Aaron Blumenthal represents whistleblowers and consumers in class action lawsuits, with a special emphasis on data breach and privacy litigation.
GG Privacy Attorney Makes the Case for Net Neutrality
July 12, 2017
Happy Net Neutrality Day! Today is a day designed to celebrate the openness of internet — an openness that soon may no longer exist.
Starting next Monday, July 17, the Federal Communication Commission will stop taking public comments on its new proposed rule to eliminate the net neutrality protections adopted in 2015.
Tell the FCC What You Think About Repealing Net Neutrality
If you want to comment on the FCC’s proposed net neutrality repeal, visit the following link and hit “+Express”: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=17-108
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic is created equal, endowed with an inalienable right to non-discriminatory treatment. Under net neutrality, internet service providers (such as Comcast) are forbidden from blocking certain websites, favoring certain sites over others, or throttling certain kinds of traffic (such as filesharing). Throttling means that the traffic is slowed down, even when the network doesn’t need the extra capacity.
Why Does This Matter?
Many key components of the 2015 net neutrality protections are now in danger, including the following three:
The No Blocking Rule
The No-Blocking Rule prohibits internet services providers from “blocking lawful content, applications, [or] services.”
One concern with blocking is censorship. Comcast came under fire in May 2017 for trying to take down a pro-net neutrality group’s website. The group was using the domain “comcastroturf.com” to criticize many of the anti-net neutrality comments on the FCC’s website as being fake and “potentially funded by Comcast.” Comcast relied on an anticybersquatting law to claim that the group could not use a domain name with the word “comcast” in it. But, if net neutrality did not exist, rather than sending a cease-and-desist letter, Comcast could have simply blocked access to the site for all Comcast customers.
Another concern is that Comcast and other internet service providers might abuse blocking to promote their own products. Comcast, for example, owns NBC Universal and part of the video streaming application Hulu. Without net neutrality, Comcast could block access to competitors’ websites or content (e.g. Netflix or Fox).
Some people wonder how companies like Comcast could be allowed to block content when the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees free speech. But, the First Amendment only forbids government censorship, not censorship by private companies.
The No Throttling Rule forbids the “impairment or degradation of lawful internet traffic,” except for “reasonable network management practices.” In essence, internet service providers cannot intentionally slow down certain traffic, unless they are doing so to prevent their networks from becoming overloaded.
Internet service providers have throttled customers in the past. As InfoWorld reports, “Ever since AT&T and Verizon stopped offering unlimited plans several years ago, the carriers have waged a war of attrition against users with grandfathered plans. The companies have tried all manner of tactics to make these users go away, including blocking certain services from working [and] throttling unlimited users’ data speeds.” The Federal Communication Commission in 2015 fined AT&T $100 million, saying that AT&T failing to adequately disclose that it was engaging in throttling. One troubling aspect of throttling is that it is often difficult for consumers to tell whether throttling is occurring or their internet is just supposed to be that slow.
The No-Paid-Prioritization Rule
The No Paid Prioritization Rule bans internet service providers from accepting payment, in exchange for agreeing to “favor some traffic over other traffic.” The concern is that absent this rule, large corporations can pay the internet service providers to place their traffic in a “fast lane,” while everyone else is stuck in a “slow lane.”
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We have recovered over a billion dollars for our clients against the world’s largest corporations in cases concerning auto defects, drug and medical device injuries, data breaches, securities fraud, antitrust matters, and employment law violations.