sites and your computer. It works like cars driving from place to place at rush hour: the speed varies depending on the amount of traffic, and the farther the cars (or data) have to go the longer it takes, but everything moves at the same speed.

The problem is that broadband carriers (like AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon) can change things so that some kinds of data go faster, and other kinds go slower, and they’d like to do that. They’d like to charge more for some kinds of data than other kinds of data. They’d like to scan your emails for key words so they could sell your name to marketers who do “targeted marketing.” They’d like to make exclusive deals with certain blogs and web sites–and block your access to competing blogs and web sites. They’d like to do lots of things, none of which are in your interest, and most of which will end up costing you money and limiting your access to internet sites and information.

The way things stand today, they can do it. The FCC, which used to enforce the rules on the internet, decided a few years ago that it didn’t want to do that any more, so at this point internet services provided by broadband carriers are pretty much unregulated.

But the FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 with the mission to “make available, so far as possible, to all people of the United States . . . A rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communications service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, [and] for the purpose of promoting the safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication.” The internet carriers clearly provide communications services: the FCC has jurisdiction. All it needs to do is to formally declare that it has jurisdiction! That will give it the ability it gave up several years ago to regulate internet providers the way it regulates other common carriers.

In May, the FCC announced a “third way” plan to regulate internet common carriers a little bit, and entered negotiations with Google and Verizon, which were cutting a deal about the internet. The terms have not been announced, but the deal apparently foundered. Meanwhile, the FCC’s plan has apparently foundered too; that’s just as well, because the FCC shouldn’t be negotiating with members of the industry–It should be regulating them.

I don’t suggest extensive regulation. But, like the telephone system, the internet is operated by common carriers. Common carriers should allow all users–information providers and information users–equal access to everything that’s out there, while protecting our privacy–and at fair and reasonable cost. That won’t happen without regulation.

I urge you to write to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to tell him you want the FCC to declare its jurisdiction over internet service providers, and to ensure that the common carriers who operate the internet are appropriately regulated. You can send him an email at (and it would be a good idea to copy the President and your senators and congressman). If you want to send snail mail, Chairman Genachowski’s address is Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.

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