As Censored 2015 went to press, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had just publicly revealed its proposed new rules for Internet traffic. A 3–2 vote by the FCC opened a four-month window for formal public comments on how strict those rules should be, and galvanized corporate media attention on the issue of net neutrality. By contrast, for months leading up to this development, independent journalists, including Paul Ausick, Cole Stangler and Jennifer Yeh, have been informing the public about the anticipated showdown over net neutrality and the stakes in that battle.
In September of 2013, the federal appeals court of Washington DC began a crucial case brought by Verizon Communications Inc., challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to regulate Internet service providers. Under the FCC’s current Open Internet Order, service providers such as Verizon, cannot charge varying prices or give priority to users that access certain websites or may be able to pay more for faster speeds compared to competitors. Verizon claims the FCC violates their First Amendment right and they should have the ability to manage and promote the content they see fit. The FCC has continually ruled that controlling communications is not in the best interest of the public. If the court decides in favor of Verizon and revokes the Open Internet Order, the FCC will have no way to regulate unbiased data access, changing the future for everyday Internet users in the twenty-first century.
Cole Stangler, a reporter for In These Times, described how many open Internet advocates fear that service providers “could ultimately enable the construction of a multi-tiered Internet landscape resembling something like cable television—where wealthy conglomerates have access to a mass consumer base and other providers, such as independent media, struggle to reach an audience.” Today the Internet is a critical medium for public communication. Amalia Deloney, grassroots policy director at the Center for Media Justice, pointed out that corporate oversight would pose a threat to public discourse and organizing efforts. The consequent trepidation seems to be that service providers could make specific websites impossibly slow to load, successfully regulating communication among would-be activists. It seems Internet service providers would do more to limit free speech than advocate for it.
Verizon v. FCC has been well covered by both corporate and independent media. However, corporate outlets such as the New York Times and Forbes tend to highlight the business aspects of the case, skimming over vital particulars affecting the public and the Internet’s future.
Paul Ausick, “Verizon Goes After FCC in Court Monday,” 24/7 Wall St., September 9, 2013, http://247wallst.com/telecom-wireless/2013/09/09/verizon-goes-after-fcc-in-court-monday.
Cole Stangler, “Your Internet’s in Danger,” In These Times, October 2, 2013, http://inthesetimes.com/article/15689/your_internets_in_danger.
Jennifer Yeh, “Legal Gymnastics Ensue in Oral Arguments for Verizon vs. FCC,” Free Press, September 10, 2013, http://www.freepress.net/blog/2013/09/10/legal-gymnastics-ensue-oral-arguments-verizon-vs-fcc.
Student Researcher: Petra Dillman (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator Susan Rahman (College of Marin)