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INDUSTRY
Should The Internet Be A 'Public Utility'?
Comment On FCC Proposal - It Affects You
February 9, 2015

By James Alburger
Producer & Voice Over Coach

The Internet is a huge part of our daily lives. As voice talent, it is also a critical part of our business.

This coming February 26, the FCC will be voting on a proposal for "Net Neutrality" - a vote that could reclassify Internet Providers as Public Utilities under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

This is a hot topic because it is something that will not only affect us on many levels, but it is also something that is easily misunderstood.

On one side are those who feel Net Neutrality will put controls and constraints on the big Internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner.

On the other side are those who believe that Net Neutrality is little more than a power grab by the government to take control of the Internet.

FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE


Although the proposal to be voted on implies that there will be no taxes or fees associated with Net Neutrality, the simple fact is that, if passed, the proposal will reclassify the Internet as a Public Utility - and that will fundamentally change the way in which the Internet is managed.

In 2010, the FCC enacted rules designed to maintain an Open Internet. Reclassification of the Internet would change that and could possibly open the door to future changes that might include fees and taxation. At the very least, reclassification would put the Internet in the U.S. directly under governmental control.

Whatever your personal opinion may be regarding Net Neutrality, we feel that it is important for you to know what is about to happen and for you to voice your opinion clearly and concisely.

You can click these links to the FCC website that include:
LEARN AND COMMENT

Should you decide to post your own comments, we encourage you to be as clear and concise with your statement as possible, providing reasons and explanation when necessary. After all, your comment will be part of the Public Record for this matter.

As an industry that requires an accessible Internet, we have an opportunity here to influence the FCC in their decision - one way or the other.

If you feel, as we do, that this is an important issue for those of us working in voice over, I encourage you to please share this information on your Facebook page and with your networking groups.

Editor's note: Below is James Alburger's comment to the FCC:
As with most government regulations or agency orders, there is both good and bad. The proposal by FCC Chairman Wheeler (to be voted on by the FCC on Feb. 26, 2015) definitely includes some very good things that will insure that the Internet is Open, such as a promise of no taxes or fees, among other things.

However, reclassifying Internet carriers as a Telecommunications Service under Title II could easily be interpreted as moving the Internet to the status of a Public Utility. And, even though Chairman Wheeler's proposal appears to indicate the contrary, any reclassification could easily open the door to future imposition of regulation, taxation and governmental control of what is now a free Internet.

I work in a business where words are everything. I know how easy it is to manipulate a thought or opinion by simply changing a word or rearranging a phrase. Chairman Wheeler's proposal is written in a way that implies that reclassification of the Internet will guarantee that the Internet remains open. But history tells us that whenever the government gets more involved, things don't work as well as they did before.

At first glance Chairman Wheeler's proposal looks like a good thing. But if you look deeper and read between the lines, you'll see that reclassifying the Internet would fundamentally change the way a currently free, open, and highly efficient system operates and allow for the possibility of future regulation, taxation, and ultimately control of content.

Certainly, there are things that need to be addressed regarding abuse by major carriers like Verizon and Comcast, but with few exceptions, the Internet is working just fine under the 2010 Open Internet regulations and does NOT need the additional burden of reclassification. Reclassification could have a potentially devastating effect on small business and consumers. The only "winner" would be the government, which would have yet one more level of control over our lives.

If Chairman Wheeler is truly concerned about keeping the Internet open, it is certainly within his power to propose new regulations that address many of the current issues and, at the same time, guarantee no taxation or unreasonable regulations without reclassifying the service as a utility under Title II.
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ABOUT JAMES

James Alburger is an Emmy-winning producer and voice over coach, co-director of the VoiceActing Academy in San Diego, and co-producer of the VOICE conventions - the industry's largest training and networking event.

Email: info@voiceacting.com
Web: www.voiceacting.com


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Comments (8)
Julia Knippen
2/13/2015 at 3:46 PM
The passage of Title II is imperative to preserving net neutrality. It is meant to protect ALL websites from cable companies that want to start charging websites for the honor of functioning normally. Sites that don't pay up will experience minor to severe degradations in performance.

Tumblr has published a very clear FAQ that explains the situation in no uncertain terms:

https://www.tumblr.com/everybodyontheinternet

The government doesn't want to control the internet; they want to protect it and keep it free and neutral.
Bill Russell
2/9/2015 at 8:57 PM
You cannot make something neutral that already is totally free, which in just its definition: neutral means not to support either side in a conflict, disagreement.

In an article from an interview with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse calling the term “misleading,” he told Americans to see what’s really going on: the creation of a new Department of the Internet.

“This is a government bureaucracy in search of being an Orwellian solution for problems that don’t exist,” Sasse said. “The Federal Trade Commission already has laws that would prohibit the things they say they’re trying to guard against. Contact your congressman and senators and tell them that if there’s a debate that should be had about the governance of the Internet, it should be had in the legislature, not in unaccountable … permanent bureaucracies.”

Sasse compared net neutrality to the “Fairness Doctrine,” which required broadcasters to broadcast different viewpoints on controversial issues. Many have claimed a revived “Fairness Doctrine” would target conservative talk radio.

“We’ve never had this in the past on the Internet, and it is a dangerous place,” Sasse added.
Scott Medvetz
2/9/2015 at 3:47 PM
Jim, even with the minimal regulation that we have today, there is just not a single example of net providers segmenting traffic. As someone who spent over 25 years in telecom and networking, I can guarantee one thing: the new regulation will ensure a slowdown of corporate investment in web infrastructure. The regulations as written leave the door open to future commissioners controlling pricing, and given that uncertainty, backbone providers don't dare put billions at risk building services they may never see a profit on. You're right that their motivation is profit, as it should be. No profit = no investment = no innovation.
BP Smyth
2/9/2015 at 2:39 PM
Thanks for sharing this information James. Anytime the Government gets a hold of anything it becomes a disaster!! There is nothing wrong with the Internet the way it is. It's the only true freedom we have these days, and of course the Government wants control of it. I say, contact your Congressional representatives and tell them "hands off".
Joel
2/9/2015 at 1:28 PM
James, we already pay more than almost every developed nation for internet access. If we want to worry about POSSIBILITIES of Title II classification then Title II also opens the door to government mandated loop unbundling that would actually open up the current system to competition which would mean lower prices and better service. That is just as likely as increased taxes. What is more likely than increased taxes are data caps that will seriously affect voice artists who transfer large files or who use high-bandwidth real-time VOIP services to record remotely. Without regulation ISPs are already instituting caps and throttles in markets where they have monopolies. This isn't a possibilities - it is a reality.

Yes, this is an issue for every voice actor because we all are dependent on reliable, fast internet for our work. However I think we should be acting in favor and not against this action. I'm not usually an advocate for more government intervention, but I'd rather the government than Comcast and TWC.

The truth is that wherever a viable 2nd or 3rd party broadband service has shown up there is better service for less money. Of course cable companies obfucate this by not giving clear pricing city to city and state to state, but if you start entering zip codes where Google Fiber or municipal fiber is offered and compare that to places where it is not, you'll see a noticeable difference.

The same companies bemoaning Title II classification already use it (locally, mind you) and other government regulations to get special rights and privileges. They also actively fight competition through lawsuits and petitions. They have quite literally driven the government to take this action. Would I rather there was a competitive marketplace? Yes. But since we've allowed these companies to establish abusive monopolies and act as public utilities we need to start regulated them as such.
James Alburger
2/9/2015 at 12:06 PM
In response to Keith's question: If the Internet is reclassified as a Public Utility, it won't be long before we will all be paying more for high-speed Internet services. Although, at the moment, there is nothing in the Net Neutrality proposal that mentions taxes, fees or control of content, if the government controls the Internet, the door will be open for all of these, which could potentially have a serious affect on our ability to market our services, deliver our recordings and perhaps even limit the kind of work we can do. If you completely trust our government to look out for your best interests, then Net Neutrality is for you. Personally, I think the Internet is working just fine, with some issues that can be addressed in other ways, and I'd prefer the government keep its hands off.
John Haag
2/9/2015 at 10:15 AM
Hello James,

The greater danger, as I see it, is that, free of regulation, these companies will create a two-tiered system - higher speed service for companies who can afford to pay for it, and slower service for individual customers like you and me. They're in the business to make money, and will oppose any government infringement on their bottom line. The proposed merger is part of their overall strategy to maximize profits from the web, which belongs, by right, to the people. It should therefore remain free, as you say, and most importantly, equitable access should be guanteed and protected by our government.

Best regards,
John Haag
Keith Michaels
2/9/2015 at 9:23 AM
I would like someone to explain how this would affect my business negatively if it passes. I keep hearing how it "could" affect my business but there is never an explanation as to how or why.
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