Network neutrality


Today Senators Edward Markey, Richard Blumenthal, and Ron Wyden sent a letter addressed to the heads of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, asking them explanation about allegations they've been throttling video services. The senators' letters said that the Wehe tests "indicated throttling on AT&T for YouTube, Netflix, and NBC Sports... throttling on Verizon for Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Netflix... throttling on Sprint for YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Skype Video calls... [and] delayed throttling, or boosting, on T-Mobile for Netflix, NBC Sports, and Amazon Prime by providing un-throttled streaming at the beginning of the connection, and then subsequently throttling the connection". According to Ars Technica, Sprint denied Skype throttling and AT&T questioned the accuracy of the Wehe tests. The wireless carriers have until 6 of December to answer the questions for the senators.


At the Wall Street Journal D.Live Tech conference, Randall Stephenson, CEO at AT&T, said that "there are a number of states that are now passing their own legislation around privacy and, by the way, net neutrality." In this interview, Stephenson claims that these regulations "would be a total disaster for the technology and innovation you see happening in Silicon Valley and elsewhere is to pick our head up and have 50 different sets of rules for companies trying to operate in the United States." According to the Wall Street Journal, he talked that ISPs "should not be allowed to throttle somebody else's content", "there should be no blocking," and any device should be allowed to connect to the Internet without interference. Stephenson are looking for a federal law with only basic net neutrality rules like no blocking and no throttling, in order to prevent states from issuing their own stricter laws.


Today US Supreme Court rejects to hear the broadband industry challenge of 2015 net neutrality rules. According to its announcement, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch "would grant the petitions, vacate the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [which upheld the FCC's net neutrality order], and remand to that court with instructions to dismiss the cases as moot." If the broadband industry won this petition, it could mean that future administrations will be prevented from imposing a similarly strict set of rules. John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge, believes that “this is good news for net neutrality supporters. The D.C. Circuit's previous decision upholding both the FCC's classification of broadband as a telecommunications service, and its rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking or degrading internet content, remains in place.”

Freedom House's report Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise Of Digital Authoritarianism shows key findings that: 

  • Declines outnumber gains for the eighth consecutive year, with almost half of these being election-related.
  • China trains the world in digital authoritarianism.
  • Internet freedom declined in the United States (mostly due to a decline in net neutrality protections).
  • Citing fake news, governments curbed online dissent (17 countries).
  • Authorities demand control over personal data (18 countries increased surveillance).

In his introduction to the report, Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracyAdrian Shahbaz said 'Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships'  [...] 'With or without malign intent, the internet and social media in particular can push citizens into polarized echo chambers and pull at the social fabric of a country, fueling hostility between different communities.'


                                                                               Changes in Internet Freedom 2018 Freedom House

Last month the California Governor Jerry Brown signed the toughest net neutrality bill into law. However, the US Department of Justice and industry groups representing companies like AT&T, Charter and Verizon filed suits to block its new net neutrality from taking effect. Today California Attorney General Xavier Becerra entered into an agreement with the parties suing California over its net neutrality law to stay the litigation and temporarily delay implementation of the law. This agreement will remain in effect until after another lawsuit filed against the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) over its rollback of the Obama-era net neutrality rules is resolved, currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In a statement, California state Senator Scott Wiener, the principal author of the law, said that while he want to see the law put into effect, he understands why Becerra agreed to the delay and added that “after the DC Circuit appeal is resolved, the litigation relating to California’s net neutrality law will then move forward”.


In a brief filed in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska urged judges to reject a lawsuit filed against the FCC. This lawsuit were filed by 22 US states with a Democratic attorney general and it is related to repealing the 2015 net neutrality order. According to the brief, the old net neutrality rules "offered threats to investment and creative problem solving within the ISP community". On the other hand, the states suing the FCC argue that the decision to eliminate net neutrality rules was arbitrary and that the FCC cannot preempt state laws regulating net neutrality. It is scheduled oral arguments in the case for 1st February, 2019.




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