Needless to say, access to the Internet is essential for the existence of websites like Postflaviana.
In the latest step in the drive by the US ruling class to censor the Internet, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) on Thursday published its order abolishing Internet neutrality in the governmental Federal Register, initiating a 60-day countdown for the law to come into force.
The FCC’s ruling represents a far-reaching attack on the democratic rights of the entire population and public access to the Internet. Beginning April 23, multibillion-dollar corporate behemoths, such as Verizon and AT&T, will be free to restrict access to or completely censor Internet sites as they see fit.
On December 14, the FCC voted by a 3-2 margin to overturn the previous characterization of Internet broadband as a public utility under the 1934 Communications Act. This definition required that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide customers with the same level of Internet access, regardless of what they were connecting to. Moreover, ISPs could not selectively block or reduce speeds for specific sites or services, and could not create a multi-tiered system by charging users or content providers for higher traffic speeds.
Since the ISPs will not be forced to treat all content the same, they will be able to block web sites and services at their discretion. The claim, promoted by the FCC and its chairman Ajit Pai, that competition between ISPs for market share will prevent such actions ignores the fact that the telecommunications infrastructure is largely monopolized, with four companies controlling 75 percent of all high-speed Internet service. Over half of American households have only one ISP to “choose” from. These corporations are now being handed an incredible power over global communications.
The ISPs will also be able to establish a class-based system of Internet access, including by offering “packages” of Internet content. They may, for example, introduce a premium “Wikipedia package,” charging customers to access Wikipedia, a repository of humanity’s collective knowledge currently accessed by over 400 million people each day, just as cable television networks charge for news and sports.
The fight for net neutrality rules is not over. There is a drive to get a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC regulatory action. The vote is breaking along party lines, with Democrats supporting net neutrality and Republicans opposing. And there are also court battles looming: even internet giants such as Google and Facebook are concerned that ISP’s could support their own content at the cost of any company that doesn’t own the infrastructure.
For whatever it’s worth, we support efforts such as the one at www.battleforthenet.com to lobby Congress to save the existing net neutrality rules.
However, both of these approaches to preserving net neutrality are facing serious challenges. The Republican party, in general, has been suspicious of net neutrality, so the CRA faces an uphill battle in Congress. And, the courts have generally held that the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet.
What happens next?
So, assuming that the rules change in 60 days, what can we expect? My guess is that changes will be gradual at first; but eventually, we will see the large Internet sites make deals with the telecom companies, and perhaps even a cycle of mergers and acquisitions. Medium sized sites may work through content aggregation providers that would similarly negotiate with the telecoms.
For Internet users, it will probably mean that basic access to telecom-provided assets will be cheapest, and any broader service will cost more. Acquiring unfiltered access to everything that exists on the Internet backbone, could end up requiring expensive specialized radio links.
All of this will interact in complex ways, with the current move to censor social media sites such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. “Alt Media” sources and consumers are being driven off those sites, and onto less popular sites where it is much harder to gain a broader audience. And those smaller sites will be more expensive or even impossible to access for many readers.
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