As the ownership of our mass media -- print, TV, radio -- consolidates in fewer and fewer mega-corporate hands, the FCC has taken a firm stand on control of the information that passes over the internet, our one remaining "public" forum.
Telephone and cable companies keep dreaming up new ways to close down your access to the Internet. This week, the court case over the Federal Communications Commission rules designed to prevent that kind of behavior moved to its next phase.
In July, Verizon teamed up with wireless carrier MetroPCS to challenge the FCC’s right to craft and enforce Net Neutrality rules. After attacking the agency’s legal authority to adopt even basic consumer protections for broadband access, these companies went on to claim that they themselves have the right to edit the Internet.
... Acknowledging that their clients “transmit the speech of … millions of individuals” every day, their lawyers claimed that “broadband providers possess editorial discretion” to feature some speakers — and block others."
... This week, the FCC fired back. In its brief, the agency agreed with the position taken by Free Press and others that led to the adoption of its Open Internet rules in the first place. The FCC demonstrated that ISPs are neither speakers nor editors when they transmit their customers’ emails or data from other companies’ websites. Instead, ISPs are “conduits” that “transport the speech of others”— so they must provide access to all lawful content on the Internet. The FCC also refuted Verizon’s claim that its freedom of speech trumps Internet users’ right to the same. The agency explained that an ISP has “no plausible claim” to be a speaker or editor when it is simply enabling customers’ access to their chosen Internet content.
Essentially, the FCC says that the internet, as a whole, is like a phone company whose wires pass conversations to and from multiple users. Just as your telephone company has no right to limit or edit what you can and can't say in on your telephone, so to does your ISP have the responsibility to transmit ALL lawful information posted on websites, without prejudice.
Why is this important?
It's important because the internet represents the last bastion of the free press. As has been pointed out on other threads, anyone can post information on the internet, and it is up to the reader to use their own critical judgement in determining what is valid information and what is just garbage.
This contrasts sharply with the stranglehold mega-corporations exercise in the United States over all other forms of mass media, including print, radio, or TV.
According to FreePress.net, TV in the US is owned by the following corporations:
Comcast Corporation, with 2011 revenue of $55.8 billion:
NBCUniversal; twenty-four television stations and the NBC television network; Telemundo; USA Network; SyFy; CNBC; MSNBC; Bravo; Oxygen; Chiller; CNBC World; E!; the Golf Channel; Sleuth; mun2; Universal HD; VERSUS; Style; G4; all Comcast Sports channels; the Weather Channel; A&E; the History Channel; the Biography Channel; Lifetime; the Crime and Investigation Channel; Pittsburgh Cable News Channel; FEARnet; PBS KIDS Sprout; TV One; Houston Regional Sports Network; SportsNet New York
Walt Disney Company, with 2011 revenue of $40.1 billion:
Eight television stations and the ABC television network; ESPN; Disney Channels Worldwide; ABC Family; SOAPnet Networks; A&E; Lifetime Television; the History Channel; Lifetime Movie Network; the Biography Channel; History International; Lifetime Real Women; Live Well Network
News Corp, with 2011 revenue of $33.4 billion:
Twenty-seven television stations and FOX Broadcasting Company (FOX Network, MyNetworkTV); FOX News; FOX Business; FOX News Radio Network; FOX News Talk Channel; FSN (12 regional sports networks); FX; SPEED; FUEL TV; Fox College Sports; Fox Movie Channel; Fox Soccer Channel; Fox Soccer Plus; Fox Pan American Sports; Fox Deportes; Big Ten Network; National Geographic U.S.; Nat Geo Adventure; Nat Geo Music; Nat Geo Wild; Fox International Channels; Utilisima; Fox Crime; NEXT; FOX History & Entertainment; the Voyage Channel; STAR World; STAR Movies; NGC Network International; NGC Network Latin America; LAPTV; Movie City; City Mix; City Family; City Stars; City Vibe; the Film Zone; Cinecanal; Elite Sports Limited; BabyTV; STAR India; STAR Taiwan; ESPN STAR Sports; Shine Limited
Time Warner, Inc., with 2011 revenue of $29 billion:
One television station and the Warner Brothers Television Group; Warner Brothers Television; Warner Horizon Television; CW Network; TBS; TNT; Cartoon Network; truTV; Turner Classic Movies; Boomerang; CNN; HLN; CNN International; HBO; Cinemax; Space; Infinito; I-Sat; Fashion TV; HTV; Much Music; Pogo; Mondo TV; Tabi; CNN Español
Viacom, with 2011 revenue of $14.9 billion:
Viacom Media Networks (160 cable channels including MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike TV, Tr3s, BET and CENTRIC)
CBS Corporation, with 2011 revenue of $14.2 billion:
Twenty-nine television stations and CBS Television Studios; CBS Entertainment; CBS News; CBS Sports; CBS television stations; CBS Television Studios; CBS Studios International; CBS Television Distribution; the CW; Showtime; CBS College Sports Network; CBS Television Network; Smithsonian Networks
Gannet Co., Washington Post Co., and Tribune Co., with total 2011 revenue of $12.6 billion:
Fifty-two television stations between them; Gannet also owns the Food Network (30 percent stake), WGN America, and CLTV Chicagoland; Tribune owns Tribune Entertainment
All the above companies also own the majority of America's print media and radio stations. You can find the details of who owns what at FreePress.com: Who Owns the Media?
I wonder, though, how long this holdout can go on, in an age where every frickin' thing is owned by some corporate entity or another, on sale to the highest bidder, or cause for nickel-and-diming everyone else.
It's a start. The real issue though, is going to be over whether ISPs have the right to create dual-tier internet access. What that means to you, as a consumer, is faster access to sites depending on whether they or you have paid more for them. So if Bnet (for example) hasn't paid a processing fee, this site would only be served up at a snail's pace while the megamoney sites that pay for high-speed access get served up quicker. Effectively, that would end freedom of speech on the webway (although you don't really have freedom of speech on the webway anyway since all private content providers can set whatever rules they like) without directly doing so, just the kind of loophole the conservative/corporate SCOTUS would like.
Also, I foresee a lawsuit in this and given that the SCOTUS is so conservative/corporate dominated (at least two of whom don't give a damn about the law), I don't like the chances of net neutrality there. If the SCOTUS can twist law into a pretzel to justify unlimited coorporate outlays on elections (Citizens United, which was originally a very simple case of whether a film qualified as election material), it can certainly twist law to justify corportion's right to serve you whatever it wants.
There needs to be an overhaul of how law applies to the webway. The problem is that the laws currently being applied are written by lawmakers and judges who don't really understand how the webway works. The laws are written, and judgements made, on a model that assumes a linear, one-to-many distribution paradigm but that no longer applies. The webway is a viral, many-to-many paradigm of information distribution. The FCC gets it a bit better, I suspect they have plenty of techies working for them giving advice on this stuff.
And that overhaul needs to happen soon. Because right now, laws are being made on-the-fly by people who don't understand the system very well and that leads to panicky overreactions (witness the absurdly excessive punishments handed down to file-sharers) which usually leads to bad law. The laws need to be written by people who, for example, know what physibles are and how they work (put very simply, a set of design schematics for a 3D printer); who can quantify the difference between Fair Use and piracy; who aren't beholden to the megamoney players and who understand how to work a Linux box.
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. ~ Proverbs 14:31