It's difficult for most people to follow the argument about "net neutrality" even though it could have an impact on almost every one of us. It's the kind of thing that lawyers and big company executives thrive on, like the small print in a contract. But it effects virtually everyone who turns on his or her TV every day — especially if you subscribe to one of the services that provide not only TV programming, but telephone and online services.
The argument really revolves about one aspect of net neutrality, Title ll, and the FCC ruling during the Obama presidency that treats ISPs as a utility and allows the FCC to enforce net neutrality regulations, which were deemed out of their jurisdiction before that FCC ruling.
The bottom line is this. Under Title II, companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T cannot, among other things, sell the private information you provide to those companies or that they acquire about you over time as a subscriber to their services.
Anyone who is a regular user of a computer and/or subscribes to AOL, Facebook or other services can tell you that they are inundated by ads and other approaches that try to get them to buy their products or join their organization, etc. Can you imagine the results if Comcast and those other companies could sell your personal information?
That is what this struggle is all about and the result couldn't be more important to every one of us.
In a recent article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, Michelle Caffrey noted that Comcast's Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen said in a blog post that "Title II regulation and net neutrality are not the same thing," referring to the FCC's ruling that treats ISPs as a utility under Title II regulations. Labeling ISPs as such then allows the FCC to enforce net neutrality regulations, which were deemed out of their jurisdiction before Title II was enacted.
Under the oversight of new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a vocal opponent of Title II, the commission has begun the process of rolling back the ruling and is in the midst of collecting public comment on the issue.
It's a move Comcast has supported, claiming net neutrality can be enforced without the FCC labeling ISPs "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Under that act, common carriers are prohibited from enacting "any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services."
Cohen writes Comcast has not and will not "block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content" and that its common carrier classification hurts technological development.
"You can have strong and enforceable Open Internet protections without relying on rigid, innovation-killing utility regulation that was developed in the 1930s (Title II)," Cohen states. "While some seem to want to create hysteria that the Internet as we know it will disappear if their preferred regulatory scheme isn't in place, and that's just not reality."
He said Comcast will be filing detailed comments with the FCC on how net neutrality can be enforced without Title II, but that the best solution is for Congress to take up bipartisan legislation that would enact strong net neutrality regulations.
You have to wonder how that legislation would be crafted under the current administration. And you also have to wonder about the truthfulness of a spokesman for Comcast, which has been caught many times in the past in actions that have been unfavorable to its subscribers.
Beau Weisman, Editor