(However, it’s possible that Congress could pass laws to overrule the FCC, though the Obama administration has hinted that they would veto such things.)
The FCC approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the agency will ensure that no entity “should control free open access to the Internet.”
To the cheers of millions of Internet users who create, share and comment on videos, photos, stories and updates from coworkers, friends (and enemies) and with the support of massive Internet companies like Google and the discomfort of cable companies like Comcast, today the FCC approved “net neutrality” and set the stage to regulate Internet speeds by regulating them as little as possible.
Net Neutrality means that cable companies and other ISPs that provide internet access to users at home, work and while mobile cannot charge the sites and content providers more to speed their pixels and bytes onto our televisions, computers, tablets and phones. In other words, all internet content is to be treated equally, whether it comes from a law firm, a personal home page, the phone company or Google. While it’s possible that Congress may pass laws to limit Net Neutrality, the Obama administration has strongly hinted that they would veto such legislation, giving the FCC regulations the final say.
At this point, all that’s expected to happen is a creation by the FCC of regulations that prevent ISPs like cable and phone companies from blocking content, slowing content, or allowing content providers to pay for a “fast lane” to customers. Companies will still be allowed to charge different prices for different speeds of service.
One thing is clear - this policy and the FCC vote to pass it by would not have happened if not for millions of online “netizens” (to use a term from the 90s) working alongside companies like staff at tumblr or Google (who pointed out a loophole in the original FCC draft proposal that would have eviscerated Net Neutrality had it made it through to the final regulations (which aren’t done yet)), and nonprofits like transformativeworks & the EFF.
Four (ok, three) for you, Glen Coco, and kudos to all of us!
“At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies, but the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control,” he told the website SocialistProject in 2009.
“What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. We want an Internet where you don’t have to have a password and that you don’t pay a penny to use. It is your right to use the Internet.”
(Media Capitalism, the State and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles: An Interview with Robert McChesney – The Bullet Socialist Project, August 9, 2009)
“Advertising is the voice of capital. We need to do whatever we can to limit capitalist propaganda, regulate it, minimize it, and perhaps even eliminate it. The fight against hyper-commercialism becomes especially pronounced in the era of digital communications.”
(Media Capitalism, the State, and 21st Century Media Democracy Struggles: An Interview with Robert McChesney – The Bullet Socialist Project, September 8, 2009)
“Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism. It is impossible to conceive of a better world with a media system that remains under the thumb of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, under the thumb of the owning class.”
(Journalism, Democracy, … and Class Struggle – Monthly Review, November 2000)
“There is no real answer (to the U.S. economic crisis) but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”
(A New New Deal under Obama? (with John Bellamy Foster) – Monthly Review, December 21, 2008)
“Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism.”
(The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers – Nation, March 18, 2009)
McChesney’s managing director at Free Press, Craig Aaron, had this to say:
“We need a law that says, no matter what kind of network you’re on—wired, wireless, I forget, there’s some other network coming in the future—that net neutrality applies.”
(Interview with Robert McChesney – Media Matters Public Radio show, March 22, 2009)
And McChesney’s former policy director at Free Press, Ben Scott, also said:
“Increasingly the Internet is no longer a commercial service, it’s an infrastructure…What we’re witnessing at the FCC now is the logical next step which is we are going to create a regulatory framework for the Internet which recognizes it is an infrastructure now and not a commercial service.”
(C-SPAN: The Communicators – C-Span, September 25, 2009)
Free Press has welded extraordinary influence over the Obama administration for the past several years.
“[Former FCC Chairman Julius] Genachowski’s press secretary at the FCC, Jen Howard, used to handle media relations at Free Press,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “The FCC’s [former] chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd, co-authored a Free Press report calling for regulation of political talk radio.”
“While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, conservative talk continues to be pushed out over the airwaves in greater multiples of hours than progressive talk is broadcast,” the report stated, oversimplifying politics into a false left/right paradigm. “These empirical findings may not be surprising given general impressions about the format, but they are stark and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.”
The FCC wants to similarly restrict political free speech on the Internet.
U.S. Army releases racially biased hairstyle regulations.
Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the National Guard in Georgia has always plaited her hair into two twists around her head. She has been in the military for six years and has worn her hair natural (meaning no chemical treatments [perms] or hair extensions [weaves]) for four of those years. But according to the new hair-grooming requirements the U.S. Army recently released, her hair is now out of regulation.
And so are the Afro-centric hairstyles of many black women in the Army, who make up 31 percent of Army women.
Jacobs, who said she is “kind of at a loss now with what to do with my hair,” has started a White House petition asking the Army to rethink its new hair guidelines. The petition has collected more than 7,000 signatures from soldiers and civilians, but needs to reach 100,000 signatures by April 19th in order for the White House to address it.
Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary; however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair… These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent.
The new Army Regulation 670-1 was published Tuesday and illustrates with photos the types of hairstyles that are unauthorized for women. Those include dreadlocks, twists or any type of matted or coiled hair. A particularly cumbersome requirement disallows the bulk of a woman’s hair to “exceed more than 2″ from her scalp.” That rules out Afros and most types of non-chemically altered black hair.
Basically, almost every natural hair option that black women in the Army could wear is now off limits. One of the few traditionally natural hairstyles that was listed as appropriate is cornrows, but a slew of specifications and rules surrounded even that. The diameter of each cornrow can’t be more than one-fourth of an inch, and no more than one-eighth of an inch of scalp may be shown between cornrows.
The only way to realistically meet the new standards would be to shave one’s head, perm one’s hair or wear weaves or wigs.
Jacobs said twists like the one she wears are very popular among black women soldiers because the style requires little maintenance when in the field. Her hair’s thickness and curliness makes pulling her hair back into a bun (a style popular among white women soldiers) impossible.
A spokesperson for the Army said the grooming changes are “necessary to maintain uniformity within a military population.” When that need for “uniformity” erases the ethnic differences of a group of women and forces them to constrain themselves to European standards of hair, it presents a serious problem.
“I think, at the end of the day, a lot of people don’t understand the complexities of natural hair… I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all,” said Jacobs.
Living off the grid is illegal in Cape Coral, Florida, according to a court ruling Thursday.
Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that the city’s codes allow Robin Speronis to live without utility power but she is still required to hook her home to the city’s water system. Her alternative source of power must be approved by the city, Eskin said.
As previously reported in Off The Grid News, Speronis has been fighting the city of Cape Coral since November when a code enforcement officer tried to evict her from her home for living without utilities. The city contends that Speronis violated the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.
“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of his clients’ case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”
Part of the conflict: She must hook up to the water system, although officials acknowledge she does not have to use it.
Speronis told Off The Grid News in February she hopes to win her case and set a precedent for others in her situation. After court Thursday, Speronis told Off The Grid News that she actually won on two of three counts, although she acknowledged her legal battle is far from over.
“But what happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”
Eskin spent several hours reviewing the case and admitted that the code might be obsolete, the local Press-News newspaper reported.
“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” Eskin was quoted as saying.
Eskin’s remarks indicate that he views the code as both obsolete and unreasonable and in need of change. Yet he felt he had to enforce it.
Thanks to thedoomreport for bringing this article to my attention
Get ready for the Department of Broadband. On Monday, President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify the Internet as a public utility—like water or electricity—under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The goal: “to protect net neutrality,” Mr. Obama said in a White House YouTube video, an ironic venue for announcing a monumentally bad idea that could strangle the Internet.
For years the FCC has been inching toward imposing net-neutrality rules, which are sold as a way to ban Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers. In reality such rules would dictate what ISPs like Comcast and Verizon can charge for their services. The Silicon Valley crowd particularly likes the net-neut idea, because it would mean cheaper access for companies like Google and Netflix, who are heavy bandwidth users. President Obama’s announcement is likely to delight them—and liberal groups supporting supposed Internet “fairness”—because now FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will be under enormous pressure to do the White House’s bidding.
But the Internet cannot function as a public utility. First, public utilities don’t serve the public; they serve themselves, usually by maneuvering through Byzantine regulations that they helped craft. Utilities are about tariffs, rate bases, price caps and other chokeholds that kill real price discovery and almost guarantee the misallocation of resources. I would know; I used to work for AT&T in the early 1980s when it was a phone utility. Its past may offer a glimpse of the broadband future. Innovation gets strangled.
Bell Laboratories—owned by AT&T—invented the transistor in 1947, the basic building block of today’s telecommunications and computing. But AT&T was one of the last businesses to use the innovation. Why? Because the company had a 10-year supply of the old technology—vacuum tubes—and waited until they ran out before converting to using AT&T’s own invention.
It was much the same with touch-tone dialing, which was invented in 1941 but not rolled out until the 1970s. Though touch-tone was easier to use than rotary-dial phones, and cheaper, AT&T charged $10 a month extra for the service—because the company could. Bell Labs funded a study to decide the size, color and coding of the touch-tone buttons. The study’s director received a report with hundreds of ideas but didn’t like any of them. Instead, he insisted on gray buttons, and just 12 of them.
More utility follies? The first cellphone call was made in St. Louis in 1946 with AT&T’s Mobile Telephone Service, but the company let the innovation wither. It took until 1983 for Motorola to introduce the now comically unwieldy DynaTAC, a cellphone that weighed more than 2 pounds—but that private-sector effort is what ultimately led to today’s 4-ounce iPhone.
Oh, and data. I worked in a group at Bell Labs that developed the early 300 and 1200 bit-per-second modems. We wanted to test them by sending data from our Western Electric factory in Illinois to our site in New Jersey. But no luck, because Illinois Bell hadn’t set tariffs for data. We had the technology, but regulators lagged far behind.
A boss at Bell Labs in those days explained what he called the Big Lie, using water utilities as an example. Delivering water involves mostly fixed costs. So every decade or so, water companies engineer a shortage. Less water over the same infrastructure meant that they needed to raise rates per gallon to generate returns. When the shortage ends, they spend the extra money coming in on fancy facilities, thus locking in the higher rates for another decade.
If the Internet is reclassified as a utility, online innovation will slow to the same glacial pace that beset AT&T and other utilities, with all the same bad incentives. Research will focus on ways to bill you—as wireless companies do with calling and data plans—rather than new services. Imagine if Uber had to petition the FCC to ask for your location.
The president’s statement Monday was not the first time he has promoted net neutrality, just the most emphatic. At an Oct. 9 town-hall meeting in Los Angeles, he said: “I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality. I think … it’s what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.” Then he, however awkwardly, implored the FCC to act: “My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. Now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet.”
Maybe Mr. Wheeler didn’t get the message last month and the White House thought he needed some public hectoring. Or maybe he has been only sidling up to the idea because he knows deep down that network neutrality is a fuzzy concept that can’t possibly exist in nature. Comcast might want to charge Netflix customers $5 a month for a fast lane, but if Google Fiber is in town and offers Netflix with no extra charges, that’s what customers will choose.
The beauty of competition is that you get network neutrality for free. AT&T cut long-distance rates in the 1980s when MCI and Sprint started competing fiercely. Calling from San Francisco to New York became cheaper than calling from San Francisco to San Jose, because California tariff prices were still highly regulated. The same thing happened to international rates once Skype offered voice and video connections free online. And it is no surprise that AT&T hurried to offer its own gigabit Internet connection in Austin, Texas, as soon as Google Fiber showed up. Now everyone in Austin has access to a fast lane.
And the rest of us? “At 25 Mbps, there is simply no competitive choice for most Americans,” Mr. Wheeler said in a September speech. Treating the Internet like a utility would ensure things stay that way.
The president might think he’s doing a favor for Americans, but utilities are utopias only on paper. With no competition to stimulate investment, capabilities will wither. Eventually a federal bureaucracy will be needed to help allocate the scarce broadband resources. In that vaguely neutral world, everybody gets access to the same resources. Well, except for the government—it of course will need special, superfast access. You want cheap, ubiquitous and naturally neutral broadband? Promote competition and outlaw utilities.
The truth is that most regulation is written by and for incumbent businesses to erect barriers to entry and to buy advantages over their competitors. That’s why corporations fund groups like the Center for American Progress.
Earlier this year, Center for American Progress donor Citibank hired lobbyists to literally write 70 out of 85 lines of a bill regulating derivatives trading which passed the House. If this regulation was meant to hurt Citibank’s profitability while defending their customers it’s unlikely to have done so.
There are three main reasons corporations like Citibank write their own legislation. First, lawmakers feel pressure from constituents to regulate industries about which their staffs know nothing; corporate lobbyists and lawyers provide much-needed information. Second, it’s much easier and faster for a company to understand and comply with a regulation it wrote. Third, and most important, companies write regulation that is easier and cheaper to comply for them than for their competitors.
Writing regulation gives companies a leg up on their competition without ever having to improve quality or lower prices. If lobbying is cheaper than innovating, companies will write regulation instead of taking risks.
While writing regulation is a great plan for companies, it really screws consumers. Regulations lower efficiency and profitability for all companies (though to differing degrees for different companies). These costs get passed right on to their customers. Regulations also rob customers of the innovation, quality improvement and price decrease that results from robust competition.
In other words, every dollar a company spends paying lawyers and lobbyists to write regulations is a dollar not spent developing new products or methods of manufacture.
Unfortunately, instead of helping consumers, even well-intended regulation actually screws them twice. It first screws them by raising the costs of goods and services. It then robs them of the lower costs and greater quality resulting from businesses having to compete for customers instead of regulators.
Lefty bloggers like those who write for “ThinkProgress,” run by Center for American Progress, like to talk about regulation versus deregulation as if deregulation were an actual thing.The United States has never seen a net reduction in regulation in any industry.What they are referring to are selective exemptions from existing regulation for certain activities and companies.This isn’t so much deregulation as different regulation, and it is also authored and crafted by companies for companies.
For example, last year the House Financial Services Committee inserted language written by corporate lawyer Michael Bopp word-for-word into a 2012 version of a bill which would exempt many trades from Dodd-Frank regulation. It passed the House as written by Bopp, save for a slight change in phrasing. A later iteration of the bill, passed by the House committee earlier this month, also included some of the same wording. This isn’t some ideological war on regulation and in favor of free markets. “Deregulation” is corporate rent seeking in exactly the same way regulation is, only possibly with fewer unintended consequences and costs for consumers.
The main thing people fail to understand about money of any shade is that T-Mobile, Toyota, and Visa don’t give to the Center for American Progress despite their calls for greater and more onerous regulation. They give because of their calls for greater and more onerous regulation. And why then do corporations give to Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute? Sometimes it’s cheaper to fight the regulation their competitors’ lawyers wrote than to write their own.
We all want to believe that regulators understand the industries they’re regulating well enough to improve their functioning. We all want to believe that regulations protect consumers from greedy businesses. Unfortunately none of that is true. And the sooner we stop worrying about what color the money is and start worrying about the actual, real-life effects of the regulation the money promotes the better off we’ll all be.
Single mother Tameka Stigers figured that she could use her skill at braiding hair to support her family. She soon discovered it wasn’t that easy: Missouri required that she get a cosmetology license before she could do it professionally.That required getting a degree from a cosmetology school, which would cost Stigers at least $5,000 in tuition and require 1,500 hours of classes. The schools don’t even teach hair braiding, she adds.
Alternately, she could be apprenticed under an accredited professional, but she would have to rack up 3,000 hours working there — a year and a half’s worth of 40-hour work weeks. By comparison, Missouri requires 23 days of training to be licensed as an emergency medical technician.
An EMT comes to your home and maybe saves your life. … Why in the world do I need 1,500 hours [of training] to cut and style someone’s hair? said Stigers, who is involved in an ongoing court challenge against the license requirements.