There’s been bad news lately about the internet. As expected after last year’s election, the FCC has rescinded its Net Neutrality rules.
The arguments against Net Neutrality are, frankly, disingenuous. They range from the idea that companies won’t invest without guaranteed results (what about every other industry?) to assurances that consumers don’t really need protection and will barely notice any difference: “Nothing to see here, folks.”
Cruzio disagrees. We’re skeptical that those arguments are simply political cover for allowing the biggest ISPs to make a lot more money by making the internet less open and free. The tragedy of the commons.
There are plenty of places to read arguments for Net Neutrality, like these at Ars Technica and from the ACLU. And Cruzio has been sounding the alarm for some time. We’re happy to discuss it at length, from the point of view of an ISP — it’s often argued that ISPs are unilaterally in favor of dropping the rule. But that’s not true.
Cruzio tried very hard to preserve the Net Neutrality rule. We worked with the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). We joined other independent ISPs in a letter to the FCC defending it. Ajit Pai kept claiming that “ISPs” needed the rule removed. We’re an ISP. “Nope, not us, no,” we protested. Deaf ears.
But now that we’ve gotten outvoted at the FCC, what can we do next?
It isn’t over.
First: Congress can, by a simple majority vote, review and reverse a federal regulation if it acts within 60 days of the rule’s publication. This would be a simple fix. Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader, has promised to bring this to the Senate floor. Net Neutrality polls extremely well. If Congress voted with popular opinion this could happen quickly. But lobbying money is a strong counter-incentive to public interest, and large ISPs and their parent companies are some of the top donors in Washington (check the charts below, from OpenSecrets.org). Even supportive representatives will have a strong incentive to lose the fight. So this is the area where public support is important right now — we have to speak louder than money. Action steps are right here.
Second: States are looking at imposing their own regulations. A state like California, with its economic clout, can strongly influence the market. We see that in other industries. For example, California air quality regulations have caused car manufacturers to meet higher standards than what’s federally required. Perhaps the same could go for Net Neutrality. Or at least we’d enjoy it in our state. We support State Senator Scott Weiner’s bill for Net Neutrality in California.
Third: Lawsuits. There is good evidence that the FCC did not do its required due diligence in accepting public input: it appears that millions of “public comments” were entered by hackers, many of them from, of course, Russia. With such a muddled data set, how can the Commission say it has had a clear view on public opinion? The claim is also being made that the FCC did not make a fact-based study to back up its decision, which has merit but seems harder to prove.
Fourth: the most basic part of the discussion, for us, is that Cruzio is committed to Net Neutral practices and we’re not going to change that. To almost quote Arlo Guthrie, “You can get anything you want, at Cruzio’s
By the way, we’ve had some questions from our customers about Net Neutrality.
Here are some of the questions, and our best answers right now:
Q: Can people avoid paying for content by using a VPN?
A: It doesn’t seem like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) would help. Corporate ISPs which charge more for data from “out of network” sources would surely just classify all VPN traffic as “outside of network.”
Q: What about upstream providers? Will they charge more?
A: This question recognizes that the internet is a network, and that data travels not just inside one ISP, but is handed off from one company to another. But there is a difference between the ISP who serves individual customers and “NSPs,” or network service providers. Right now, the “backbone” of the internet is still fairly competitive. ISPs like Cruzio can choose from a number of NSPs. We should keep an eye out for over-consolidation of the internet backbone, but this is less of an immediate issue so far as we can see. If Cruzio found that an upstream provider violated Net Neutrality, we’d stop sending traffic through that company.
Q: Are Cruzio’s upstream providers fighting for Net Neutrality?
A: Many of our fellow ISPs, including a company called Sonic from which we rent circuits, are active in the pro-Net Neutrality cause. But NSPs aren’t generally involved in the discussion — see above.