Jessica Rosenworcel on Net Neutrality

A friend of mine gave me the heads up  that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was giving a policy interview about net neutrality yesterday. Sometimes things just drop in my lap like that. Rosenworcel dissented with the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality protections:

The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed. I raised my voice to fight for internet freedom. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too.

She also wrote this tweet, which you may have seen:

Rosenworcel summed up her net neutrality argument as “your broadband provider doesn’t make decisions for you.” I think that resonates with anyone who uses a big ISP.

She spoke a lot about the interaction of net neutrality and broadband competition.

Right now half of Americans don’t have a choice in broadband ISPs. She was clear that net neutrality was needed in the absence of a robust market for broadband. She also said that if Americans had access to multiple, competing broadband ISPs that she would reconsider whether net neutrality was still needed.

Rosenworcel argued that there’s a financial incentive for ISPs to favor  established players, and when there’s no regulation stopping them, you are going to see ISPs selling your traffic to those established players. That means letting the incumbents buy traffic and stopping disruptive innovations. When ISPs compete, consumers can vote with their wallets. When ISPs don’t compete, you get what we have in America today.

She side-stepped a question about whether broadband is a human right, but she did say “You do not have a fair shot at prosperity in the 21st century without access to broadband.”

I’m on board with Commissioner Rosenworcel’s platform. I was also very happy that the moderator asked her to make the case against net neutrality, and that she could do so fairly and without slinging mud. It reminds me of Daniel Dennett’s rules for criticism:

You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Ultimately protecting a free and open internet comes down to freedom – either freedom to choose what you want to use the internet for, or freedom to choose an ISP that will. Maybe, one day, we won’t need net neutrality. But until then, let’s keep up the pressure.

You can watch the full video of the conversation on the event’s page.

Call to Support Net Neutrality (again)

If you live in the US, call your reps and let them know you support net neutrality. Go to this site, put in your phone number and they'll call to connect you with your reps. It took me 3 minutes. It's also good practice talking to your government.

Do it. I don't want to live in a world where my only ISP option presents me with a screen like this:

I've written about this before. Attacking net neutrality attacks both my values as well as my employment. The free market can't help when there's no competition. It's also really scummy that they're trying to use the Thanksgiving holiday as cover for this. Please don't let them hide. Call your reps.


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My Net Neutrality Letter

[Below is the letter I sent to my representative, my senators, and the FCC. Well, I will send it to the FCC when their site stops being overloaded. It seems that John Oliver told the entire internet to Go FCC Yourself and they did. And then someone also spammed the site with purloined identities and anti-Net-Neutrality comments. So the FCC site is a little slow right now. But once it gets back on its feet, this baby is headed right there too.]

I want to voice my support for Net Neutrality. I am a software engineer in your district, and make my livelihood on the open internet.

I can appreciate the concerns of people opposed to Net Neutrality. I agree with them that efficient markets generally provide better outcomes than centralized control for most people. I can sympathize with the attraction of “zero rating” – letting people use some services without counting against their bandwidth. Ideally we should be able to continue to benefit from the phenomenal economic growth that the internet has provided.

Internet service is not an efficient market today. Until it is, we need Net Neutrality. I am fortunate to have 2 high-speed ISPs available to me, which makes me part of the only 10% of Americans with that choice. Markets don’t work when 90% of the consumers don’t have a choice. This Econ 101 principle is clear in an industry that is both highly profitable and consistently hated by their customers.

Net Neutrality also ensures that the internet can stay fertile ground for new businesses. If ISPs are allowed to provide incumbents with exclusive traffic, the cost to disrupt goes up. Would Google or Facebook have been able to grow if they had been crushed in their infancy by Alta Vista and MySpace? I want to ensure that the services I love 10 years from now are able to start today.

Net Neutrality is a key piece to the internet’s economic engine. Please keep the internet a Title II service.

[The John Oliver piece is below, I imagine the FCC is already aware of it so I chose not to include it.]