Net Neutrality Harms are NOT Hypothetical: An open letter to Left, Right, and Center (and most other news shows)

This is a copy of a comment I sent to the producers of Left, Right, and Center. LRC is a weekly radio show/podcast from KCRW, featuring liberal and conservative pundits calmly and rationally discussing the top news stories of the week. This was originally submitted as a public comment on the LRC website, but was blocked with no reason stated. I am re-publishing this here as a resource for folks who want more information, and a fast cheat sheet, of real harm caused by eliminating Title II regulation of the Internet. The list at the end of this post links to events where carriers and ISPs have abused their power prior to enacting Net Neutrality.

***Update 12-19-2017 – My comment was finally reinstated. This post still stands as a starter collection of links for people tired of the “Where were the harms” arguments from conservatives.

Dear LRC,

I’m a huge fan. I’ve been a listener for years, and greatly appreciate the tone of your show. Tackling divisive political topics, in an even-handed fashion, is not easy. I believe your show succeeds in this mission more than most. However, when your show falls short, I also believe it’s the duty of your listeners to let you know.

Listening to the episode Is Alabama the beginning of a ‘blue wave’ of wins?, I was thrilled that you would be talking about the recent FCC vote repealing Title II regulation of the internet. There’s been a lot of vitriol and hot headedness surrounding this topic. Your program was high on my list for outlets bringing a more level-headed approach to this conversation. Unfortunately, all we received was a rushed chat, repeating fallacy and appealing to emotion.

I very much respect the work of Rich Lowry, though while I almost always disagree with his conservative views, I have always felt his positions were well researched and well-reasoned. You can imagine how disappointed I was to hear him repeat obvious falsehoods that could easily be disproved via a simple Google search.

Xeni Jardin is another favorite pundit of mine, but she did not bring her A-Game to this discussion, and likewise, seemed ill-prepared to really join the nuance of this topic. When asked about the potential harms of repealing Title II regulation, all of the hosts cagily spoke in general and hypothetical terms. This could happen. That might be affected.

Rich Lowry parroting the same tired talking points used by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai:

“I just don’t see the abuse that’s being addressed here… Earlier than two years ago, it wasn’t that the Internet was wild and free and a great source of information and entertainment to everyone.”

Net Neutrality harms are not, and have never been hypothetical.

I have a list of (easily Googled) links at the bottom of this letter. Your listeners shouldn’t have to join the conversation this way. The internet is a fundamental resource to the future of entertainment, health care, education, business, political discourse, and security. This is not a deep in the weeds “geeky” problem. A vast majority of people engaged in political discussion, those who weighed in on the public comments (heinously ignored by the FCC), have expressed as much.

We care about Net Neutrality, and that this issue is accurately described.

I’m a two-bit blogger from the nerdy end of the internet. I write, host, and produce for a number of outlets and local TV in Los Angeles. There are DOZENS of producers like me who would have joined this conversation with more preparation, because we are leading this conversation in our own circles.

You can do better than us.

For future coverage, might I suggest reaching out to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who has written some phenomenal dissenting opinions to the current regime at the FCC. You should contact Gigi Sohn, who recently discussed this very topic on To the Point with Warren Olney. She’s a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute, and she was Senior Advisor to Tom Wheeler when he was the Chairman of the FCC. Two incredibly intelligent and well-versed women who understand the actual harms which have been perpetrated prior to Title II, and the potential for abuse we are likely to witness following its repeal.

I write this letter because I hold your show in high regard. That also means when I feel you’ve dropped the ball, well, I tend to criticize those things I like harder than those things I don’t.

Looking forward to future broadcasts.

Juan Carlos Bagnell

P.S.

As promised, a list of actual abuses perpetrated by ISPs and carriers prior to enacting Title II regulation. This took me less than ten minutes to compile.

2004 – Madison River Communications blocks Vonage

https://www.bizjournals.com/triad/blog/2014/05/how-a-triad-company-helped-open-the-debate-over.html

2007 – AT&T blocks Skype

http://fortune.com/2009/04/03/group-asks-fcc-to-probe-iphone-skype-restrictions/

2008 – Verizon Blocks Tethering Apps

https://www.fcc.gov/document/verizon-wireless-pay-125-million-settle-investigation

2008 – Comcast delivers preferential treatment to Xfinity services over Xbox. People with restrictive data caps on home internet connections could use Comcast entertainment services without it counting against their data. This prioritization was not disabled until 2015.

https://www.engadget.com/2015/08/17/comcast-will-turn-off-its-xbox-360-app-september-1st/

2010 – Windstream DSL hijacks subscribers web browser searches. Prioritizing Windstream search and ads

https://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/10/04/05/phone-company-helps-make-case-net-neutrality

2011 – MetroPCS blocks Video Streaming apps, sues FCC

https://www.wired.com/2011/01/metropcs-net-neutrality-challenge/

2011 – Following Windstream, several small ISPs also hijacked subscriber search queries, using vendor Paxfire to collect additional ad revenue, bypassing Bing and Yahoo

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/08/update-paxfire-and-search-redirection

2011 – AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint block Google Wallet from creating a mobile payment service in the USA for two years while creating competing service (Isis).

https://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/11/12/15/top-10-ways-carriers-tried-screw-us-2011

2012 – Verizon again blocks people from using tethering apps

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-tech/post/fcc-fines-verizon-125m-for-blocking-tethering-apps/2012/07/31/gJQAXjRLNX_blog.html

2012 – AT&T blocks another video calling app, Apple’s Facetime

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/att-says-it-never-blocked-apps-fails-to-mention-how-it-blocked-facetime/

2012 – Time Warner Cable caught throttling online gaming connections, Spectrum is currently being sued by the state of New York.

https://www.polygon.com/2017/2/9/14548880/time-warner-lawsuit-new-york-league-of-legends-netflix

2013 – TWC accused of throttling Youtube, blames peering

https://gigaom.com/2013/06/17/time-warner-cable-no-we-dont-throttle-youtube-its-all-about-peering/

2013 – Netflix agrees to pay additional (fast lane) fees to stop Comcast and Verizon from throttling…

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/netflix-ceo-calls-interconnection-fees-171017031.html

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/03/netflix-says-it-will-pay-tolls-to-more-isps-not-just-comcast/

https://consumerist.com/2014/02/23/netflix-agrees-to-pay-comcast-to-end-slowdown/

… but, Comcast and Verizon still throttle Netflix

http://mattvukas.com/2014/02/10/comcast-definitely-throttling-netflix-infuriating/

https://www.extremetech.com/computing/186576-verizon-caught-throttling-netflix-traffic-even-after-its-pays-for-more-bandwidth

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/06/netflix-tells-customer-the-verizon-network-is-crowded-right-now/

2015 – T-Mobile excludes Youtube from Binge-On service, “optimizes” video by throttling

https://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/12/30/t-mobile-insists-its-not-throttling-youtube-just-optimizing-it/

2017 – Verizon throttles Youtube and Netflix streams while “conducting network tests” with no prior disclosure to subscribers

http://www.businessinsider.com/verizon-netflix-youtube-throttling-speeds-2017-7

2017 – Comcast hijacks browsers to up-sell modems, allegedly been intercepting and altering subscriber web traffic since 2012.

https://thenextweb.com/insights/2017/12/11/comcast-continues-to-inject-its-own-code-into-websites-you-visit/