For Immediate Release: June 24, 2016 Contact: Alexandra Roose, Spitfire Strategies, (202) 448-0202, firstname.lastname@example.org
Groundswell of Americans Call for the FCC to Take Strong Enforcement Action against Companies Violating Net Neutrality by Controlling Content
WASHINGTON – Today, more than 100,000 complaints from Americans who support a free and open internet were delivered to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling on Chairman Wheeler and the other commissioners to investigate and take strong enforcement action if and when companies violate the FCC’s Open Internet Order with zero-rating schemes that control individual users’ content choices.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to see photos. These photos are available for use by the media. Credit: courtesy Fight for the Future.
The complaints were delivered together in a “Special Delivery” Package that was left for FCC Commissioners ahead of their June open meeting. This push by more than 100,000 individuals comes on the heels of last week’s court decision upholding the FCC’s Open Internet Order and giving the commission strong legal ground to investigate zero-rating schemes where companies charge tolls or act as gatekeepers on content.
Helping lead the charge to gather this groundswell of complaints were membership organizations and public interest groups including Fight for the Future, Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, 18millionrising.org, Daily Kos, Credo Action, and Free Press.
Many of the complaints were targeted at specific zero-rating schemes by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile from individual customers. 80,000 of the complaints hand delivered to the FCC today were also delivered into the Open Internet docket in the FCC’s ECFS system. In addition, over 20,000 were delivered into the FCC’s new Zendesk complaints system.
Today’s delivery of 100,000 individual complaints calling for enforcement actions against zero-rating follows a March 2016 letter by 54 advocacy groups urging the FCC to take action against these zero-rating schemes, and a May 2016 letter to the FCC by more than 50 companies and grassroots organizations calling for an open, public process for zero-rating proceedings.
“Last year, millions of Americans called on the FCC to protect the open Internet and pass strong Net Neutrality rules. Now that these rules are the law of the land, the FCC should listen to the large number of people who are fed up with their carriers distorting competition and threatening consumer choice with these zero-rating schemes and take action to stop these clear violations of net neutrality,” said Holmes Wilson, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Fight for the Future.
“Our community will not be sold a zero-rated Internet that gives us half the story and half the power to fight back. Every one of us deserves the right to control what content they access and how they share knowledge and express themselves. The 100,000 individuals whose complaints were delivered to the FCC today and millions more around the country won’t stand for these bite sized zero-rated Internet plans that limit how we connect and how we organize,” said Malkia Cyril, founder and Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice (CMJ).
“The same cable and phone companies that fought so hard to destroy Net Neutrality are creating harmful new schemes that pose a serious threat to the open Internet. The FCC should investigate and take swift action against these zero-rating plans. Furthermore, this decision should not be made behind closed doors–the FCC should have an open, public process to decide where and how to enforce these rules,” said David Segal, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Demand Progress.
“For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other communities of color, an open internet helps level the playing field by providing spaces for cultural, economic, and political engagement in which our experiences, identities, and language needs are reflected. These zero-rating schemes distort people’s ability to use the applications they want and view the content of their choice, directly attacking everyone’s ability to communicate,” said Cayden Mak, Chief Technology Officer of 18MillionRising.org.
“Internet users won decisively in court last week. That means ISPs can’t block or discriminate against what that their users want. But the FCC also has a duty to make sure broadband is offered on reasonable terms, without artificial penalties for people who have the audacity to actually use the connections they buy. If exemption-riddled data caps disincentive use of the open internet and keep people tied to incumbents’ preferred products, then the FCC has to consider the impact on choice and affordability,” said Matt Wood, Policy Director of Free Press.
After being besieged by telecom lobbyists, the European Union’s
communications regulatory body, BEREC, has issued “net neutrality”
guidelines that let ISPs prioritize certain services and throttle whole
classes of traffic, like VPNs, BitTorrent, or videochat. The proposal is
in a final public comment period that ends on July 18.
proposal, ISPs are instructed to discriminate against classes of traffic
when managing their networks. The rules appear to be designed to
prevent commercial considerations when deciding what to throttle—and
that’s a good thing—but the wording of the regulation could lead to
forms of discrimination that are even more far reaching. For example,
peer-to-peer traffic could be throttled before traffic from streaming
video services, even if the peer-to-peer service is in fact using less
bandwidth. VPN traffic could be throttled simply because ISPs wouldn’t
be able to determine what category it is.
And this mass throttling
could be done as a standard operating procedure, not just for times
when there is excessive congestion on a network. Under the rules, ISPs
can engage in class-based throttling whenever they believe congestion is
“impending,” which, if you consider the chaotic nature of the Internet,
could really be whenever.
Another major loophole in the rules is
the ability for ISPs to engage in zero rating, a practice that has been
around in Europe for a while and is a big part of why online innovation
has been sluggish there. Under zero rating, ISPs exempt their own apps
and services, and those of their partners, from monthly data caps. These
arrangements incentivize ISPs to reduce data allowances (EU ISPs that
engage in zero rating give, on average, 50% less data each month for the same price) and they give ISPs more control over what we do online.
loopholes allow ISPs to violate net neutrality’s basic principles, and
they will ensure that Europe’s Internet continues to lag behind the rest
of the developed world. Innovation will stall under the uncertainties
created by these provisions, and freedom of expression will be limited
as ISPs cement their gatekeeper status on the Internet in the EU. Europe
is the world’s largest economy. What happens to the Internet in Europe
profoundly affects Internet freedom around the world.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
far, lobbyists for ISPs have been the dominant voices in shaping these
rules. Europe’s biggest telecom companies, like Deutsche Telekom,
Orange, and Vodafone, lobbied hard to get the EU Parliament to punt many
of the most important decisions to BEREC, an unaccountable regulatory
bureaucracy. The loophole-filled guidelines that BEREC released make it
clear that the lobbyists were successful. They got more out of BEREC
than they ever would have been able to get if these decisions were made
in the original legislation.
Now it’s our turn. BEREC has opened a
comment period to hear from the public before they give their final
approval. This comment period only stays open for a matter of weeks, so
if you want your voice heard you need to act quick. You do not have to
live in the European Union to take action.
This is our chance to
let them know we want strong net neutrality rules. If enough of us speak
up, we can beat the lobbyists and get these loopholes fixed. It’s how
real net neutrality was won in the United States, and it’s how India
defeated Facebook’s offensive “Free Basics” zero-rating scheme and
passed net neutrality rules instead. We can do the same in Europe, but
we have to act now.
This morning the Senate fell one vote short of attaching a rider to a spending bill that would give the FBI sweeping new surveillance authority, including warrantless access to browsing history. Now, Senate leaders are trying to turn just one more senator in favor of the rider before doing a re-vote. This process is being spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who introduced the rider (McCain Amendment 4787) late on Monday and is trying to sneak it through using a cloture process that limits any debate.
Every County Court in America is about to have the power to issue warrants that would give the FBI the ability to hack anyone in the world, millions at a time. The new rule would be so broad that if you have malware or are using certain privacy software, you could be targeted by the FBI. This authority is brand new — until this rule goes into effect, courts have only been able to issue warrants for the areas they serve.
Fight for the Future is joining over 45 organizations concerned about digital security in a day of action today, June 21, to speak out against this change to Rule 41. (Read the coalition letter here)
Here’s the deal: The Department of Justice is using an amendment to a procedure, Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, to sneak through a whole new policy without Congressional action, and it would represent a sweeping expansion of law enforcement’s ability to engage in hacking and surveillance. If Congress does nothing, this massive change will automatically go into effect on December 1.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are supposed to set the rules for day-to-day procedural details involved with federal criminal prosecution, and are definitely not supposed to change substantive rights. But the modification to Rule 41 isn’t procedural at all. It would grant a judge the ability to issue a warrant to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data when “the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means” like VPNs, or whenever the computer appears to be involved in a botnet.This could turn the millions of unknowing victims of such malware into targets of government hacking themselves. The modified rule would grant this broad authority to any judge in any district where activities related to the crime may have occurred. It creates new avenues for government hacking that were never approved by Congress.