Thursday June 20, 2019
Home Lead Story Net Neutralit...

Net Neutrality The Reason Of Clash Between U.S. Government and States, Tech Firm

At the hearing in the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Stephen Williams questioned Michalopoulos's assertions that the FCC had wrongly classified the internet as an information service.

0
//
USA, Net Neutrality
A view of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse that houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington. VOA

Tech companies and nearly two dozen U.S. states clashed with the government in federal court Friday over the repeal of net neutrality, a set of Obama-era rules aimed at preventing big internet providers from discriminating against certain technology and services.

Judges challenged arguments made by both sides in the face-off in an appeals court in Washington.

Lawyers for the states and the companies tried to persuade the three-judge panel to restore the net neutrality regime, set in 2015 but repealed in December 2017 at the direction of a regulator appointed by President Donald Trump. The companies challenging the FCC action include Mozilla, developer of the Firefox web browser, and Vimeo, a video-sharing site.

The net neutrality rules had banned cable, wireless and other broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites and apps of their choosing, or charging Netflix and other video services extra to reach viewers faster.

Net Neutrality
A sign with an emoji that reads “Don’t take net neutrality away” is posted outside the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in Washington, Dec. 14, 2017. VOA

The practice of slowing down transmission is known as “throttling.”

The action by the Federal Communications Commission rolling back the neutrality rules “is a stab in the heart of the Communications Act,” said attorney Pantelis Michalopoulos, referring to the Depression-era law that established the FCC.

Information vs. telecom service

The FCC wrongly classified the internet as an information service rather than a telecom service, using that as a rationale for not cracking down on misconduct by big internet providers, Michalopoulos said, who represents Mozilla and the other companies in the case.

Government lawyers, as well as big internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, argued to keep net neutrality repealed.

Thomas Johnson, the FCC’s general counsel, said the agency’s “light-touch” regulatory scheme, requiring the internet providers to disclose their practices and operations, provides adequate safeguards. The internet — used more extensively to transmit information — is different both in nature and function from phone service, Johnson maintained. It therefore should be regulated as an information service and not subject to the utility-style oversight of phone companies, he said.

Net Neutrality
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, left, receives congratulations from Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, center, and Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, after his net neutrality bill was approved by the state Senate. VOA

The politically charged issue has emerged from its origins as an engineering challenge to become an anti-monopoly rallying point and even a focus for “resistance” to the Trump administration.

Once Trump took office, net neutrality became one of his first targets as part of broader government deregulation. The FCC chairman he appointed, Ajit Pai, made rolling back net neutrality a top priority.

On the other side, support for net neutrality comes from many of the same people who also are critical of the data-vacuuming tech giants that benefit from it. Politicians have glommed on to the cause to appear consumer-friendly.

The Democratic takeover of the House in November’s midterm elections could revive efforts to enshrine net neutrality in federal law, though Trump likely would veto any such attempts.

At the hearing in the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Stephen Williams questioned Michalopoulos’s assertions that the FCC had wrongly classified the internet as an information service. Telephone services, too, offer an array of customer products, he said. On the question of broadband providers charging premiums for faster service, Williams said a large majority of consumers prefer cheaper, lower-speed options, citing polls.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, center, announces the vote was approved to repeal net neutrality, next to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, who voted no, and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who voted yes, at the FCC, Dec. 14, 20
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, center, announces the vote was approved to repeal net neutrality, next to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, who voted no, and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who voted yes, at the FCC, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Judges’ views

The judges are weighing whether the FCC had the authority to nix the 2015 rules and get out of the business of enforcing net neutrality. It appeared that Williams was sympathetic to the FCC’s arguments, while Judge Patricia Millett raised possible legal avenues for the companies and states suing the agency, and Judge Robert Wilkins was the swing vote, said Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank.

Also Read: Extreme Weather Due To Polar Vortex Across The U.S. Causes Misery

The judges could decide to can the repeal or send it back to the FCC for a redo if they have specific objections.

“Today we fought for an open and free internet that puts consumers first,” Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Denelle Dixon said after the hearing. “We believe the FCC needs to follow the rules like everyone else.” (VOA)

Next Story

People of Lao Find Social Media For News Most Trustworthy

The number of the country’s social media users is now projected to reach 2.7 million or 39 percent of the population this year, according to the report.

0
social media
“The stories broadcast on TV aren’t clear, and are screened ahead of time by the authorities,” the man said, adding, “The internet is not restricted, and the authorities can’t control the information we find on it.” Pixabay

Lao residents are increasingly abandoning state-controlled news sources and turning more to the internet and social media to get news they can trust, sources in the communist Southeast Asian country say.

Facebook and the internet also provide news more quickly and feature live videos, a young woman living in Xayaburi province in the country’s north told RFA’s Lao Service on April 23.

“Lao TV just reads the news and doesn’t show the real thing,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

social media

“Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media,” RSF said in its report. 
Pixabay

“For example, when there was a flood in Attapeu province, social media very quickly reported the number of deaths,” the young woman said. “But the Lao government was not really open about any of this,” she said.

Also speaking to RFA, a man in Savannakhet province in the south of Laos said he now reads Facebook to get news not previously screened by authorities.

“[Lao] TV provides only restricted news and information, for example news about drug trafficking and other news about the country,” the man said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“The stories broadcast on TV aren’t clear, and are screened ahead of time by the authorities,” the man said, adding, “The internet is not restricted, and the authorities can’t control the information we find on it.”

Both sources told RFA that they frequently check their smart phones when looking for news and other updated information whenever they can get a clear signal, looking also at the social media platforms Line, WhatsApp, and WeChat.

‘Absolute control’

In an annual report released earlier this month, Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) gave Laos a ranking of 171, close to the bottom of a 180-country survey of press freedoms worldwide, saying that the country’s ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) “exercises absolute control over the media.”

“Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media,” RSF said in its report.

“But use of online news and information platforms is held back by a 2014 decree under which Internet users who criticize the government and the Marxist-Leninist LPRP can be jailed,” the press freedoms group said.

News
“Lao TV just reads the news and doesn’t show the real thing,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Pixabay

Speaking to RFA, a Lao government official dismissed the RSF report, saying, “We have a socialist media, and we serve a socialist regime, the Party and the government.  I don’t believe in their ranking.”

“Our government doesn’t force us to do anything,” he said. “For example, if the government tells us not to publish a story, we simply don’t do it.”

Also Read: Xiaomi Launches 2 Budget Smartphones in India

The number of people using social media in Laos is expected to surge this year, as telecom operators compete with each other to offer better services, a report released at the beginning of April by the state-controlled Lao National Internet Centre shows.

The number of the country’s social media users is now projected to reach 2.7 million or 39 percent of the population this year, according to the report. (RFA)