What is net neutrality?

I am really struggling with the issue of “net neutrality”.  The recent repeal by Trump’s Federal Communications Commission of the Obama FCC’s net neutrality rule has brought us back to the status quo as it existed in 2015.  I am hearing calls for Massachusetts to step in and pass its own net neutrality rule.

Obviously, I am opposed to anything that threatens free speech. The First Amendment protects us from government restrictions on free speech. But in the new age of the Internet it feels like corporations might limit our free speech. So to the extent that “net neutrality” means assuring freedom of speech on the internet, I am 100% for it.

But, I think that those of us who care about Internet free speech might actually be getting played by the major content providers on the “net neutrality” issue.

Ostensibly, the bad guys that we are trying to regulate are players like Comcast and Verizon who own the connections to our homes. We are afraid that they might block, throttle, or overcharge certain content providers. We fear that they might impede content providers that they dislike politically.

It certainly is true that broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon do have enormous power in some areas where they have monopolies on broadband delivery.

But in reality, as someone who is in the business of trying to communicate with people, I am most afraid of Google and Facebook. They are the companies that control whether my message gets out.

For example, if Gmail decides that my political communication emails are just spam, then a huge chunk of the population just won’t hear from me.  I live in real fear of that possibility. And I work hard to avoid it.

And Facebook actively censors speech. For example, recently, I wanted to post a Facebook ad to my political supporters that mentioned by work on marijuana legalization. Facebook refused to publish the ad because their robots determined that it was an offer to sell marijuana.   I had to appeal up a couple of levels before a human being did the right thing.

Apart from direct censorship, both Facebook and Google wield spectacular power through their ranking of content — if one appears on the second page of Google searches or far down in the Facebook newsfeed, one will rarely get seen.  Everyone who seeks to widely disseminate political or commercial speech today spends much of their time thinking about how to rise in the content rankings.

By contrast, I have never had to worry about any limits on my ability to communicate imposed by local cable providers.  And, until I started hearing about “net neutrality” it never crossed my mind to worry about it.

As far as I can tell, the net neutrality fight is really a fight between the big content providers, especially those that warehouse and stream a lot of video content, and the cable providers.

Over last few years, as broadband fast enough to stream video has become widespread, a few big companies like Facebook, Google/YouTube, Apple and Netflix have become the primary sources of Internet traffic. Webpages like mine are tiny compared to video recordings sent over the Internet.

As video has become more popular, there has been congestion or the possibility of congestion for local cable providers. The local cable providers may seek through paid prioritization to charge the big video providers for the cost of upgrading their local infrastructure. The big video providers have raised the flag of free speech to create political pressure on their side of that bargaining process.

I would really welcome input from people about what they think the real problem is. To me, the scariest thing is the prospect of censorship by Facebook and Google who make their money by regulating and targeting content.   I’m much less worried about the people who own the pipes, the cable providers, screening political content.

I do think it is a problem that many areas have only one broadband provider so there is no local competition. The more competition there is among broadband providers, the better off we will all be.

In addition to the question of what the real problem is, I’m interested in people’s sense of whose problem it is to fix.  What jurisdiction and capacity do states have to act on this issue?

If you know of good resources on the issue, please do share them.  I’ll pull them up into the list below.

Comments Read and Closed — continue discussion under Part II

I’ve read through all of these comments and I greatly appreciate them — very helpful. Please visit next post on net neutrality and we can continue the conversation there.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

69 replies on “What is net neutrality?”

  1. The cable companies want to give more play to the big providers so Facebook and Google are on some level WITH Verizon and Comcast.

    We need to allow little guys to broadcast their messages, not just the big guys.

  2. I agree with you. I’m more worried about facebook and google than comcast.
    Although I am upset how state and local governments help create and keep a stronghold for these companies and their monopolies.
    Cost of dealing with state and local governments can almost double the cost of setting up. Signing long contracts in exchange for public tv and services. I’d like to see availability for more companies but without expensive studies thinking about it.
    Thank you

  3. Senator Brownsberger, net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers should be classified as Title II common carriers such as to ensure they do not discriminate again traffic on their network based on the type or content involved therein. For example, ISPs should not be allowed to slow down websites and then charge a fee to the website owner in order to unlock full bandwidth. Furthermore, Title II status would ensure that ISPs are not allowed to offer tiered internet service to consumers on top of their base ISp subscription (for example; 4.99 per month for consumer facebook and google access, 9.99 to add Wikipedia, 19.99 for unlimited websites)

    The issue of websites engaging in censorship of speed in regards public forums is also very important, but somewhat unrelated to the Title II common carrier status of ISPs.

  4. I do not think this should be a Google/Facebook vs. Verizon/Comcast issue. Net neutrality is about making sure that people have equal access to information. With the repeal of net neutrality the groups that will suffer the most are small businesses and the poor. Both of these groups will have a disadvantage because paying for the “fast lanes” will be cost prohibitive. Google/Facebook will be able to pay the fast lane charges regardless. In other words by repealing net neutrality Google and Facebook will have even a larger voice. Please support net neutrality.

  5. If the people that control the internet want to slow down the speed of content coming from ideas that they don’t agree with, why should that bother me? Stifling free speech won’t affect me.

    Same with slowing commerce, if Amazon is willing to pay to slow down the speed of a new competitor, why should I care? Or if a drug company wants to use its power to limit a competitor, why would that affect me?

    You aren’t worried about the head of a company deciding to limit your ability to get your opinion (or campaign information) about gun control or abortion or immigration or…because I am.

  6. You are absolutely correct that corporations inhibit free speech. As a lawyer I’m sure you know that the First Amendment only applies to government censorship. Employers, associations, churches, and corporations can and do censor their members and customers all the time. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Youtube do much of this censorship. To our national shame, Americans seem to like it.

    Net neutrality, unfortunately, doesn’t fix the censorship problem. But it does address the issue of large internet providers manipulating the backbone by imposing blocks on certain types of traffic or slowing it down. The big internet carriers — Comcast, Cox, Rogers, etc. — will shortly begin slowing down the traffic of their competitors unless they pay a surcharge to move the data more quickly. Netflix already has had to “pay up” to create express lanes for delivering video — which, by the way, is a major part of traffic.

    Other forms of manipulation may include blocking certain types of ports — particularly odd messaging protocols. Or prohibiting customers from offering their own services, such as http servers. Worse, internet privacy can be negatively impacted by blocking VPN traffic.

    Voice carriers like AT&T and Verizon have already been caught actually tinkering with the data streams to cell phones. The insertion of advertising content and “cookie sniffing” has already occurred. Net neutrality would try to end these invasive practices.

    You write that you are concerned Facebook and Google can stop your communications. Net neutrality laws can include anti-censorship provisions. Net neutrality is William Brownsberger’s friend. The question is not a choice between protecting you from Google or Comcast. The question is whether consumer rights and civil liberties deserve to be protected on the internet.

    The Massachusetts ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation can explain the many issues better than the foregoing summary does.

  7. Like most other people, I strongly support net neutrality on the grounds of freedom of speech and basic fairness to prevent the voices of and access to the “little guys” (consumers or small businesses) from being stifled by larger rivals. I believe that net neutrality is overwhelmingly popular among most people, especially tech people who are “in the know” about the many ways that removing net neutrality can hurt our democracy, free speech and even potentially our economy.

  8. Your concerns about the power of Google, Facebook, etc. are legitimate, but shouldn’t in any way diminish appropriate concerns about the potential for broadband providers to favor or block particular products or web sites in ways that harm consumers.
    Stating that the net neutrality repeal has brought us back to the status quo as it existed in 2015 misses the key point that prior to 2016 the broadband providers lived with the chronic understanding that net neutrality could and quite likely would be imposed if and when they greatly departed from complying with its precepts. Thankfully, while public support for net neutrality remains strong, and Trump/Ajit Pai’s tenures are not likely to be long, internet service providers would be well-advised to continue to abide by it. The consequences of their not doing so could be greatly damaging to commerce and democracy, particularly given, as you point out, the severe lack of competition in many locales.

  9. Packets are the way the internet communicates.
    A simple way to think about this is that packets contain and address and a payload. Just like a letter… it has a deliver to address and it has contents inside. A letter in an envelope is like a packet.

    The USPS does not have letter neutrality. That does not mean that the internet should follow. In the USPS model, we pay for first class, second class, third class and even first and second day delivery. We pay for letter delivery speed. In the ‘snail mail’ way of looking at this it makes sense since we don’t use our post boxes to get video or social media etc…

    If we don’t have net neutrality then Net Flix could use its huge power to buy faster packet delivery (more bandwidth) and other guys trying to compete with Net Flix could no longer compete well because they would get 2nd or 3rd class packet delivery and the movies would stutter and stop… very annoying.

    The nature of the internet is that a few tend to congregate huge power – the ones that got into it early. This stifles competition.

    So its not to the best benefit of the consumer to have fast lanes and slow lanes… all lanes must be equal.

    Another thing…
    The ISP (ie. Verizon or Comcast) could make their own movie channels and trump Net Flix or Amazon… That would make more monopoly power.

    The government might mandate that only government encryption could be used (ie. VPN government) and privacy would disappear…

    All packets must be treated equally…
    The internet is too dangerous to allow anything else.

  10. Facebook and Google are a separate issue and I completely understand your concerns. However, they are not about net neutrality.

    In addition to the good points made by people who have already submitted, do keep in mind that without net neutrality, it’s not just small and medium sized businesses that can be hit with higher charges, it’s individuals like you and me. In other words, to have decent speed one may have to pay a lot more and not paying a lot more may slow down internet reception significantly.

    Support net neutrality, please!!!

  11. In the absence of federal laws protecting consumer data and regulating corporate management of it, hackers routinely make away with petabytes of our most private information.

    Former president Obama has suggested that the United States join the 21st Century by regulating the tech industry’s handling of our data:


    As everyone has no doubt seen this week and last, the EU is rolling out increased data protections for users with the General Data Protection Regulation, which includes among other things the “right to be forgotten.”


    I’d like to see something like that here.

  12. Hi Will,

    The substantive issues underlying net neutrality aren’t about the “big guys” like Google, Facebook, Comcast, Verizon, Netflix, etc. Rather, they’re about the little guys at the ends of the internet’s “pipes”: small businesses trying to be innovative, and normal people trying to function in the modern world.

    For example, even without net neutrality, Netflix can afford to pay Verizon, Comcast, etc., to carry its traffic. They have leverage to negotiate a fair deal, because if one of the big ISPs is so obstinate that it refuses to negotiate fairly with Netflix, and as a result Netflix performance for customers of that ISP is poor, then so many of the ISP’s customers will be pissed off that it will make the ISP look very, very bad, and Netflix will be sure to make sure its customers know that the ISP is the problem.

    But what about new, small internet businesses, trying to compete in a world where the ISPs are negotiating sweet deals with all the big buys to carry their data? Their traffic will be treated as second-class, and it will making the playing field even more uneven for them than it already is for various other reasons.

    What if a new, small business called the phone company and said, “We need sixteen phone lines into our business to handle the number of calls we’re getting,” and the phone company responded with, “I’m sorry, you’re too small a business to be worth our time, so we’re not going to install those phone lines for you,” or, “We’ve already negotiated an exclusive deal with a business like yours, and under the terms of that deal we can’t sell you phone lines.” Or, worse, what if the phone company just doesn’t respond at all? Net neutrality is no different. Every company that needs the internet to be successful — and make no mistake, nowadays *every* company needs the internet to be successful — needs to have equal access to the internet.

    The Trump administration’s claim that net neutrality stifles innovation is just more Trump newspeak. It’s a completely bogus claim. In fact, net neutrality encourages and supports innovation by making the playing field more even for the businesses that are doing the innovating.

    On the other side of that equation, you’ve got normal people trying to function in the modern world. The internet’s influence over our lives is already overwhelmingly pervasive and guaranteed to be even more so in the future. It’s virtually impossible to live in the modern world without internet access. If the ISPs are allowed to control what products and services normal people are allowed to access over the internet — and they *will be* allowed to exercise that control, unless internet service is classified as a Common Carrier service as Grant Ellis mentions below — they will have an incredible amount of control over people’s day-to-day lives.

    For example, what if Comcast inks a deal with a bank to be the “official bank” of Comcast customers, and slows down or blocks traffic to other banks’ web sites? A big bank like BoA or Citizens might be able to negotiate better performance with Comcast, but a small bank or credit union — like Century Bank, my favorite — won’t have the clout or money to do that, so their users will suffer.

    To be sure, Google and Facebook have problems, and they also exercise an unprecedented amount of control over people’s lives and the success of politicians and publid figures. We need to solve those problems too. However, in my opinion those problems are, for the most part, orthogonal to the net neutrality debate.

    The “correct” solution is for the internet to be classified as a Common Carrier service at the federal level, so that ISPs and backbone providers can’t discriminate against traffic. But in the age of Trump, it is more and more the case that state governments need to take the initiave to solve problems that the federal government is at best failing to solve and at worst actively causing. Therefore, until such time as the FCC reverses its misguided position on net neutrality and designates the internet as a Common Carrier service, I support state legislation on the net neutrality issue to close the gap.


    Jonathan Kamens

    1. One additional point just occurred to me, which I would like to add to my previous comments.

      In fact, the issue of net neutrality isn’t _entirely_ orthogonal to the issue of what companies like Google and Facebook are able to do.

      This is because in the absence of net neutrality, it will be harder for competitors to companies like Google or Facebook to arise. In other words, eliminating net neutrality hardens their near-monopoly position in the marketplace.

  13. I am not in business, an 80 year old woman now retired. Much of my life depends on the Internet – banking, medical records and appointments and communication with doctors and hospitals; purchases of all kinds of goods and services, communication with government such as Regidtry of Motor Vrhicles, Social Security, Medicare; downloads of library books for free; downloads of paid subscriptions such as the NewYork Times; downloads of films and programs; reliable news sources; the ability to research and access reliable trustworthy information instantly; I cannot bear the thought of slowdowns waiting for information to load if it ever does, being un@ble to access certain sites or having to pay huge fees to get the level of service we already pay a lot for now. Have you talked tonEd Markey a big supporter of net neutrality. Loss of it will damage my daily functioning

  14. Will, thank you for this balanced take on the issue. I think the issues of net neutrality is separate from Facebook/Google censorship. Net neutrality is a principle that says the Internet is a public utility, and our public service companies who enjoy natural monopolies or near-monopolies (i.e. Comcast) should not be providing fast service only for those corporate giant content providers (and potentially political entities) who can afford it. I can think of other public goods where those with the money to pay experience faster service. For example, the postal service has express mail. Some highways have fast lanes that cost more. In some ways this can be good, because it allows the rich guys to subsidize service for the poor guys. But there still needs to be a guaranteed minimum level of service for anyone who wants to use the internet. And that is where I get worried. Will Comcast actually use the extra money from YouTube and Netflix to upgrade its speeds? Or will it simply pocket the cash, and slow down speeds for everyone else, and not invest in its network? I don’t know. But I know that we need to recognize the internet as the public utility that it is. The Obama FCC took a step toward recognizing it as such, but here in Mass, internet service still isn’t treated as such. If I’m paying for speed that I’m not getting because everyone in my neighborhood is simultaneously streaming Netflix, there’s nothing the state can do to help me. That’s not fair.

    On the Google/Facebook censorship issue, it’s a question of whether these platforms can also be considered public commons where free speech must be guaranteed. Or are these sites simply private spaces that people can choose whether or not to participate in. I tend to be of the opinion that, just like radio and television content, just like billboards, content providers using the public commons of the internet can and should be regulated. The extent to which they should be regulated, I don’t know. But some of these companies are essentially monopolies in what they produce. The European Union has gone much further to ensure competition.

  15. Net Neutrality is a complex subject. It’s hard to say what’s better, pure unregulated competition or regulated competition, in this case. I would be in favor of “light” regulation to prevent abuses by the ISP’s, but it’s a slippery slope. If I had to choose, I’d go back to the Obama rules.

    That being said, if anyone is wondering why they should care, I would recommend a view of this video which poses the question, what if Burger King allowed you to prioritize your place in line:


    It’s a short fun video, but it gives you a real world example that may resonate better than talking about throttling ISP’s and buffered video handling, and Title I vs Title II regulation.

    If you have more time, please also check out


    John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Episode

    There are certain industries which need regulation – I like the fact that the FDA tries to stop me from being poisoned. I like that the Justice Department tries to keep hedge funds from manipulating the market and the Federal Reserve makes banks keep reasonable reserve ratios. We always scream when one of these agencies fails in its mission. In this case, the Trump administration is simply saying that it’s not worth regulating the Internet – no need for mission. The excuse is that there was none in the early 00’s and that seemed to work out well. I seem to remember a time when Banks and the Stock Market weren’t regulated either… Remember how well that worked out for us in 1929.

  16. Google and Facebook are private companies; you don’t have to use them. As such, they get to decide what is and is not published on their websites. ISPs on the other hand are a public service provided through privatization. There is an interest in making sure that they cannot throtle web access in any way. If ‘they’ can find a way to monetize access/faster access they will- whether it’s on consumer side or the web provider side. The internet needs the stay free and allow users to decide which sites become popular and which don’t.

  17. Maybe anther part of the problem is that in many communities we have limited access to internet providers – this is often as a result of contracts that Verizon and Comcast have had the towns sign. – I for one think that not only is net neutrality an issue but also limiting internet providers as well. In just a few years the Cable industry will no longer look like it does today – most content will be streamed over the internet – that means that Verizon could slow or stop my connection with Netflix because I am not paying for cable services

  18. A robust net-neutrality law will not help Facebook and Google exploit us normal users any less. It will help the small companies who hope to compete with Facebook and Google.

    The absence of a net-neutrality law will not protect us from Facebook and Google. It will just allow Comcast, RCN, and Verizon to siphon off some of Facebook and Google’s profits for themselves.

  19. Senator Brownsberger confuses two important — but distinct — issues:

    1. cost & speed (consumer fairness)
    2. content censorship (free speech)

    1. Net Neutrality guarantees fairness in cost and speed of data communications the same way that the U.S. Postal Service guarantees fairness via its price list. Aside from a few speed/weight categories (Overnight, Express, First Class, Parcel Post, etc.), USPS always charges every first-class letter customer the same low price, regardless of distance, author, sender, recipient, or content. Likewise, Net Neutrality requires universal prices, qualities, and speeds that are fair to everyone, regardless of distance, author, sender, recipient, or content.

    2. Content censorship is related to what government lets people say (free speech) and how Internet providers regulate anonymity, age appropriateness, and unlawful material.

    The opponents to Net Neutrality are all commercial ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who don’t want to censor content, but who do want to guarantee themselves windfall profits from defenseless customers, which is why they ban all class-action suits, force all customers into binding arbitration, and ban municipalities from offering better, cheaper voice-Internet-TV service.

    MA should imitate the state Net Neutrality laws passed this year in OR and WA.

    1. Will, Ned (above) summarizes the issue quite well. Net Neutrality deals with just one of the challenges to open sharing of information and actions that we face today. Let’s deal with them all in a way that enables every one of us to have a voice that can be heard.


  20. Will, You have noticed constraints on your free speech by Facebook and Google. I have a similar concern, regardless of the business issues and who owns the pipes of the Internet.

    We have a president who just played the NFL owners into removing the right of free speech and peaceful protest from players by fining them for taking a knee in protest. He framed the action as un-American and said. “Maybe they shouldn’t even be in this country.”

    The FCC is staffed by his appointees. I can easily envision the day when a million women in pink hats and their supporters gather in one spot, having ISPs throttle that protest as well for some equally specious reason.

    This is a dangerous time for the fundamental American right to free speech and peaceful protest. I say Net Neutrality is about the First Amendment.

    1. Net neutrality is a scam. Since it was repealed nothing has changed

  21. Will, thanks for being honest about your conflicted stance. This is refreshing.

    Net Neutrality is about free speech, sure. But it’s more about the right of business’ to compete on a level playing field so that innovation can continue, and consumers can benefit. If we lose our american innovation in the tech field, we are done. That’s how big the stakes are.

    You mention Google and Facebook. Perfect exaples. What if Google pays Comcast a fee every month to ensure that requests to their search engine move much faster through the Comcast network than the growing competitor to Google – DuckDuckGo (who incidentally is growing in popularity in large part due to its promise to not collect data on you)? This is what we are afraid of – powerful companies who have a vested interest in stopping new competition by simply making the competing services seem ‘slow’ to the consumer. In today’s market, a slow web-based company is dead.

    When a scenario like this happens, innovation dies and powerful companies grow more powerful.

    in fact, the companies you mentioned would not have been able to get any market share if the companies who they have now driven out of business were able to purchase faster speeds to their sites.

    Remember Yahoo! and MySpace? They were replaced by Google and Facebook – to the advantage of the consumer (at the time).

    Today, we need competition to the giants to keep them focused on OUR needs and not on throttling early competition.

    Another example: If I wanted to compete with Netflix, I would have a hard time since they are great at what they do and have huge amounts of cash. However, competing with Netflix would be totally impossible if Netflix made a deal with the network providers which said ‘all video streaming services other than Netflix will operate at 50% capacity”.

    Theoretically in this situation a consumer could then ‘purchase’ the right to allow this example Netflix competitor to stream into their homes at full speed. But, who would do that for a new company they haven’t yet heard of?

  22. My first point is that the issue of Net Neutrality is troubling because it is only one example of the increasingly unbalanced way in which decisions about matters that potentially affect all of us are influenced and taken, namely with undue and imbalanced power of lobbyists and non-transparent campaign contributions, as well as well trodden paths between regulatory agencies and the companies they regulate (who offer much higher compensation). The second point is that it is not an either/or question as to whether network operators or content providers are threats to freedom of speech or other values we hold dear. They both are, in different ways. Moreover if the largest of them (operators and content providers) cooperate or reach “commercial agreements” (aka collusive practices) between them the threat is magnified exponentially.

    With respect to network operators such as AT&T and Comcast I cannot do better that quoting Justice Harold Greene from 1982 (see below). While this period was characterized by a very different technological and market environment than we are in today (for all but a handful of pioneers it was pre-Internet and pre-cell phone) the attitudes and cultures within these operators and their power relative to regulators and consumers are fundamentally unchanged. The incentives for the decision makers in these corporations to act in ways that are harmful to consumers and employees are probably stronger now than they were 35 years ago, given the greatly increased disparities between the rewards available to these executives and the vast majority of Americans and the substantial weakening of the power and rights of employees relative to employers that have taken place since that time.

    Source: Judge Harold Greene, United States v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 167-68 (D.D.C. 1982)
    “It would be difficult to formulate an order that would effectively deal with all of the different kinds of anticompetitive behavior that are claimed to have occurred over a considerable period of time, in various geographical areas, and with respect to many different subjects. There is evidence which suggests that AT&T’s pattern during the last thirty years has been to shift from one anticompetitive activity to another, as various alternatives were foreclosed through the action of regulators or the courts or as a result of technological development.
    In view of this background, it is unlikely that, realistically, an injunction could be drafted that would be both sufficiently detailed to bar specific anticompetitive conduct yet sufficiently broad to prevent the various conceivable kinds of behavior that AT&T might employ in the future. An even more formidable obstacle is presented by the question of enforcement. Two former chiefs of the FCC’s Common Carrier Bureau, the agency charged with regulating AT&T, testified that the Commission is not and never has been capable of effective enforcement of the laws governing AT&T’s behavior. In their view, this inability was due to structural, budgetary, and financial deficiencies within the FCC as well as to the difficulty in obtaining information from AT&T. Whatever the true cause, it seems clear that the problems of supervision by a relatively poorly-financed, poorly-staffed government agency over a gigantic corporation with almost unlimited resources in funds and gifted personnel are no more likely to be overcome in the future than they were in the past.”
    The true nature of AT&T’s culture was exposed by the revelation that it paid Michael Cohen a substantial sum for access to President Trump. It has characterized this payment as a “mistake.” It was a mistake but only because it was a complete waste of money. But it was fully consistent with this company’s policy of spending money and considerable efforts to ensure that legislation and regulation, which may limit its freedom to do whatever it wants “at its sole discretion” (a favorite phrase in its filings with the FCC) are as weak as possible and ideally non-existent.

    I will not go into all of the details but a few examples of the (in my opinion) abuses of power by AT&T and others including Comcast, Verizon, Charter … include:

    1. Insistence on the use of arbitration in the event of customer complaints, banning class action suits (I know this is common among corporations in many business sectors);
    2. Resistance to allowing consumers to connect their own terminals to networks, while charging ongoing monthly fees for operator-supplied terminals that extend well beyond recuperating their costs and are increased arbitrarily at various times;
    3. Resistance in the mobile broadband market to offering reasonable roaming rates to small operators so the latter can provide national coverage to their customers without losing money when these customers travel;
    Etc., etc,

    The operators argue as banks did that self-regulation is the way to go. Really? If they are allowed to do whatever they decide is in their interests with respect to Net Neutrality without externally established rules why should we not anticipate bad behavior in the future with respect to customers and small competitors when the rewards for this behavior may be substantial for the individuals taking the decisions and there is no credible downside for them?

    At the same time concerns about the power, potential for abuse, and actual abuses of power by Google, Facebook and a few other tech giants are also fully justified. The network operators like to argue that these tech giants not the operators are the threat, but I believe both are – it is not a matter of either/or, or one not the other. Europe seems to be more aware or at least more prepared to try to do something about this situation – e.g. the General Data Protection Regulations coming into effect this week (May 25). Again I will not go into details here but the responses of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to questions raised by members of Congress (many admittedly idiotic) and more recently by members of the European Parliament are both revealing and disturbing.

    The most troubling trend I have detected is collaboration between large operators and current large content providers that will have the effect of making it impossible for new companies to compete with and challenge the latter, as the latter themselves were able to overcome earlier quasi-monopolies thought of as impregnable (e.g. Microsoft). Two examples here: 1. Deal between Comcast and Netflix to offer access to the latter’s content through Comcast’s X1 platform, and 2. So called zero rating offers in which for example access to and use of Facebook does not count towards the volume of data that is consumed by a network’s customer who has bought a service package with a cap (i.e. so many megabytes per month). Not so incidentally zero rating is one element within the Net Neutrality debate, which is not only relevant to free speech from the customer’s or citizen’s perspective but also to issues of competition and whether zero rating constitutes unreasonable discrimination against some competitors.

    A startup that may try to compete with Netflix or Facebook will find it difficult to gain a foothold in the market, no matter how potentially attractive and valuable its services, if the large operators – the channel of distribution and access – decide and are free to decide whether or not to offer them comparable conditions as the Big Guys. I note that the number of network operators is intrinsically limited by the scarcity of public resources on which they depend, e.g. spectrum, rights-of-way, so contrary to their claim that they face strong competition which dissuades then for acting in ways that customers dislike, who can switch to another provider, in practice this is far from the case.

  23. I have my own domain. For years I ran my own mail server, until Comcast decided that that was too “commercial” for a residential broadband connection and blocked it. Bits are bits. Net Neutrality is there to make sure that I can send and receive any bits I want, regardless of whether they’re email bits or Netflix streaming movie bits.

    I’m waiting for the day when Comcast or Verizon FIOS decide that Netflix and Hulu cut into their own streaming product revenue too much and they start throttling my Netflix bits. A strong Net Neutrality rule or law would prevent them from doing that. At least I hope it would.

    As a software developer if I develop a new service that competes with something someone like Google or Facebook provides, should I have to worry that they, or someone else like them, with deep pockets, could pay ISPs to sabotage my product by accelerating their product, and/or throttling mine? Net Neutrality ensures that I can compete on features and not have to compete with how deep my wallet is.

    Censorship is a different problem, and not one that I’m convinced can be solved with Net Neutrality. We have our First Amendment already for that. If ISPs simply aren’t “filtering” or throttling, then we should not have to worry about whether they’re censoring or not.

    I do think we need to be able to differentiate between the parts of companies like Comcast and FIOS that are ISPs and the parts that are content providers. I would point out, or emphasize, because I’m sure you’re already aware, that Google and Facebook are not ISPs. If Facebook declined to run your marijuana ad, IMO that’s not actually censorship. At least not unless you want to classify them as Common Carriers. Which we seem to be reluctant to do.

    1. I agree with this. I do think without net neutrality we will see innovation stifled by carriers and may see added costs to consumers who increasingly use the internet for entertainment as well as information.

  24. I think you’re conflating a few different issues here and it seems you’re trying to boil the ocean.

    Net neutrality does not and is not intended to (at least primarily) guarantee freedom of speech on the internet. Net neutrality, as you mention, is about preventing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from biasing against content providers. It’s not necessarily about politics but it could be about business. Comcast could force its customers to rent moves from their service, instead of Amazon or Apple by making those unusable. Of course, yes, it could also be about politics. Comcast owns NBC and could block other news sources.

    This is important in and of itself and it’s not about getting played.

    Facebook and Google are substantially different services (though Google at least does overlap a bit with the big ISPs) and problems.

    First, addressing Facebook, it’s pretty simple. Don’t use it. Facebook isn’t a necessity. It’s not even close to a utility in the way that basic internet access has become. I understand that for you, as a politician, it’s a very useful tool for interacting with constituents but it’s far from the only one. Your own forum here is evidence of that. Further, Facebook is under no obligation as a private entity to guarantee your or my freedom of speech. The Bill of Rights doesn’t apply here. If I create a web forum similar to your site, am I under any obligation to publish and retain everything anyone else posts on that forum? No.

    To be blunt and crass, Facebook sucks and bringing it into the discussion is just a distraction from the merits of the net neutrality debate. You as a politician should probably not even rely on a private company and proprietary platform in that way.

    Google, or at least gmail, is substantially different. Email, along with FTP, HTTP and a few others, is one of the core protocols and services that exist on the internet. Your example of them marking your email as spam is a good one and certainly something to be concerned with. I’m even fine with a legislative solution there, but it should be a separate solution.

    Yes, net neutrality is, at least to some degree, a fight between content providers like Netflix and ISPs like Verizon and Comcast. There are essentially no local cable providers anymore. However, it’s not just Netflix anymore. There are many providers like Hulu, DirectTVNow, Sling and Youtube that have services similar to Netflix but also provide the local TV stations over the internet. There are also phone providers like Ooma and Vonage providing VOIP services.

    These services bring competition to the situation by offering alternatives to at least some of the services in question. If you can’t open up competition by allowing more physical ISPs in, net neutrality at least opens up competition by the virtual means of those content providers. This is a consumer issue as much as anything. As an anecdotal example, I was paying $190/month for services from Comcast. Luckily I also have FIOS available. So I switched to FIOS internet only and then subscribed to Ooma for phone and Hulu for TV. My monthly bill dropped to $85 and I’m not under any contract. If Verizon decides to start throttling Hulu, I’ll end up paying more money.

    So, again, you’re identifying multiple problems here. Yes, gmail and Facebook may need to be addressed, but don’t let that get in the way of addressing net neutrality as that is important.

    Finally, on jurisdiction, my understanding is the laws around the FCC preclude the states from being able to directly legislate net neutrality. However, maybe there are ways around that. Local cities and towns do have to agree to letting cable companies put up wires. Maybe the access can be predicated on net neutrality promises.

    1. I forgot to mention one thing.

      The MA legislature opened up the market for electrical customers by letting them choose who they pay to generate electricity (while also paying the electrical utility for transmission costs). Net neutrality would be very consistent with that idea. The consumer pays the utility for the pipe (internet connection) and can then pick and choose who provides what comes down that pipe.

  25. Equal access should be something defined by “equal”. I equate it to voting, and we no longer use a poll tax to inhibit voting, especially by the lower half of society. Keep your hands off my internet.

  26. Senator Brownsberger,

    Here’s somewhat of a real-life analogy to help illustrate:

    Imagine you have family in the tri-state area and you visit them often – you’re driving and you take the Mass Pike out of Boston to I-84 (exit 9 in Sturbridge).

    Now, imagine if the Turnpike Authority sectioned off the center and left lanes of the road for vehicles that would pay a premium in terms of a toll – say $50.

    The big corporations will still have their tandems and double-tandems using these lanes as they can easily afford the premium.

    You, on the other hand, don’t feel like dropping $50 every time you drive to Sturbridge and decide to ride in the right-lane of the road with everyone else at the normal toll.

    The right lane becomes clogged and congested with the “normal traffic” that wants to be charged the old toll – your driving times suffer as a result. Although, the Turnpike Authority really doesn’t care about your problem as they have tapped into a new revenue stream from the big corporations that have no problem ponying up a few extra bucks to get their shipments to still arrive on time.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  27. 1. The internet is a public utility like the telephone and really should be regulated as such.
    2. Since the current FCC won’t do that, states should do it.
    3. The issues you raise concerning the behavior of Facebook, Google and others are serious but different from the issue of net neutrality and should be addressed separately.
    4. Using your example: you were able to contact FB about your marijuana issue and get it dealt with. When Comcast, Verizon, etc. start favoring their own owned subsidiaries and otherwise tilting the internet playing field, you won’t have ANY input. You’ll just pay more.
    5. I agree that FB, Google, YouTube etc. use “free speech” gratuitously and are simply seeking to minimize their cost of doing business. But I think they are more vulnerable and responsive to public pressure and legislation – more so than Comcast, Verizon, etc.
    6. Without net neutrality, the example in the email from Mass Taxpayer shows how new, smaller internet companies will be unable to challenge the big ones like FB and Google.
    7. Perhaps a modified neutrality would work better imposing it up to a certain amount of data transmission and gradually phasing out above that?

  28. ISPs in the absence of net neutrality rules have the ability to preference content from providers they own, agree with politically, or that pay them kickbacks, or charge users differentially. Probably not a big deal for big players. Big content providers can pay for acceptable service. But smaller firms and content providers and news services may not be able to pay to play, and could be driven out of business, as users abandon content providers with slow lane delivery experiences. If Faux News pays for fast streaming and True News can’t, we are even further along a path where citizens are fed proganda and News cannot function as it should in our society. Similarly, we’re further along a path where small vendors can’t innovate and compete on the Internet because big vendors own the fast lanes. Addressing net neutrality does not, you’re right, also solve the same problems within closed social media ecosystems like FaceBook. Addressing Facebook and the like will require different legislation but that doesn’t mean net neutrality isn’t also critical.

    There have been numerous cases pre-net neutrality of bad behavior by ISPs – a quick Google turned up the following examples -in the early 2000s, a NC ISP blocked Internet calling service Vonage to advantage their own bundled phone service. Comcast blocked peer to peer technologies around the same time. A Canadian telecom blocked access to a server that hosted a site advocating a labor strike against the company. AT&T blocked competing voice apps from 2007-2009 from Google Voice and Apple iPhones. WindStream in 2010 intercepted Google queries and redirected users to Windstream’s own search app results. Paxfire was caught doing the same thing to search requests to Bing and Yahoo in 2011. Redirections of this type would allow the ISP to collect referral fees from the preferred websites it sent its users to in lieu of the ones they wanted to go to. MetroPCS in 2011 sought to block all streaming video except for YouTube. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon blocked Google Wallet to advantage their own ISIS service. Verizon in 2012 blocked tethering applications to protect their ability to charge a $20/month fee for their own hotspot service. AT&T in 2012 threatened to disable FaceTime unless subscribers went to a more expensive AT&T voice and data plan.

    Don’t we have enough monstrously large corporations wielding their monopoly power on smaller organizations and individuals? Why add more with the ability to limit where we can go on the Internet and what we can see there for their own profit? Restore net neutrality and regulate the FaceBooks and Googles of the world, too.

  29. I teach social media for a living, so I understand the opportunities and pitfalls better than most. It’s confusing, definitely. So many other people here have explained that there are fundamental differences between net neutrality and some of the other concerns that you’ve listed so I won’t dig into them here.

    But while they are separate, they are somewhat connected. Not repealing the FCC law puts us in greater danger of having more of our freedoms limited because then we are at the mercy of big telecoms and cable providers (and potentially companies like Google too) deciding who gets to see what based on how much you can afford. This is a limiting of your speech in what might even be a more effective way. If you are poor or marginalized and want to share an opinion, you might be out of luck because you won’t even have the option of that sort of access to provide it. You won’t be able to organize because you won’t have access. Additionally, let’s say other companies pop up to build their own networks. The first to do so, under the guise of opening more access will probably be companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook who have the money to potentially build infrastructure (which Google is already doing with Fiber). So you might be able to choose one of them to provide your access, but as you so specifically described–can we trust them?

    But the key thing is, with net neutrality, you have CHOICE. You have the option to decide if you want to use Google, or Facebook, or whatever site you want. You can post where you want, read what you want, talk to anyone you want, and that can be positive or negative, as we well know. With net neutrality gone, you are at the mercy of Comcast, or ATT and can only see what THEY decide you want to see, based on subscription levels. Of course, they say that is not what they plan on doing, but really? I mean, look what they did to cable, for god sakes. How much does one have to pay to get all the channels? Imagine that with the Internet. Oh, you love the Red Sox and want to watch online? That’s a different package than what is offered in basic. Oh, you have a niche company that you want to get exposure for? Oh, well your business isn’t included in 80% of the packages, so you are out of luck.

    If cable companies get their way, it will limit our freedoms of speech in unprecedented ways. It will destroy businesses who can’t get exposure. It will cost us all both in our pockets, but in every way we interact with the Internet.

    I urge you, please do whatever you can to make sure that MA goes the direction of WA and OR to defy this rollback if the House can’t get their act together and repeal it.

  30. We need net neutrality so that eveyone has equal access to the internet. What they do with that access is another thorny question, but don’t abandon net neutrality because there are other difficult questions to answer

  31. The basic idea of network neutrality is very simple. It’s common carriage for railroads updated for telecommunications. Common carriage doesn’t apply to the hotels at the end of the trip nor to providers like Google. It made sense in the days of phone calls when the carriers had to treat all calls the same. You can think of the telecommunications carriers are pipe owners much like railroads used tracks.

    It’s complicated today because the Internet doesn’t work like the old phone system. Phone calls are just apps in our devices. But it’s hard to fit that into the convoluted regulatory system that the FCC inherited from the days of railroads (The Interstate Commerce Commission).

    We do need to address concerns about Facebook and Google, but we mustn’t confuse them with the basic plumbing of connectivity.

    I go into more details in my writings such as https://rmf.vc/BBToInfrastructure. And would be glad to explain more in person.

  32. First, there’s actually quite a long history of ISPs doing

    > To me, the scariest thing is the prospect of censorship by Facebook and Google who make their money by regulating and targeting content.

    I actually agree on this point, and the abuses of these companies (both in terms of censorship and privacy violations) is something we need to be paying more attention to as well. I’m glad the EU is starting to tackle the prviacy end of this, but we need to be doing more on this front ourselves. We’re in the unfortunate position of public spaces for discussion being owned by private corporations.

    But removing the net neutrality will make that worse, not better — if ISPs are allowed to do the kind of discriminatory pricing folks are worried about, Facebook and Google will be the only companies able to pay. For them it will be another cost of doing business, which they’d prefer not to pay if possible. But it will also have the effect of pushing out smaller players entirely, consolodating their power over our speech even further.

    > By contrast, I have never had to worry about any limits on my ability to communicate imposed by local cable providers. And, until I started hearing about “net neutrality” it never crossed my mind to worry about it.

    For the record, there is in fact a long history of ISPs doing arbitrary throttling and blocking, contrary to the myth they’ve tried to perpetuate that the problems people are concerned about are largely theoretical. Free Press has a nice list of some of the bigger ones:


    You’ll see a theme of blocking competeing services — phone companies blocking Skype for example. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising; it’s about the most predictable unethical way a company with a near monopoly might abuse its power.

    There’s also a theme of blocking bittorrent and other peer-to-peer file-sharing services. The standard justifications I remember at the time were (1) something along the lines of “these tools are only used to illegally distribute copyrighted material anyway.” and (2) it uses too much bandwidth. Regarding (1), there were plenty of legitimate uses as well. Regarding (2), bittorrent makes much more efficient use of bandwidth than the technologies used by youtube, netflix and so forth to deliver their content but at the time, it was the only thing actually using enough bandwith for people to tell if their connection was slower than advertized. Easier to come up with an excuse to block it than actually deliver good service. Now that companies like Google have sunk billions into building datacenters capable of hosting video the expensive way, they’re doing the same thing with a new target. I suspect that if the threat of legal action and blocking by ISPs had not largely forced the development of these technologies underground, today we might not be in a position where only the likes of Google has the budget to distribute video to the masses. There’s no technical reason something like this couldn’t be integrated into browsers, allowing “just anyone” to publish a video as easily as a blog post. But right now this medium has a small number of gatekeepers, when it doesn’t have to.

    But the thing on that list that sends a chill down my spine is this:

    > In 2005, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications company, Telus, began blocking access to a server that hosted a website supporting a labor strike against the company.

    As I said, there’s much more to the issue of free speech online than the current conversation on net neutrality — but it’s not a piece of the puzzle that we can afford to neglect.

    I don’t feel as competent to speak on issues of jurisdiction. Some other states have tried some things, and it seems like any steps we take will face legal pushback; it remains to be seen what kind of things will stick.

  33. 1) Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. The net neutrality regime that the FCC rescinded has had nothing to do with the internet’s flourishing. Repeal of the net neutrality rules will not be the death of the internet. It will simply return us to the hands-off regulatory framework that has nurtured the past two-plus decades of the internet revolution.
    2) States will find it difficult to impose net neutrality laws that are not struck down by the Feds.

  34. Will, thanks so much for your take on the issue. Glad you’re my senator!

    To me, the core idea behind Net Neutrality is that “all content is created equal.” That is, regardless of how popular it is or how often it is requested. That means Comcast cannot charge Netflix for content delivery, more than it would charge you for your website here.

    The fear is that, any deviations from this principle, may set precedent for future abuses. Today Comcast may decide that Netflix has to pay more for traffic. Tomorrow, they may cut a deal and, for whatever reason, decide that Will Brownsberger’s website needs to pay 10x as much – because they don’t agree with your views or what have you. Or maybe they start selling services where you pay 5 bucks per month to get Comcast video, 10 bucks per month to get Comcast video + Netflix, and 100 bucks per month to get access to arbitrary websites. Or what if Comcast acquires Netflix and uses it as a position to drive Hulu, et. al out of business?

    You make a valid point that Facebook and Google are also potential sources of censorship, but part of what net neutrality helps ensure is that “google.com” has the same delivery guarantees as “willbrownsberger.com”. It is quite easy for consumers to switch social networks, or go to a different search engine. The competition between Google, Facebook and others is quite fierce, to our benefit. It takes 10 seconds to close a google page and search “bing.com” or “duckduckgo.com” instead. It would take me 10 minutes to erase my Facebook profile and start a new Google Plus profile. New social networking entrants come and go with some regularity. Snap is threatening facebook’s dominance and facebook is forced to respond.

    But with Comcast, I can’t even get a human being on the phone in 10 minutes! I have them for an ISP and I don’t even know if I have the choice of another ISP in my building. If they decide to play funny games with content, I may not have a remedy. That tends to add to the stress level over the issue. So I would urge you to continue supporting the equality principle.

    In FY 2017, Comcast has put 7.9 billion dollars into dividends and share repurchases – rewarding their stockholders! It does not seem like they are struggling to me:

  35. I own a small business. My biggest fear in the net neutrality issue is payola. Which is becoming a bigger threat as the tech of internet evolves. I believe that both the people that own the wires, and the large search engines are a threat to my business. I depend on being found on line. The thought that a richer larger competitor can pay to play and prevent my services from being found is what concerns me the most.

    My thinking is that the Commonwealth has a way to prevent payola by the people who have a physical presences in the Commonwealth. So solving 1/2 the issue of better than not doing anything about it. This is why I believe that the end point networks, Comcast, Verizon, and RCN on the wired side and AT&T, Verizion, and T-Mobile/Sprint on the wireless side, need to be prevented from discriminating or providing priority access to information.

    I am unclear if it can be done in our legal framework, I favor similar regulation of information on the content provider side. I also believe the EU has the good ideas about who owns information. Which is actually the root problem in my opinion. I believe that the owner of information should be who the information is about, and not who happens to hold it. This would make false content or content that is misleading under a more individual controlable framework under law. And give individuals much greater control over their on-line footprint. I also believe that by the same token limits on how search results are manipulated by Google or Facebook needs to be subject to some serious thought.

  36. Net Neutrality, to me, is like charging to drive on the highway. If one can pay, then they can drive the fast lane. And no, it’s not like paying a small toll for road usage fees because not all roads have a fee. It’s demanding fees for higher priority. Unwilling to pay, it’s all back roads, and lights.

    There are too few providers as it is. Ridiculous how expensive it is to just get internet connection. To have to pay additional fees on top of that for access is not right.

    We have issues with Facebook and Google, as well.

    I think they’re in the same church but different pews.

  37. You write that the scariest problem is censorship by Google and Facebook. Wired writes about what we “really” need to do is increase ISP competition. I dont see these as either-or issues versus net neutrality. How about “all of the above?” Net neutrality is what is before you now – I say its better to have it than not. I also venture that while you dont see a problem (“I have never had to worry about any limits on my ability to communicate imposed by local cable providers. And, until I started hearing about “net neutrality” it never crossed my mind to worry about it.”) you are likely not a typical heavy user who would feel the impact. Impacted services you may not even be aware of can be key to many people. And I dont know that your newsletter is reaching those people (e.g. are you on Instagram?). So rather than poll us old (over 40) folks try to get more input from the heavy user crowd.

  38. For me it is more a question of accessibility. If corporations get preferential treatment over the public sector, will the internet become less accessible to those in a secondary position? And is there any chance that we could end up paying for its use? I think we all should have equal exposure.

  39. I think you understand it better than most people already! There is the theoretical threat that the local access provider can mess with the content, but by now they know better. They block spam, so that the real content gets through, and you benefit if they manage traffic intelligently to prevent video from blocking everything else.
    We explained a lot of this in our (Interisle Consulting Group) FCC Comments. Our 2015 Comment when the rule (just revoked) was being written — we did not agree with how it was done:
    and our filing in the 2017 revocation proceeding, which again suggested a better way forward (which of course this FCC does not like, as it does regulate the actual transmission function):
    Always glad to talk about the topic! (“Both sides have it wrong.”)

  40. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts Will. In this case, I think the way that you’ve framed the issue presents it as a false dilemma. The risks you describe from Google and Facebook are real. But the content issue should be separated from the *access* issue. That is primarily what Net Neutrality seeks to address.

    Without Net Neutrality, Comcast can effectively shut down a startup that poses a threat to a business that it is in, or a business that they want to be in. I’m not worried about Netflix. I’m worried about the MIT kids working on the next Netflix.

    The Internet is a utility. It should be regulated as such. Ned’s analogy to the USPS makes that point better than I could, so I will stop here, and just refer you to that.

  41. We have already seen infringement on with providers. AT&T’s Data Free TV doesn’t count data against your cap to access Direct TV streaming, this is directly anti competitive giving a disincentive to use another service. TMobile has Binge On. We will see more peering agreement between large companies, large companies can pay to partner. Small companies will not have the capital to be competitive in that realm. The next Netflix will already be more expensive if you have to use more data to watch. Internet Service Providers should be treated like utilities where users pay for a pipe to their home and the ISPs just deliver internet without prioritization or modification.

    I’d rather see us do what we did with Ma Bell, force shared use of the lines to create a competitive market place where you have a choice of ISP.

  42. Hi Will,
    It seems like I am late to the party as many people have given excellent responses to your question, but I will throw my two cents in as well. Net neutrality for me is all about access. As recent college grads, my wife and I depend on the internet like any other utility. Net neutrality ensures that regardless of what we are doing, we have full access to all market places on the internet. Without this, it is easy for providers to push us towards their partners, which may not provide the best deal for us.

  43. Hi Will!

    What you write about google and facebook is quite correct. Indeed there are calls to restrict the power of these two entities. However the question about net neutrality goes beyond censorship as might be imposed by a content provider such as google, facebook or twitter. Net neutrality allows everyone to have equal access to regardless of who operates the network segments. You have more than a few links in the comments that aptly describe net neutrality. On the point of “trusting the network providers to not take advantage of their control – we have already seen several cases where one company tried to force another into an agreement by greatly reducing the speed of the network. See news items about the Time-Warner vs Netflix imbraglio: http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/02/time-warner-cable-lawsuit-says-twc-lied-about-internet-speed.html

  44. Will, others have commented on technology and content much better than this camp can add to. On your questions about jurisdiction and where the MA senate fits in, I’d say if the ISPs and social media/search platforms aren’t “interstate commerce” to be regulated by the Federal Govt under US Constitution Art 1, section 8, clause 3, then I guess I don’t know what is.

    Not to say MA legislature shouldn’t compel the Baker Administration to join with other states in pressuring Congress or the Administration/FCC to act to protect both our innovation economy (to let startups rise and disrupt installed quasi-monopolies that you and others rightly cite) as well as freedom of speech that isn’t faster for some with premium content or “back-paged” for others on search platforms. Failing regulatory or legislative action, there is always the opportunity for MA atty general to join other states in suing for action by the FCC in DC federal court.

  45. I have yet to hear a cohesive argument that the public benefits forom repeal of net neutrality.

    In some ways a metaphor of toll roads can be used. But in that case, the toll goes back into public coffers.

    Creating “fast lanes” only benefits the well-to-do and the corporations. And the internet, crated from the arpanet, was created with public investment, and should be recognized as a public utilty, with equal access to all.

  46. Here are a few reasons why net neutrality is SO important:

    1.Small organizations won’t be able to pay for faster internet and therefore won’t be able to reach the world. They’ll be stuck in the slow lane, invisible.

    2.Access to information will be severely limited, especially for already marginalized groups. For example, most progressive LGBTQ+ info is currently disseminated by individuals or small groups, not big organizations.

    3.Even if a larger group,say PFLAG, could pay to maintain a website without net neutrality, people might not be able to afford to access it – or, if they’re using a public computer or their parents’ computer, those pages might not be available at all.

    4.Open access to internet content is essential for education in this day and age. Without being able to just click on any website at all, it would be impossible to do effective research— for school or for real-world reasons.

    Thank you for asking about this super important issue. I’m sure you know that even if MA passes a law about enforcing net neutrality, our access to information from outside the state will suffer now that net neutrality is no longer a federal rule.

  47. To me it is as simple as that: you don’t have to use Facebook, Google or Yahoo. It is convenient, but it is your choice. With that, the majority of US population has a choice of only 2 (even if that) ISP. If both of them will be pushing their own content at the expense of general one, you are done.

  48. One way to fix the problem of ISPs loading the dice is for communities to roll their own by installing municipal fiber networks, as some have done. (Not sure, but I believe Cambridge may be contemplating such a project.) However, I’ve heard of GOP-controlled state legislatures that, prompted by industry, have passed laws to forbid public ownership of such facilities. So to me, the problem we are addressing is not net neutrality per se but the varied consequences of pay-to-play politics under monopoly capitalism.


  50. Hiawatha Bray, a Globe tech writer for the Globe gets to the nub of the push for “net neutrality” in his May 17 column.

    Writing about the internet since 1994, Bray writes that despite the claims of the advocates that they want an insurance policy against corporate censorship and a “fair and free internet”:, more aggressive advocates want the FCC to dictate every decision made by our broadband providers.
    Moreover, the former chairman of the FCC, decided to regulate the internet under title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934. That Act regulated telephone monopolies. Title II allows the FCC to “micromanage” all aspects of broadband providers activity.
    While title II would make providers protect the privacy of users, it would not apply to tech giant, Google, or Facebook. Rates for broadband service would also be regulated to prevent”price Gouging.”
    With title II in place, much more aggressive regulations can follow. They would lead to less innovation and investment.
    According to Bray”, if Congress wants to solve the Net Neutrality problem, it could pass a simple law banning blocking and throttling of data of data on broadband networks, then take the rest of the day off.”
    I couldn’t agree more with Bray.

  51. On the contrary, the FCC did have a net neutrality policy that was overturned by the courts on procedural grounds. That forced them to use Title II (which made sense anyway, since the internet is a common carrier if anything ever was). Now that that has been repealed, we no longer have any net neutrality policy. But I agree that Google and Facebook are excellent candidates for a federal antitrust lawsuit (if there are any prosecutors left who still know how it’s done).

  52. Hi Will:
    I think the Obama White House got under the lobbying spell of the big content providers. They are the only ones who benefit from “Net Neutrality”. In Arlington, we are fortunate to have had three broadband providers, RCN, Verizon and Comcast.

    The only reason we could get this choice is because the bandwidth providers could charge for their bandwidth. If I just use the net for email, and my neighbor is bingeing on Netflix all day, I don’t want to be paying for their bandwidth use.

    But Netflix wants net neutrality so that their service is paid for by everyone, whether or not they use it. If you use the Mass Pike more, you pay more tolls. If you drive more, you pay more for fuel.

    Google, Facebook, Netflix and other big content providers don’t want their customer dollars going for bandwidth, but only for their content.

    Now, I am not shedding tears for Verizon, Comcast and the like, they are adult players. However, the carrier market is competitive – not only with hardwire or cable but also with wireless.

    When the new 5G wireless is implemented, it may make cable or fiber look slow. But that deployment will only come if the carriers can get a return on their investment. That is why a lot of rural areas don’t have high speed networks, because there is not enough business to pay for the infrastructure.

    The pre- Net Neutrality days created immense innovation in our IP networks. The Obama administration pushed us back into the pre-1980’s telephone-like regulations. Do you remember when we had only one telephone carrier? It was horrible.

    Thanks for giving careful thought to this complex subject.

    1. This is not what net neutrality is about.

      Net neutrality does not prohibit internet service providers from charging for bandwidth use. Rather, it prohibits internet service providers from discriminating between different sources of that bandwidth.

      Note that the cable and cell phone companies have never stopped having different pricing tiers for different levels of bandwidth use. If net neutrality were what you claim — which it isn’t — then they would have had to stop doing that when the FCC’s net neutrality policy went into effect. They didn’t, because the FCC didn’t say that they had to, because net neutrality isn’t what you’re saying it is.

  53. Never mind net neutrality! I saw the votes on making Massachusetts a sanctuary state! We the people do not want this !

  54. Thanks once again for the amount of homework you offer us as food for thought.

    Your instincts and worries about Google and Facebook being the primary dangers are convincing to me, but at the same time I believe both the State and the Federal legislatures should address the issues of monopolies by any owner of the distribution “pipes” like Comcast and Verizon (or others like ATT, RCN, etc. … if I’m not mistaken in thinking of them as owners of “pipes”).

    Monopolies are not in the public’s best interest. Suzanne quoted Hiawatha Bray below that passing a simple “law banning blocking and throttling of data of data on broadband networks”. A Massachusetts law would not address monopolies, but it would help keep the “pipes” open.

    Regulating or prescribing what content rises to the top of feeds by Google, Facebook and others is the age-old issue of censorship vs. freedom of information flows. I believe is is a mistake to hope that companies who are in the business of finding recipients of information will self-regulate. By the same token, government regulation or legislation of what can and cannot be passed on to the public is also a mistake. I wonder whether education of the public is the only reasonable answer, or the increase in public interest groups who would/could act as public monitors of info content – not with the powers to censor, but with the clear and conflict-free responsibility to alert the public that one or the other (or all) of the content providers are remiss in not creating better internal screening of the content they pass on. (If this is old hat for others, forgive me please, I’m new to the debate).

  55. You’re right that facebook and google have a lot of power, but consider how much more they would have without net neutrality.

    Today, there are a few social networks, and you can use any or all of them to distribute your message. If facebook declines to publish your ad, you can publish it on twitter or instagram and reach many of the same people. If any of them start to practice anything that looks to the public like censorship, then they will quickly find themselves to be irrelevant and replaced. Gmail is very popular, but many people use other services, and it’s very easy to switch. You can host your own website and put just about any kind of messaging that you want on it.

    Without net neutrality, the major content providers would lose out on some revenue, but would be much stronger gate keepers. If comcast sold the internet the same way they sell cable, by bundling websites like they bundle channels, then we would be in an even worse position. Google and facebook’s content decisions would affect everybody, and there would be no other option. It is unlikely that willbrownsberger.com would be included in any of the packages.

    The content providers have power because they have lots of users, but those users are free to come and go as they please. The ISPs have power because our government limits who is allowed to install fiber optic cables in the public rights of way, and we have very little choice in the matter.

  56. HI Will,

    Thank you for laying out in a very clear way what you see the issues as being…or not.

    I agree I am not too worried about the providers of the internet as of the Goggle’s and Facebooks of the world.

    The reality is the cable providers are kind of like a utility. As much as there is regulation on electric companies etc… it still feels as they charge what they believe they need and raise or lower rates based on demand. I don’t really have an issue with Internet providers doing the same.

    Of course, the best way to keep pricing competitive is by competition. The more providers, the better. Take a look at RCN’s rates compared to Verizon DSL or Xfinity…

    Competition doesn’t mean the lowest price, but value added to the consumer.

    Regarding the Facebooks etc, they are private companies. Government interference is not the solution.
    I am not sure what is however your example about running an ad that was rejected, that could just as well happen in the Boston Globe.

    I appreciate your thoughtful consideration as our legislator and thanks for your hard work.

  57. I think the change inner neutrality is scary. Thee cable companies might make it difficult but I don’t know. What I know is I trust Obama more than Trump. And I like the sound of net neutrality

    1. I trust Obama more than Trump. And I like the sound of net neutrality.

      I feel the same way — and that is as far as a lot of people go — but we do need to go beyond that first reaction!

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