A group of more than 80 advocacy groups including The Media Access Project, Reporters without Borders, Daily Kos, Common Cause, and Nonprofit Technology filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission on Friday citing five main areas that need improvement in the Net Neutrality legislation coming up for vote on December 21.
Unlike former FCC Commissioner Michael Powell, whose main concern is keeping the Internet lean and loosely governed to empower investors, entrepreneurs, and businesses, these groups are focused on the rights of the user.
“In announcing the circulation of his draft Order, Chairman Genachowski rightly noted that protecting the free market online means that users, not broadband service providers, must choose what content and applications succeed,” the letter said. “If the current draft Order is adopted without substantial changes, Internet Service Providers will be free to engage in a number of practices that harm consumers, stifle innovation and threaten to carve up the Internet in irreversible ways.”
The principle concern these groups have is the Order’s omission of “Paid Prioritization,” or the ability for service providers to set payment tiers for different types of services and allocate bandwidth accordingly.
“Paid prioritization is the antithesis of openness. Any framework that does not prohibit such economic discrimination arrangements is not real Net Neutrality,” the letter said. “Without a clear ban on such practices, ISPs will move forward with their oft-stated plans to exploit their dominant position and favor their own content and services and those of a few select paying partners through faster delivery, relegating everyone else to the proverbial dirt road.”
AT&T’s Hank Hultquist openly mocked these groups’ knowledge of such issues in August, calling them the “Church of Extreme Net Neutrality,” who preach the “old time religion of the dumb network” without taking all facts into consideration.
The Group’s subsequent gripes all follow along the same lines, asking for more adequate consideration of “full Net Neutrality” to wireless and mobile traffic, which includes the banishment of all economically-motivated traffic prioritization or blocking of applications, sites, and services; and for more comprehensive coverage that lacks loopholes.
The group cites the fiasco over “managed services” earlier this year, and points out that there is no specific language protecting against this either.
“While some highly sensitive and truly specialized services might not be best provided over the open Internet, there is no reason for the FCC to create a specialized services loophole that would undermine Net Neutrality. Unfortunately, the draft Order apparently opens the door to specialized services without any safeguards,” the group said.
Finally, the group calls Genachowski’s rejection of Title II, and gravitation toward the Title I provisions that failed to hold up in the circuit court against Comcast an “unnecessary risk.”