Long story short: “Net Neutrality” means that, just as the phone company must route all calls with the same priority and quality, broadband providers (like Comcast and AT&T) must treat all web traffic the same, and not, for example, make connections to Netflix super crappy so that you feel obliged to pay for OnDemand in order to watch Mad Max: Fury Road or Sophia the First.
You have until July 17 to tell the FCC how you feel about that. Submitting an official comment—one someone actually reads and takes seriously—is super easy:
- Go to this link and click “Express” (to get a form you can fill out and submit right there) or click “New Filing” (to upload a document you’ve already written).
- Express your feelings about Net Neutrality hitting on one (or more) of three key points:
- How has Net Neutrality impacted your life? Do you have an online business that would be FUBAR if Amazon got priority connections? Did a service that organically arose as a result of the net being an equal access zone improve your life (examples: Things you’ve learned off of YouTube, clients/jobs you’ve connected with over LinkedIn or Monster.com or a freelancing community, relatives you re-connected with via Facebook or genealogy websites, supportive communities you found in this forum or that sub-reddit, etc.)
- What do you understand you are buying when you pay for broadband? Is it more like a telephone line—a “telecommunications service” that creates value by giving you a clear connection to the information and services you want—or is an an “information service” in and of itself, that is, a service that creates value by giving you information? (Under FCC rules, telecommunications services require greater regulation than information services.) If you go online and go to YouTube to watch a video, then Facebook to kibitz with pals, then check your Gmail, your broadband is a telecommunications services. If, on the other hand, you boot up your laptop, rub your hands together, and say “Ah! Time to go check the Comcast website for the latest news and weather, then go to the Comcast Cat Video service to watch some cat videos, then head on over to ComcastBook to chat with my pals!”, then it probably makes more sense to call Comcast an “information service.” (Yes, I realize most of the “Comcast information services” I listed don’t exist; that’s the point. They offer few “information services,” and most other ISPs don’t even offer those.)
- Competition. If your current ISP decides to start blocking YouTube traffic and slowing Netflix to a crawl, can you just lickety-split change services to one that treats all traffic equally, or is it hard, expensive, or impossible to switch, or even shop around, because competition is too scarce?
(Ars Technica has a great article going into detail about this approach to discussing Net Neutrality with the FCC. Highly recommended read!)
Here’s a draft of my comment:
I do not believe that the FCC should reclassify broadband as an “information service.” As a consumer, it’s plain as day that I’m purchasing “telecommunications service” from Comcast when I pay for my broadband access.
Although I’ve had broadband Internet access through either AT&T or Comcast for at least 15 years, I have never used either company for any of their “information services.” I currently use Apple, Amazon, and Google for cloud storage, FastMail and Apple for email hosting, NearlyFreeSpeech.net for web hosting, DynDNS for domain name services, ArborDomains for domain name hosting, the University of Michigan for my VPN, and Verizon, Skype, or Google for telephony. Heck, even though Comcast *does* offer cable TV and streaming video, I don’t use that service (they dropped the only channel I wanted), instead relying on Netflix, YouTube, Apple, and Amazon.
Comcast actually does a pretty good job of providing me with a telecommunications service–but to call that an “information service” is as obtuse as calling the highway system a “grocery service” simply because the grocery store has produce delivered via truck.
When I pay Comcast, I’m paying them for fast and reliable broadband service, connecting me to the many “information services” I want, value, and pay to use.
Thank you for your time and attention.
David Erik Nelson . . .
Go forth and tell your government how you want them to handle regulating this vital public utility.