Thursday, May 22, 2014

OPEN LETTER TO THE FCC

(sent to openinternet@fcc.gov, a mailbox specifically for public comments about Net Neutrality)

This e-mail will become part of the permanent public comment record at the FCC.  If you plan on writing them also, be warned you are making PUBLIC COMMENTS VISIBLE TO EVERYBODY.  In my case, the more that see this, the better.

UPDATE:  MAY 27, 2014  A RESPONSE FROM THE CHAIRMAN!  (pasted at the bottom)

"To Whom It May Concern regarding Net Neutrality (and the so called "Fast Lane") and the regulation of ISP's as Common Carriers

The concept of Internet Service Providers charging Content Providers additional fees to allow their content to flow through the ISP's networks (without impairment) while also charging end-customers high prices to gain access to ANY content (regardless of provider) is askew of any truly free-market model.

Restricting the access of content providers by the ISPs simply because the content may compete with the interests of those same ISPs (who now are buying media companies that ALSO provide content) is also becoming an untenable situation.  These large ISP companies, such as COMCAST, AT&T, and Verizon, squeeze out any possibility of 3rd party competitors into the marketplace, as the barrier to entry begins to rival the GDP of some moderate sized countries.  Often, the only means of attaching to the Internet lie in a handful of providers nationally, and locally only 1 or 2 (be it Comcast, Verizon, Qwest, AT&T or any other of the large network providers).  Also, as they merge with large media companies, such as DirectTV (which offers content aside from their satellite service), NBC/Universal, and Time Warner, this sets the stage for the equivalent of "Internet Tariffs" as each wants sole proprietorship of the eyes and ears of their end-customers, charging enormous amounts of money for any 3rd party to broadcast on each others networks.  In the end, the only losers are the people, with no real voice to choose what they want in the marketplace (due to restrictions imposed on them arbitrarily by the Mega-ISP-Content-Provider-Network builders), and no alternative to the "service" they receive as entire geographic regions become dominated by 1 or 2 companies (this is ALREADY happening in Maryland, where your only available choices are COMCAST or Verizon).  Under the current climate of nearly "anything goes" campaign contributions by corporations (under Citizens United), the lobbing efforts of these large ISP's and media companies ALREADY outweighs the ACTUAL sentiment and common-sense of the American public.


The Internet is becoming the most widely, Internationally accepted form of public communication and discourse, and is also considered an inalienable right by many countries for their citizens.  The US, however, in recent administrations, has continued to treat the Internet as strictly a commodity, an "information service", and thus far has shown no interest in keeping the playing field fair and free from monopolies, oligarchs, and the kind of price-fixing that the Anti-Trust laws were designed to prevent.  This "simple commodity" view is narrow minded, and damaging to the public discourse of any future generation.  The technologies that will soon facilitate most higher-learning also carry television, movies, music, information, sports-casts, news, emergency messages, and more, and to say that an ISP can stamp out a University online course, classroom stream, sports game, news feed, or community communication in the same way that it can stamp out Netflix or Hulu because the ISP also happens to own several TV stations and media outlets, is unfathomable and reprehensible.


These ISP's SHOULD be regulated as Common Carriers.  They should also NOT own media content provider companies (although at this point separating them could take a decade or more).  I would also propose that NO future FCC committee member have ties, present or past (15 years at least) to any media company, ISP, radio or TV station, or telecommunications company.  This, in my mind, creates a dangerous, oligarchical conflict of interest.  Since the Chairman is a direct Obama appointee, that specific error falls directly on the President.  This is the equivalent of putting an oil company exec in charge of the Department of the Interior, a Monsanto exec in charge of the USDA, or a wall-street insider that worked in one of the companies indicted in the wake of the housing crises in charge of the FHA or Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac.


Need I remind the committee of the shenanigans of MCI World Com and AT&T of decades past.  Any free market has the potential of immense greed and social damage without proper regulation.  Ask anyone who lost their homes in 2008 or 2009.

-Dustin Sparks
Baltimore, MD"

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Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet proceeding. We're hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this critical issue, and so I'm very glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

I'm a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

Tom Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission

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