internet censorship: brought to you by your internet service provider

On 14 January 2014, a federal court ruling paved the way for internet censorship. Service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and others can which websites you can and can’t access and which apps you can and can’t use.

internet censorship
Verizon Wireless “Rule the Air” Ad Campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was in response to a legal challenge filed by Verizon last fall in which it claimed the right to “editorial discretion” over content traveling on its network.  The company spoke in court about its desire to charge more for some Web content and apps, threatening to slow down or even block sites and software makers that can’t or won’t pay extra to reach Internet users.

The following could happen as a result. This blog could be blocked for criticizing an ISP for its practices. Verizon can charge content providers for the right to have their content travel through its networks.  AT&T could block Netflix and force users to subscribe to another service instead. ISPs could kill Internet innovation by picking and choosing which Internet startups succeed and which don’t, or create an environment in which new online startups are marginalized due to being saddled with expenses that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other startups didn’t have to deal with. ISPs could also monitor all of your Internet activity and sell that information to the highest bidder.

Lest you think that an ISP wouldn’t dare interfere with the Internet out of fear that it may lose business to a competitor, note that the vast majority of household have only one choice of an Internet service provider in their market.

The FCC, however, can prevent internet censorship in a rather simple way.  How? By reclassifying broadband providers as providers of a “telecommunications service” rather than an “information service.”  During the Bush Administration, the FCC classified broadband services as an “information service,” and the federal court ruled that FCC can only regulate “telecommunications services” (i.e. your voice telephone).  Given that the Internet is a significant means of communication for most people, this would appear to be a no-brainer. But the decision to classify broadband as an “information service” was arguably a politically motivated decision–the chairman of the FCC at the time that decision was made is now a chief lobbyist for the cable industry.

You can click here to put pressure on the FCC to reclassify broadband as an “information service.”  Please do so–while you still can.

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