New York City

Cuomo defies FCC on vote to reverse rules on net neutrality in N.Y.

'Like giving private car makers special, faster lanes on I-95'

January 25, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Supporters of net neutrality carried the top of an alarm clock in Washington, D.C., after a protest at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December, where FCC voted to dismantle net neutrality. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo is defying FCC. AP photo by Carolyn Kaster
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Defying the Federal Trade Commission (FCC), Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Wednesday directing the state not to enter into any contracts for internet service unless the internet service providers (ISPs) agree to follow net neutrality principles.

In the order, the governor leverages New York state’s clout as a “significant purchaser” of internet and broadband services.

Without net neutrality, Cuomo said in a statement, there is nothing to stop ISPs “from creating ‘fast and slow lanes’ on the internet, favoring content they have a financial stake in over content they do not profit from.”

On Dec. 14, 2017, FCC voted along party lines to reverse net neutrality rules. This followed a lengthy debate and comment period — after which it was discovered that numerous comments made during the federal rule-making process may have been fraudulent.

On Tuesday, the General Accounting Office has accepted 10 Democrats’ request for an investigation, after reports came out of Americans’ identities being stolen and used to submit comments to FCC backing the reversal of net neutrality.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement, “For months, my office has been investigating the millions of fake comments that corrupted the FCC public process, including two million that stole the identities of real people.” He added, “I’m pleased that the U.S. Government Accountability Office agreed to also investigate these comments.”

In his executive order, Cuomo said ISPs doing business with the state, such as Verizon and AT&T, must not “block, throttle or prioritize internet content or applications or require that end users pay different or higher rates to access specific types of content or applications.” The order will be enforced in contracts being signed or renewed after March 1.

Cuomo says the state needs net neutrality in order to compete in an increasingly global economy, and that students, schools, state employees and everyday New Yorkers rely on a free and open internet for education, to conduct business and to communicate, participate in civic life and for a myriad of other purposes.

In addition, many state services are available only via the internet, and throttling or paid prioritization would limit the ability of the most vulnerable New Yorkers to access these services, Cuomo said.

New York is the second state, after Montana, to sign such an order. In addition, 110 members of Congress have asked to cosponsor legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (PA) to overrule FCC’s order.

Cuomo’s order may be challenged by the federal government, however. FCC specifically included a provision blocking states from passing their own rules, according to The Verge.

Like I-95 Making a Deal with General Motors

In 2014, then-President Barack Obama recommended that FCC classify internet service as a common carrier-type telecommunications service, like telephones, in order to preserve net neutrality.

  The term “net neutrality” was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003. In a 2006 article in Slate Magazine, Wu wrote, “To take a strong example, would it be a problem if AT&T makes it slower and harder to reach Gmail and quicker and easier to reach Yahoo! mail?” In another example, Wu said, “How would you feel if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors [GM] to provide a special rush-hour lane for GM cars only?”

Wu added, “That’s what would happen if discrimination reigned on the internet: a transformation from a market where innovation rules to one where deal-making rules. Or, a market where firms rush to make exclusive agreements with AT&T and Verizon instead of trying to improve their products.”

Many major technology companies, including Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon support net neutrality. Vinton Cerf, a co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and vice president of Google, said in Senate testimony in 2006 that the internet’s open, neutral architecture “has proven to be an enormous engine for market innovation, economic growth, social discourse, and the free flow of ideas.”

Cerf added, “Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success.”

Many Oppose Net Neutrality

There are many opponents of net neutrality, however, including ISPs and broadband and telecommunications companies.  Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, IBM and Intel are among the opponents, as are conservative Republicans and some economists.

Opponents of net neutrality say that the rule stifles innovation on the internet.

“Government attempts to regulate technology have been extraordinarily counterproductive in the past. The antitrust lawsuits against AT&T and IBM in the ’70s, Microsoft in the ’90s — it turned out that all these companies eventually saw tremendous competition within the technological space,” PayPal cofounder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel said in an interview in National Review.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the two commissioners who opposed the net neutrality proposal, said in 2015 that the idea that ISPs would disfavor the content that they dislike is not valid. He called the reports of internet fast lanes and throttling “anecdote, hypothesis and hysteria,” according to an article in RT, the Russian media outlet recently outed as a foreign agent operating in the U.S.


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