Few things are as important to The Verge as keeping the internet free and fair for everyone, and that’s why we supported the FCC when it passed net neutrality provisions in 2015. The Open Internet Order codified the principles of net neutrality, established a level playing field by, among other provisions, preventing internet service providers from throttling certain sites — including ones they own — over others. But now net neutrality is under threat. The Trump-appointed Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has expressed skepticism over the Open Internet Order, and says it stymies competition. In opposition of advocates, the broad majority of the general public, and even republican lawmakers, in November 2017, the FCC, is set to rescind the Open Internet Order. But the FCC is meeting tough resistance. This is the fight to keep the internet free.
Apr 7, 2017
Three stories about FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back net neutrality dropped over the course of last night into this morning, all containing basically the same information. According to The Wall Street Journal, Multichannel News, and Reuters, Pai:Read Article >
If this sounds broadly familiar, it’s because Pai also just pushed the Republicans in Congress to roll back the FCC’s internet privacy rules so that the FTC could handle enforcement, even though the FTC doesn’t have the ability to police ISPs until the Title II reclassification is rolled back. Whatever Ajit Pai is doing, it involves believing that the FTC is incredibly capable and well-staffed. (Meanwhile, teenage Snapchat influencers routinely flout the FTC’s sponsored content rules, but whatever.)
Mar 29, 2017
Republicans in Congress just voted to reverse a landmark FCC privacy rule that opens the door for ISPs to sell customer data. Lawmakers provided no credible reason for this being in the interest of Americans, except for vague platitudes about “consumer choice” and “free markets,” as if consumers at the mercy of their local internet monopoly are craving to have their web history quietly sold to marketers and any other third party willing to pay.Read Article >
The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.
Mar 14, 2015
Pro-net neutrality groups hope SXSW visitors look at the sky today. If they do, they might see a big banner calling out Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for fighting alongside cable companies against net neutrality. The 1,500-square-foot banner, which flew over Austin yesterday and will hit the skies once again today, reads, "Don't be an enemy of the internet, Sen. Ted Cruz."Read Article >
The banner is being paid for by three pro-net neutrality groups, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press through crowdfunding efforts. In a statement, David Segal of Demand Progress said, "Our banner is an internet-backed reminder to Cruz and all politicians that if you stand against net neutrality, you are standing against the Internet." He added, "We had to crowdfund this airplane flight, but if we could figure out how to harness all the hot air Ted Cruz has been blowing on net neutrality, we could get a blimp off the ground for free."
Jan 16, 2015
A month before the FCC votes on a new net neutrality proposal, lawmakers in the House and Senate are taking the matter into their own hands. Republicans in both houses have introduced a bill that would enshrine net neutrality in law — while taking rule-making power away from the FCC and avoiding a major reclassification of broadband service. It's an attempt to preempt not only agency chair Tom Wheeler, but also President Barack Obama, who made his position on net neutrality clear last year.Read Article >
The bill offers a compromise between hard-line opponents of net neutrality and the larger changes preferred by President Obama and many activists. It would modify the Communications Act of 1934, adding the basic elements of the FCC's "open internet" plan. That includes these major points:
Jan 2, 2015
FCC chair Tom Wheeler hopes to vote on a new net neutrality proposal in February. The Washington Post reports that Wheeler is planning to internally distribute an updated version of the Open Internet rules he's been working on for almost a year, with the goal of getting them passed in a February 26th meeting; an FCC spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that Wheeler would indeed circulate an order next month. There's no clue as to what these rules might entail, but the Post paraphrases analysts and officials close to the FCC, saying that Wheeler is planning "far more aggressive regulation" than he originally proposed.Read Article >
Dec 19, 2014
According to The Washington Post, an upcoming bill backed by Republicans in Congress will establish a new way for the FCC to regulate internet access without reclassifying it as a utility — this bill would give the FCC the ability to prevent internet providers from prioritizing traffic, but the tradeoff would be that the FCC wouldn't be able to reclassify the internet under Title II. Republicans have opposed Title II as it is typically considered anti-business; this proposed "Title X" bill could essentially establish a middle ground between full reclassification and a world in which providers can charge for access to their internet pipes.Read Article >
Given that there have already been threats that attempted Title II reclassification could get tied up in the courts for years, this might be an easier path to get around such a protracted battle. Additionally, this bill seems like it could provide a legal path to re-establishing the open internet rules that were struck down at the beginning of the year. Back in January, the FCC lost a case against Verizon — that loss meant that the FCC's basis for treating all internet traffic equally no longer had a legal leg to stand on.
Dec 10, 2014
Much of the fight over how to handle net neutrality has been between the two industries that have the most obvious stake in it: cable companies and web services. Today, though, 60 tech companies, including Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm, have signed a letter opposing reclassifying broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — a solution that's favored by many of net neutrality's supporters and President Barack Obama himself. The letter is addressed to members of Congress and the FCC, and it warns that this stricter regulation would stop companies from investing in broadband.Read Article >
"For almost twenty years, national leadership, on a bipartisan basis, has nurtured the broadband internet with a wise, effective, and restrained policy approach that supported the free flow of data, services, and ideas online while creating a climate that supported private investment in broadband networks," reads the letter. But "Title II is going to lead to a slowdown, if not a hold, in broadband build out, because if you don't know that you can recover on your investment, you won't make it."
Dec 7, 2014
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has laid out her vision for the future of the internet, and net neutrality proponents won't be pleased. In comments on Thursday in Berlin, Merkel argued for a two-lane internet. One lane for "special," high priority service, and another that's meant to resemble the internet as it exists today.Read Article >
While supporters of net neutrality argue that it is key to the continued growth of the internet, Merkel believes just the opposite. She argues that fast lanes are necessary for the development of new, advanced uses of the internet, like telemedicine or driverless cars. According to Merkel, without guaranteed, fast-access internet connections, such innovations won't come to market.
Nov 14, 2014
Senator Ted Cruz thinks net neutrality will stop cable companies from being 'bold, innovative, and fair'
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) had perhaps the most memorable reaction to Obama's Monday announcement about net neutrality: reclassifying broadband under common carrier laws was "Obamacare for the internet." Beyond the fact that Cruz hates both of these things, the comparison didn't make a lot of sense, but it was good enough for him to elaborate upon at length today in a speech at Austin incubator Capital Factory.Read Article >
Nov 12, 2014
After President Obama called on the FCC to pass strong net neutrality rules, Chairman Tom Wheeler reportedly backed away from the statements, saying he favored a more "nuanced" solution. But regardless of where the debate stands, AT&T says it won't budge on a new project: at a conference today, CEO Randall Stephenson said AT&T would stop investing in a plan to bring high-speed fiber connections to 100 US cities until the FCC determines a path for internet regulation.Read Article >
Nov 12, 2014
Yesterday, President Obama took a strong position on net neutrality by supporting calls to regulate the internet more like a utility. Less than 24 hours later, FCC head Tom Wheeler is said to have indicated that he will break from the president's proposed plan, moving in a new direction intended to pacify huge internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.Read Article >
The Washington Post reports that Wheeler told a group of internet companies — including Google, Yahoo, and Etsy — that he favored a more "nuanced" solution than that laid out by Obama. Wheeler's plan would acquiesce to some of the president's demands, but it would also kowtow to the demands of huge internet providers.
Nov 10, 2014
Obama's loose four-point proposal is a boon to most net neutrality supporters: he's asking for broadband to be classified as a Title II common carrier, putting it in the same category as telephone service. Not only would the plan revive bans on ISPs blocking content, it would also prevent them from slowing down some services or speeding up others — the so-called "fast lanes" that have become a primary point of contention in this debate. It would extend net neutrality protections, in some cases, to the backbone connections between services like Netflix and ISPs, not just ISPs and consumers. It even asks for the rules to apply to mobile broadband as much as possible, a major shift away from the laissez-faire policies in the 2010 Open Internet Order. To forestall critics, it allows for what's known as "forbearance," a process in which the FCC chooses not to enforce certain parts of Title II.Read Article >
But as Obama himself admits, this isn't his call to make. The FCC is currently drafting its net neutrality proposals, and he has no control over how its five commissioners ultimately vote. After taking both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, Republicans are poised to overrule the FCC and ban net neutrality regulation. In this climate, what can a speech from the President actually do?
Oct 31, 2014
A report published this afternoon by The New York Times details one of the possible plans the FCC may debut in their attempt to establish new rules around net neutrality and the open internet. It takes a "hybrid" approach, dividing the new regulations between commercial or wholesale internet traffic and retail or residential internet traffic. In a nutshell, this would mean content companies like Netflix will get the price controls they want when it comes to dealing with companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. But those companies will also be allowed to give certain data a fast lane over their networks if it was "justified," cementing the gutting of net neutrality that occurred when Verizon defeated the FCC in court.Read Article >
Sep 12, 2014
It’s Wednesday afternoon on Tumblr, and the internet is in a perpetual loading state. Starting early in the morning, users have been greeted with a cluster of spinning wheels in place of the normal dashboard. “Make it stop,” says a button at the top. Click it, and Mark Ruffalo will explain to you in a video why the FCC (represented whimsically by stock footage of Santa Claus) needs to stop cable companies (a man in a sweater and hard hat) from slowing down the internet (an exploding Earth, covered with a loading sign). Other sites have their own banners, glitchy videos, and explanations of why they’re joining the Battle for the Net — an attempt to get Congress and the FCC to ban “fast lane” deals between web services and broadband companies. By definition, every fast lane creates a slow lane, so protesters have coalesced around the loading “wheel of death” to symbolize the effect.Read Article >
But back at Tumblr’s New York headquarters, the issue isn’t quite settled yet. “Are we aestheticizing this loader?” muses designer Zack Sultan. “Are we aestheticizing the iconography of our persecutors?”
Sep 10, 2014
Are you planning on watching some movies tonight on Netflix? Or posting a photo to Tumblr? Or backing a crowdfunded project? You're going to see a lot of spinning wheels. As fall elections heat up and the FCC prepares to close the public comment period on its Open Internet proposal, a cluster of major sites and a number of more minor ones are urging visitors to contact Congress and the FCC and express support for reclassifying broadband internet under the "common carrier" rules that govern phone service and other utilities. This isn't the only net neutrality-related proposal on the table, but it's one that could successfully block internet service providers from providing "fast lanes" to sites that pay more, something FCC chair Tom Wheeler has considered allowing within "commercially reasonable" bounds.Read Article >
Supporters of that proposal argue that ISPs won't be able to degrade overall quality but can experiment with new tiers of service and business models. To people taking part in the day of action, though, speeding some services up could automatically relegate other parts of the internet to a "slow lane" where ISPs have less incentive to improve quality. And if the new net neutrality rules can't survive a legal challenge (as the last set couldn't), they could theoretically even degrade quality of service. Hence today's protest — if the web gets more data-intensive but internet quality is no longer evenly distributed, the idea goes, you could be seeing a lot more buffering.
Sep 4, 2014
As the FCC prepares to close public comments on its net neutrality proposal, major internet companies are organizing a protest to raise awareness. Reddit, Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Namecheap, Vimeo, and others will observe next Wednesday — September 10th — as a day of action, during which they'll showcase net neutrality issues on their sites and drive visitors to contact the FCC, Congress, and the White House. The protest, like many previous, smaller ones, warns of a potential "internet fast lane," in which ISPs and online services could reach deals for better service and leave the rest of the web behind. Among other things, sites will post banners that mimic a loading wheel to dramatize what a slowed-down internet could look like.Read Article >
Several banners and widgets have been posted ahead of time by Battle for the Net, a project backed by Fight for the Future, Demand Progress (founded by the late internet activist Aaron Swartz), and other nonprofit organizations. While there's not much information on the banners themselves, Battle for the Net backs one of the most popular options for preserving net neutrality: reclassifying broadband under the Title II common carrier laws that regulate phone service. The original Open Internet rules, set in place under the watch of former FCC chair Julius Genachowski, were struck down earlier this year after a judge ruled that the core principles, like stopping ISPs from blocking or degrading the quality of services, treated companies like Verizon too much like common carriers.
Today, the FCC voted to accept "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet," a provisional set of rules meant to protect net neutrality. After weeks of discussion inside and outside the FCC, the commission has passed a proposal with a lot of wiggle room and put it up for public comment. People on both sides of the aisle are just as conflicted as you’d expect. There’s been a tremendous amount of debate over what "protecting net neutrality" actually means, but the truth is that things are really only getting started.Read Article >
For people who don’t want net neutrality rules on the books at all, this proposal’s very existence is a problem. But beyond that, some important issues are up for debate. The one that’s grabbed the most public attention so far — in fact, the reason many people are talking about the proposal at all — is "paid prioritization," often called "fast lanes," in which companies could make deals with ISPs for better-than-average service.
The FCC has voted to accept Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for a new net neutrality framework, kicking off a longer rule-making process that will conclude in the next several months. And while the new proposal has been amended from an earlier, more controversial text, it leaves open the question of internet "fast lanes," an issue that many see as fundamentally undermining net neutrality.Read Article >
The new proposal builds on the 2010 Open Internet Order that was struck down earlier this year, but it's seeking comment on a number of issues that have proved central to the net neutrality debate. Broadband providers would have to hold to a minimum level of quality for any service, but otherwise, they're only required to adhere to "commercially reasonable" standards. The agency is asking for comment on what those standards should be, including whether ISPs should be barred from allowing companies to pay for better service. It's also attempting to create oversight for companies, proposing an ombudsperson who would represent internet users and investigate possible violations of the order. Wireless broadband providers have long been held to looser standards than wired ones, but the proposal encourages reevaluating this.
With only two days left before FCC chair Tom Wheeler publicly reveals his net neutrality proposal, the agency is hoping to answer questions from the public. At 2pm ET, FCC special counsel Gigi Sohn launched an hour-long Q&A session on Twitter, using the hashtag #FCCNetNeutrality. She drew a number of questions from people critical of the leaked version of Wheeler's plan — generally left-leaning net neutrality supporters have objected to language that would let companies pay ISPs for faster service to customers, and right- or libertarian-leaning opponents don't want net neutrality rules on the books at all. Sohn herself joined the FCC directly from advocacy group Public Knowledge, which one of the strongest proponents of net neutrality, and she reiterated Wheeler's support for the spirit of the Open Internet Order: "Chairman knows free market won't protect open internet," she said in one tweet. Unpopular as the leaked rules have been, they're an acknowledgment that some kind of framework is needed.Read Article >
As protesters wait for the FCC to vote on a new version of its net neutrality rules, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is trying to draw the attention of the Washington, DC public. This morning, Ohanian officially revealed a PSA poster that is filling advertising space around the city's bus shelters. The posters play on the transportation theme, delivering a "traffic advisory" about "gridlock and new fees" imposed by internet service providers, then asking readers to call the FCC in protest. They're the result of a crowdfunding campaign that reached its goal of $20,000 earlier this week, a success Ohanian attributes to a last-minute flood of over $2,000 in dogecoin from Redditors.Read Article >
The posters aren't quite what the original campaign promised: a billboard as near the FCC office as possible, similar to the one erected outside SOPA author Lamar Smith's (R-TX) offices in 2012. Washington billboard space, it turned out, was too limited to make an effective protest with one. The design and slogan are also a bit more complex than "Don't mess with the internet." They call back to the idea of treating the internet like a road or other public good, putting sites like Reddit, Facebook, and Amazon at different "stops" along the map.
May 8, 2014
Not long after FCC Commissioner Jennifer Rosenworcel asked agency chair Tom Wheeler to delay bringing his controversial net neutrality proposal to the table next week, another commissioner has also come out against the plan. "I have grave concerns about the Chairman's proposal on Internet regulation and do not believe that it should be considered at the Commission's May meeting," said Ajit Pai in a short statement. Instead, he urged the commission to spend its May meeting focusing on the upcoming spectrum auction. Previously, Rosenworcel expressed concerns about "rushing headlong" into a proposal without providing ample time for public response, but reports have suggested that Wheeler declined to take her advice.Read Article >
Wheeler's compromise plan, drafted after a stinging legal defeat in January, hasn't satisfied commissioners on either side of the political aisle. Pai, an outspoken conservative, has called net neutrality "a solution in search of a problem," putting him in stark contrast to both Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, who promised to uphold a "free and open internet" in a blog post yesterday. Pai's views are echoed by Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who recently published an op-ed arguing that Wheeler's rules were based on Congressional authority that didn't exist. For many conservatives and libertarians, no net neutrality rules are good net neutrality rules, and Wheeler's proposal still attempts to establish a baseline service quality requirement. For more generally liberal net neutrality proponents, the rules let ISPs establish a "fast lane" for companies that pay for better delivery speeds.
May 5, 2014
After years of pressure from ISPs, net neutrality is under threat by the FCC itself. Chair Tom Wheeler promised to revive the Open Internet Order after it saw an unceremonious defeat in January, but a leaked version of his latest proposal would let companies pay ISPs for a "fast lane" to subscribers, undermining the spirit of the original rules, which barred companies from discriminating between services. Despite Wheeler’s reassurances, this new proposal is the exact opposite of net neutrality. It could undermine both the companies of today and the startups of tomorrow. It might also be exactly the push activists need to fight back.Read Article >
The new rules aren’t entirely the FCC’s fault. The January court ruling in a lawsuit by Verizon gave it limited power to regulate broadband providers under existing law, and there’s only so much it can do as long as they’re classified as "information services" rather than common carriers like traditional phone companies. There’s nothing explicitly stopping it, however, from reclassifying these services, which is exactly what net neutrality supporters have been urging it to do for years. The problem is that putting ISPs under the more restrictive common carrier designation would light a political powder keg, pitting proponents of a truly open internet against business advocates who say common carrier regulations would strangle ISPs’ ability to innovate. For the past few months, Wheeler has played it safe, promising a framework that seemed fragile but ultimately inoffensive.
Apr 29, 2014
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is offering the most stalwart defense yet for his controversial new net neutrality rules. After a huge backlash and two failed attempts to convince angry internet denizens that the FCC isn't about to destroy net neutrality in the name of corporate profits, the former cable industry lobbyist is addressing specific fears about how the new proposal could affect consumers in a new blog post.Read Article >
Perhaps most significantly, he states that should this attempt fail, he won't hesitate to do what many furious individuals have been asking for all along: to reclassify and regulate internet service providers as a utility, just like traditional telephone service.
Apr 24, 2014
When Netflix opposed Comcast's looming merger with Time Warner Cable on Monday, the streaming video company did so by raising net neutrality concerns. It argued that Comcast could use its newfound power to charge a toll for content that might compete with its own video offerings — a toll like the one that Netflix already found itself paying to improve the quality of streaming for Comcast customers. Comcast wasn't too happy about that, of course, firing back that it was Netflix's decision to cut out the middleman and work directly with Comcast to speed things up, and that the fee is standard practice for companies that offer "transit service" to quickly move data between networks.Read Article >
But in a new blog post, Netflix now claims that Comcast isn't truly offering "transit service." It accuses Comcast of extorting content companies and its own customers by charging twice for the same content.
Apr 24, 2014
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has just published a blog post that expands on a statement he gave last night on the topics of net neutrality and an open internet. Earlier yesterday, The Wall Street Journal issued a troubling report alleging that the FCC will soon propose new rules that effectively spell the end of net neutrality. Wheeler came out hard against that notion last night, and he continues to refute the doomsday scenario today. Despite his best efforts, Wheeler's words won't do much to calm the storm.Read Article >
"There has been a great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced regarding the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we will today circulate to the Commission," he says. "The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule." Wheeler's goal is to have enforceable Open Internet rules in place by the end of 2014.