Google-Verizon ‘deal’ spurs 11th-hour public comments to FCC

The proposed deal between Google and Verizon is fueling a spike in public opinion favoring FCC action to restore its authority over broadband services as the midnight Aug. 12 comment deadline nears , said Wally Bowen, executive director of the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN).

“Big corporations cutting deals for preferential treatment from broadband providers is what the world will look like without net neutrality, and Google and Verizon have just given us a blinding glimpse of what will happen if the FCC and the Obama administration back off their commitment to net neutrality,” said Bowen.

The reported deal, Bowen said, is a roadmap for how Wal-Mart and Bank of America and other Fortune 500 companies will buy their way onto high-performance Internet channels, while the websites of grassroots groups and locally-owned businesses are relegated to second and third-class channels.

Bowen added that the revelation could spur the FCC to move forward with a September vote despite intense lobbying pressure to back down, but only if public opinion responds to this “object lesson” of a world without net neutrality.

The FCC began taking public comment in June on its proposal to restore protections to keep the Internet open for grassroots innovation and democratic communications. The deadline for initial comments was July 15.  The FCC is now taking “reply comments” through midnight August 12.

Bowen called the Google-Verizon revelation a great opportunity for concerned citizens to file additional comments encouraging the FCC to follow-through on a September vote to restore the agency’s authority over broadband services. END

A Note on Filing Your Reply Comments

Anyone is eligible to file a “reply comment” by the August 12 deadline, even if you filed initial comments for the July 15 deadline.

We now have a quicker and easier link for your comments (on the FCC filing webpage, just click on Proceeding Number 10-127 ). But first, a cautionary note:

Many citizens are submitting “cookie-cutter” filings that are simply cut-and-paste comments from a national organization. While these filings are better than no comments at all, they are considered a “weak signal” compared to comments that speak from your own experience.

The pending Google-Verizon deal is a perfect opening for reply comments, as it illustrates how unregulated broadband providers like Verizon will transform the Internet into a corporate media system more like cable TV, in which high-performance channels will be created for Fortune 500 companies, while individuals and small businesses will be redlined into low-rent Internet realms.

Moreover, if the FCC fails to reclaim its regulatory authority over broadband services, it will not have the power to implement policies to ensure affordable broadband access to underserved areas like western North Carolina.

Here are additional related talking points:

1. We need an FCC with strong enforcement authority to ensure broadband rules and protections for a fair and open Internet.

2. As we have seen on Wall Street and in the Gulf of Mexico, free markets do NOT work without fair, clear and enforceable rules.

3. We need a strong FCC to ensure the implementation of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which Congress ordered the FCC to publish earlier this year.

4. The NBP includes strategies for solving the broadband crisis in rural and other underserved communities. With little or no authority over broadband, the FCC will be powerless to implement these strategies.

5. One of these strategies is support for community broadband networks. Tell the FCC that rural and underserved communities prefer self-reliance over dependency on absentee-owned networks, whose Wall Street business models do not work in these communities.

This is not a partisan issue!  Supporters of “net neutrality” include the Christian CoalitionNational Religious Broadcasters, and Gunowners of America.

With a pass from corporate media, the cable and telephone companies have quietly consolidated their control over the Internet in recent years. How this happened is outlined in my column, “The Battle for Broadband.”

We can win this battle! The FCC has offered a modest proposal to restore its authority over broadband. A legal challenge by Comcast has cast doubt on this authority. (Imagine BP or Goldman Sachs suing to emasculate their federal watchdog agencies!)

The FCC must assemble a compelling public-comment record showing widespread support for open Internet rules and protections.

Without this support, it’s possible that the FCC – under ferocious attack by cable-telco lobbyists and “astro-turf” groups – could get cold feet and back away from this goal as the November elections approach.

But with your help, this is one battle against the big corporations we can win! Please file your comments by midnight August 12.  END

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