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Monday, 05 May 2014 10:39

How US telcos bought their own watchdog

Written by Nick Farrell



And the US government let them

The death of net neutrality in the US might have come about because the US government allowed the telcos to buy the only watchdog which was designed to protect citizen’s rights. The Federal Communications Commission is planning to abandon so-called “net neutrality” regulations—rules to ensure that Internet providers are prevented from discriminating based on content.

This will allow Comcast or Verizon to create a two-tiered Internet, in which websites will have to pay more money for faster speeds, a change that observers predict will curb free speech, stifle innovation and increase costs for consumers. However, the reason for the change of heart might have been because the FCC is stacked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the end of net neutrality.

Too many friendly names


According to Vice the FCC includes a bloke called Daniel Alvarez, an attorney who has long represented Comcast through the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. In 2010, Alvarez wrote a letter to the FCC on behalf of Comcast protesting net neutrality rules, arguing that regulators failed to appreciate “socially beneficial discrimination.” Alvarez is working among a small group of legal advisors hired directly under Tom Wheeler, the new FCC Commissioner who began his job in November.

Wheeler hired former Ambassador Philip Verveer as his senior counselor. Verveer also worked for Comcast in the last year and was hired by two industry groups that have worked to block net neutrality, the Wireless Association (CTIA) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

In February, Matthew DelNero was brought into the agency to work specifically on the net neutrality issue. However DelNero has previously worked as an attorney for TDS Telecom, an Internet service provider that has lobbied on net neutrality. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, a former associate general counsel at Verizon, hired a new advisor called Brendan Carr. Pai is not exactly neutral himself, but Carr worked for years as an attorney to AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon, and the U.S. Telecom Association, a trade group that has waged war in Washington against net neutrality since 2006. Carr also worked specifically to monitor net neutrality regulations on behalf of some of his industry clients.

Broken promises, no public outcry


When on campaign Barack Obama said that, he was a strong supporter of net neutrality. In his first term, he proposed net neutrality rules, but in January of this year, a federal court tossed the regulations out. 

The decision would have allowed new rules, but it required the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility, which would have been a doddle. But the FCC is not doing that. Instead it will give the ISPs and telcos what they want and consumers will suffer.

Fortunately in the rest of the world, net neutrality will remain and the internet economies of countries will thrive, while the US collapses as its self-serving corporates stuff the nation over.

Nick Farrell

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