Defending Net Neutrality. Again.

I’m bringing this blog out of dormancy to add my voice to the chorus of people defending net neutrality. It isn’t the first time; we’ve been here before when the rules were first adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. New president, new people in charge, but the reasons for keeping this rule in place remain the same. I said what I needed to say in a comment to the FCC, reproduced below.

The FCC should safeguard Internet freedom by keeping the bright-line net neutrality protections in place and upholding Title II.

I have been using the internet since I was in college in the early 1990s. I witnessed first hand the growth of the academic internet and watched as the NSFnet gave way to the commercial internet we know today. I created library services on the internet — first using Gopher and WAIS before transitioning to the web (first using the text-based Lynx client then Mosaic). I remember the early days of video conferencing services, including watching Space Shuttle launches over CU-SeeMe reflectors. I’ve learned through hard work and sweat equity how the internet works; I’ve taught classes and participated in standards processes. The internet as we know it survived because it was clear that a packet that was sent from one computer had an equal chance as any other packet to reach its destination. We could count on the “neutrality” of the intervening networks not interfering with the packet along the way.

The FCC should throw out Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to give the government-subsidized telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast free rein to create internet fast lanes, stripping consumers of the necessary privacy and access safeguards we fought for and so recently won.

I’m concerned about creating a tiered internet with “fast lanes” for certain sites or services because ISPs could have too much power to determine what I can do online. Thankfully, the existing FCC regulations ensure that internet providers can’t block or slow our ability to see certain web services or engage in data discrimination by charging websites and online services money to reach people faster. That’s the best way forward to make sure competition in the internet space is fair and benefits small businesses and internet users as well as larger players. Chairman Pai’s proposal would transform ISPs into gatekeepers with an effective veto right on expression and innovation. That’s contrary to the basic precepts on which the Internet was built.

The proponents of abandoning Title II protections for internet communications have not put forth a convincing argument to move away from the foundational principles of the network-of-networks that we call the internet. Title II classification, the mechanism that permitted the wide adoption of the original telephone service, is the most appropriate tool we have now for maintaining the public good that is the internet today.

I urge you to keep Title II net neutrality in place and safeguard internet users like me.

As an aside, I was stunned to find that the web page for the White Pine Software company — the folks that developed CU-SeeMe commercially — was still on the internet as it was circa 1999! A little searching also turned up the software for sale on Amazon. (Check out the system requirements!)