Net Neutrality: The Battle to Keep the Internet Open and Free with Barbara van Schewick

Net Neutrality: The Battle to Keep the Internet Open and Free with Barbara van Schewick


My name is Barbara van Schewick I’m a Professor here at the Law School and the Director of
the Center for Internet and Society I have a PhD in computer science and
a law degree and I have watched the net neutrality for
the past 19 years. The 2010 and 2015 net neutrality rules,
in the US were based on my work. As were the Canadian
rules on zero rating and the Indian rules on zero rating, and the
European Union and Neutrality guidelines. Finally, I served as
a technical advisor for the California Net Neutrality
law that took effect in January. I’m glad we’re here today, because
the open Internet future is in doubt. In 2017,
the Federal Communications Commission abolished all net neutrality protections,
and abdicated it’s duty to ensure
the nation’s communications networks. The nation’s most important communication
infrastructure remains open and free. Their appeal took effect last June,
leaving us unprotected for the first time in the US history
since the Internet’s inception. At its heart, Net Neutrality
is the idea that we the people who use the Internet,
get to decide what we do online. We get to choose what sites we visits,
what apps to use and what we use to watch. Companies like COMCAST, AT&T and
Verizon, that we pay to get online, don’t get to influence our choices. Net Neutrality ensures that these
companies COMCAST, Verizon, AT&T mobile, don’t get blocked, slow down or
speed up apps and sites. And they can’t charge websites for
fast lanes to their subscribers or charge sites to get to subscribers at all. That’s crucial,
because if your ISP blocks or slows down a website,
you just can’t use it. And the service can’t compete. Even more vitally, net neutrality protections ensure that
every speaker has a chance to be heard. No matter the size of their wallets or the color of their skin, college students
with an idea and a little bit of savings. Can avenge Reddit or the next Reddit, without having to find money to pay
off Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and more. It’s easy to take that for granted, that you get to use whatever absence
services you like, or can start a blog or company without getting permission
from phone and cable companies. But this is only because we’ve
always had net neutrality in the US. Initially, net neutrality was baked
into the technology of the Internet. Data travels over the Internet in packets. Originally, Internet service providers, the companies we pay to get online,
and we also call them IPs. So originally ISP weren’t able
to look into these data packets, so they couldn’t see what
people were doing online. As a result, ISP couldn’t
distinguish between the content and services traveling over their websites. And so
they couldn’t treat them differently. That was the original
architecture of the internet. But Internet of technology changed. By the mid 1990s, ISP is has the ability
to peer deeply into this packets, in real time to see what
users were doing online. This so
called Deep Packet Inspection Technology. Allowed ISP to see what sites and
services people were using and to discriminate among them. Today, this is how your ISP
knows what websites and services you visit and
how much data you use per month. As deep packet inspection technology
evolved, the FCC recognized the threat. This would cause to use a choice and
free speech online. So the FCC under both Democratic and
Republican leadership, stepped in over and over to stop phone and cable companies
from interfering with what we do online. For instance,
President Bush’s first FCC Chairman, ordered ISP to stop blocking
an online calling centers. Bush’s second chairman, ordered congress to stop blocking peer
to peer services including the Torrent. When ISPs fought back in the courts,
the FCC responded by adopting comprehensive
net neutrality protections in 2010. And then again in 2015. Thus net neutrality didn’t magically
appear for the first time in 2015 when the FCC adopted the latest iteration
of its net neutrality protections. It was the law of the land in the United
States from the internet’s inception. Until the repeal took effect last two. Other countries haven’t been so fortunate. For example, the European Union had no
net neutrality protections until 2015. And phone and
cable companies took full advantage. So for instance, my husband’s grandmother
in Germany couldn’t call us over Skype. Because her provider was
blocking Skype on her cellphone. In the UK, online games stopped
working in the evening because the ISPs were cracking
down on peer to peer. In the US, we have seen the abusers
now that there are no protections and we’re starting to see them
again here in the US. With unlimited clients that
aren’t actually unlimited. Modern ISP is slowing down online video. Low data caps on home Internet service
to discourage quote cutting and reports that Sprint is throttling Skype. But why does it really matter? Let’s take a deeper look at four practices
that ISPs are not allowed to engage on after the repeal of their new charity,
and the harms that flow from them. Take for instance, what happens when an internet
service provider blocks a site or service. When you ISP blocks a website or service you wanna use,
it literally won’t work for you. So if you wanna use Skype,
you can place a call. If you go to a website, it won’t load. If you try to watch the video on Netflix,
there is nothing, not even a buffering. There is nothing you can do about that,
because the only way for you to reach that website is through UISP. So ultimately, blocking allows ISP to
interfere with a vibrant free markets that rely on the Internet, by determining
what you can and cannot do online. And gives them the power to
pick winners and losers online. These are not hypothetical concerns. Let’s take a non obvious example,
ADT the security company. If you choose them as a way to monitor
your home for burglary or fire, their system uses your Broadband Internet
Connection to send alarm signals and video feeds to one of ADT offices and to allow you to control and
watch your system remotely. But broadband companies including Comcast,
offer their own home and business security systems. Without a ban on blocking,
Comcast can simply stop competing alarm systems from communicating
over the Internet at all. That could be a life or death issue. Many cash strapped municipalities,
including Detroit, Las Vegas or Salt Lake City won’t send out
a fire truck or police car, unless they are provided with video
of first person confirmation, that it’s a real problem,
not a false alarm. That means, if you want there and your system can’t upload video to your
security provider, you can’t get help. And if an ISP isn’t
prohibited from blocking, there’s no one you can turn to
to get your system working. Even if that blocking means that
your home or business burns down. This has happened repeatedly
to ADT customers. In one instance in Puerto Rico,
the blockage went on for two and a half months, a long time to go without
a functioning home security system. So long that ADT had to
stop selling new systems. This happened when net neutrality
rules weren’t in effect after court had struck down
the FCC 2010 protections And the blocking only stopped once
the FCC passed the 2015 protections. Thus, Net Neutrality protections matter. They make a difference in the real world. The second issue was
blocking by ISPs censorship. Without a no-blocking rule,
ISPs can simply black hole legal sites that they don’t like, or
which are politically unpopular. Whether that’s a message board for
empty file or a site that legally sells ammunition. We saw this happen in Canada. In 2005, Canada’s second largest ISP,
an ISP court tell us, was in a labor dispute with
a telecommunications workers union. The workers were using a website to
discuss strategies during the strike and to organize and share information. Telus said that website was a threat
to its business and so it blocked it. And as a result, no customer of Telus
Internet service could access that site. The lack of no-blocking rule also
opens up ISPs to political pressure. With no rule against blocking, politicians
across the political spectrum and at all levels of governments could
pressure ISPs to block sites. Either publicly or behind the scenes. You might think this
sounds really far fetched. That wouldn’t happen in a democracy. But it did happen in the UK, which didn’t
have rules as strong as the United States. And so there around 2013, the government
pressured ISPs to widely block content that was harmful to children,
which led to much collateral damage. Imagine now your Internet
service provider gets to decide what content is harmful to children. So in the process UK ISPs blocked
websites that educated young people about eating disorders. They block the websites of churches and
digital rights organizations. All under the heading harmful to children. Second practice, slow down or speeding up. Instead of blocking a website,
an ISP can selectively slow down or speed up a website or service. Or even a whole class of service,
like all online video. This practice is often
refer to us throttling. In the online world, slowing down a service isn’t
that difference from locking it. We’ve all growing impatient and ways that
we hardly even understand If a website is slow to load, we instinctively
reach for the backboard back button. In fact, studies show that, tiny,
tiny differences in low times, difference in hundreds of milliseconds of
delay affect how long people stay on this side, how much they spend,
and whether they come back. So just like blocking, slowing down services put them
at a competitive disadvantage. It’s more subtle than blocking,
but just as effective. So imagine that in the mid 2000s, nearly
all broadband ISPs also sold TV service. If they had slowed down all
online video services saying this will make people cancel
their cable subscription, they could have made services like
YouTube fail in their infancy. That would have had real costs,
economically and culturally. Take for instance Stanford grad Issa Rae. Frustrated that there was no such thing
as a black female nerd on television, Issa Rae got her friends together and
shot a short first episode of what she called The Misadventures
of Awkward Black Girl. She had almost no money at the time. But after putting that episode online in
2011, she got a small cult following. She then put out a Kickstarter hoping for 10K to make a series and
ended up raising $56,000. The series drew a lot of attention. And a few years later, Issa used her
millions of viewers to pitch HBO and turned the web series into
the critically acclaimed show, Insecure, which recently finished
it’s third season on HBO. She created, wrote, and starred in
the series, garnering two Golden Globe and one Emmy nominations for her acting. In a world where online video services
are throttled and broadcast and cable TV are the only game in town, Ray
and thousands like her could have never broken out found audiences and
broaden all of our cultural horizons. Third practice. After the net neutrality repeal,
ISPs like Verizon, AT&T or Comcast, a free to charge every website
of fee just to be visible to the ISP subscribers and block those
websites that don’t pay the fee. These fees are known as access fees. So for instance, if the LA Times or
you local school didn’t pay your ISP this fee,
you couldn’t get to their website. That would fundamentally
change how the Internet has operated in the US over the past 30 years. In the US, consumers have always paid their ISP
to get access to the entire Internet. Not just to the websites
that have paid their ISPs. And companies that use the Internet to
reach their customers so the other side of the picture have always simply paid for
their own access to the Internet. They have never had to pay additional
fees to their customer’s ISPs. ISPs have wanted to
change that since 2006. But the FCCs 2010 and 2015 net neutrality
protections prohibited them from doing so. What’s the economic effect of access fees? Access fees would allow
ISPs to increase costs for business across the entire economy. But they would crush start-ups and
small businesses that can’t pay the fees. Take the story of Steve Huffman and
Alexis Ohanian. After graduating from
the University of Virginia in 2005, they started a website to let people
upload interesting links and discuss them. With $12,000 in funding from
a startup accelerator, Henry and Hoffman and their third and fourth
co-founder a kid named Aaron Schwartz, lived in a small apartment above
the P3 on Cambridge Massachusetts And Aaron Swartz even slept
in the kitchen cupboard. Without many users,
they had first had to go out and find their own content to
showcase on this site. But because service band was and
ramen was cheap, they were able to keep going until they started getting
a critical mass of users and get the next investment of $80,000. The site was called Reddit,
and today Reddit is one of the top five most visited sites in the US
with thousands of communities from entomology to origami where people share
and discuss those interests passionately. But in a world without net neutrality, where websites have to pay access
fees to every ISP, simply so they are accessible to that ISP customers
Reddit would have never been born. We know was $12,000 they wouldn’t have
been able to pay every single ISP around the country. Finally, after the net neutrality repeal,
our ISPs’ are now free to charge websites a fee so that their websites
load faster or reach people easier. This is often called fast lanes or
Paid Prioritization. ISPs’ have long wanted to offer fast
lanes to companies that pay them a fee. These fast lanes would give better
service to companies when their data travels over our ISPs’ access network. So see the person in the house? That’s us in our home and so
the fast lanes would speed up the data and the final step when the data comes to us,
when our ISP transports it to our house. These fast lanes have never
existed in the United states and have been formally prohibited since 2010. Fast lanes would allow ISPs to speed up
the content of companies that pay their money, while those that can’t afford
to pay languish in the slow lane. This arrangement distorts competition
by benefiting deep pocketed incumbents, over new entrants into marketplace. Since every millisecond counts startups
that wants to compete against Google, Facebook and Amazon Would have to find
money somewhere to get into the fast lane. All the most clever engineering in the
world to make a website fast can’t win, if the site’s traffic is
stuck in the slow lane. Think back to Reddit. Reddit was competing for users time and attention against the likes of Yahoo News,
Google News, CNN, and the New York Times, deep pocketed companies that could
have afford at the fast lane. If Reddit had have to pay so
this site was as fast as the ones of its well finance competitors,
they could not have competed. But since fast lanes
didn’t exist Reddit was able to beat incumbents by simply
building a better product. But fast lanes wouldn’t
just hurt startups. Imagine is simple Bed and Breakfast that wants customers
to book directly on their side. If they and the slow lane and Expedia or Marriott is not they
will lose out long term. In addition, every sector of the economy
would need to pay these fees, allowing ISP to create a defacto techs on businesses in every sector of the economy,
large and small alike. And finally, fast lanes would
harm smallest speakers and those without deep pockets. If the streaming music from a college
radio station constantly breaks up or a live stream from a local church
constantly buffers while Spotify, Netflix are spotless, these smaller
voices will only get smaller. Allowing these practices would
fundamentally change the Internet as we know it. That’s why Chairman Pai’s, 2017 repeal
of net neutrality was so dangerous. He didn’t just tinker the edges of
previous administrations work, he abolished all net neutrality protections
for the first time ever in the US. In fact, he went even further. His 2017 repeal order
reinterpreted the law, concluding the FCC has no legal
authority whatsoever to protect us against abuses by the companies
we pay to get online. Given that we live in the internet age,
this literally stripped the word communications from
the Federal Communications Commission. Pai’s rationale is that ISPs’ can just
be trusted to do the right thing, and if they do not, Americans have lots
of choices for how they get online. It’s a naive stance at best. Most Americans have little or
no choice for Internet access at home. I live in the middle of Silicon Valley and I have exactly one Internet
service provider to choose from. And the FCC just approved
the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint which would move us from four
national wireless carriers to three. It also ignores how vital the Internet
is to every aspect of our lives. Historically, we have treated industries
that are critical to our economy and rights with fairness principles and
oversight. DeltaCon refused to sell you a ticket
because of your political views. UPS and FedEx have to ship
goods from any legal seller, whether they are selling peace flags,
or gun pots. Last summer, we saw what happens when
you have an FCC that declares it is powerless to oversee the on
ramps to the Internet. In the midst of the worst wildfire
in California history Santa Clara firefighters were called in to help battle
the fires consuming Northern California. They use a mobile connection to help
coordinate the thousands of firefighters and vehicles that were scrambling
to stop the rampaging fire. In the midst of this maelstrom,
Verizon throttled them to trickle, despite firefighters desperately for
help, Verizon wouldn’t restore service unless the firefighters paid for
plan with a higher data cap, forcing the firefighters to rely on personal
devices to keep their systems running. Chairman Pai didn’t do anything and she never said the single
world about the incident. Verizon’s practices put
Californians lives at stake, and he literally thought it
is was not his problem. But that is the problem, that’s why
people are fighting to restore net neutrality in the courts,
in Congress and in the states. Last year, California passed a law that
restores net neutrality for California. It’s the only state level on
the country that truly brings back all of the net neutrality
protections that the FCC eliminated. That’s why it’s widely viewed
as a model for other states, and why it’s the last care of
the federal government at ISP so much they sued to stop it hours
after it was signed into law. The ISPs’ playbook is consistent. They publicly say they
love net neutrality but behind the scenes,
they fight it at every turn. They defend the net neutrality repeal
in court, lobby incessantly to prevent Internet neutrality and sue states
that step into protect the citizens. AT&T paid 600 thousand
dollars to Michael Cohen, the president’s lawyer to support
AT&T’s campaign to kill net neutrality. A telecom trade association
called Broadband for America, paid to have millions of fake anti-net
neutrality comments filed with the FCC, Using stolen identities,
many of them by dead people. In California,
ISP spent at least $6 million, lobbying against the net neutrality law,
and even paid groups to robocall senior citizens with scary messages
saying that the California net neutrality law would bump up their
cell phone bills by $30 a month. The ISP’s fallback position, try to
get Congress to pass the Swiss cheese version of net neutrality, full of
holes to exploit and hope that no one notices that the bills they support
on net neutrality in name only. That’s the problem, ISPs have many ways
to pick winners and losers online. To be effective a net neutrality law
needs to protect against all of them. So where are we at now? Earlier this month, a federal court narrowly upheld two key
parts of the net neutrality repeal. The elimination of net neutrality and the
abdication of oversight over broadband. In an unusual move, two of the three
judges, basically the majority of the panel said that the FCC’s legal
analysis was incompatible with any natural reading of the law and unhinged from the
realities of modern broadband services. This is a direct quote. But their hands were tied by
a Supreme Court decision from 2005 that’s what they thought. The court kept their repeal in place but sent it back to the FCC to fix
issues related to public safety, broadband subsidies for low income
families, and broadband deployment. And finally, perhaps most importantly, the
court struck down the part of the repeal order that prohibited the states from
enacting their own net neutrality laws. This cleared a major roadblock for
state net neutrality laws. For complicated legal reasons, California still has to wait before
it can finally enforce its law. But in the meantime,
other states can start passing their own net neutrality laws expanding
the net neutrality battle ground. At the federal level last year,
the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis an act to undo the 2015 appeal. And then this spring the House in
a different session of Congress, pass the bill that directly restored
the 2015 net neutrality protections. But when it got sent over to the Senate,
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declared a death on arrival despite the
fact that the Republican controlled Senate had approved the restoration of his
protections just the year before. That log jam defies public sentiment,
outside of Washington, DC net neutrality isn’t a partisan issue. University of Maryland School of
Public Policy conducted a poll shortly after the repeal and
found that 86% of Americans oppose the repeal of the 2015
net neutrality protections. And that includes 82% of Republicans and
90% of Democrats. That’s consistent with other polling and basically makes net neutrality more
popular than vanilla ice cream. The ongoing battle can
seem frustrating and fuel resignation that in politics,
it’s only money that matters. But it’s not time to disappear or
give up hope. The history of net neutrality shows that
smart policy can win out over phone and cable companies generous
campaign donations to politicians from both parties. Things has looked bleak for
net neutrality before. When Verizon convinced the federal court
to strike down the FCC 2010 net neutrality protections, people in DC thought
no one would care if they simply replaced the 2010 protection
with some toothless substitute. But grassroots groups such as Fight For
the Future and my progress refused to settle for
meaningless protection. John Oliver picked up on their work,
and millions of Americans flooded and crushed the FCC website was comments
demanding their protections. Thousands of startups from every state in
the country raised their voices, advocates for communities of color made clear that
net neutrality was a social justice issue. They were joined by many other groups,
including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association
of Realtors and the Writers Guild. Together, they forced the FCC
to ditch its first proposal and adopt strong net neutrality rules. Grounded in real authority and the resulting protections were
upheld in federal court twice. One final example,
in the summer of 2018 while AT&T was ferociously fighting
the California net neutrality law, California assembly committee
gathered the bill the dramatic vote that amended the bill before
the committee had even heard testimony. Veteran political reporters said they
had never seen such an inversion of the political process. The committees thought they
could get away with it because the bill still said
net neutrality in the title. But Internet users revolted,
self organizing online and off. They crowdfunded billboards, hammered
lawmakers with calls at their local meetings, protected giant images on
an AT&T building in Oakland, and even left scathing reviews on lawmakers
local offices on Google Maps. Within weeks,
the bill was back from the dead. With all the core protections restored,
and the lawmaker who had gutted the bill, amazingly morphed into
its loudest champion. Those are examples of democracy in action made possible by an Internet
that is open and free. It’s a fools game to predict the future,
but I will say this,
this fight is far from over. ISPs may have more money and
more lobbyists but that doesn’t mean they get to win. They only win if we let them, thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]

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