“What the hell do you have to lose?”

That was the question that now President Trump asked the American people while campaigning. The answer? Internet privacy rights. That’s on top of the other regulations that, according to the current administration, stifle innovation and are harmful to business.

In a vote along party lines, House Republicans successfully voted to repeal privacy protections that were set to go in effect December 2017. All that is left is for President Trump to sign and approve the measure, and there is no reason to believe he will do otherwise. The conservative lawmakers controlling both the House and Senate were not alone in the crusade against digital rights—far from it. Several advertising trade associations both urged and applauded the action, as can be read in this statement. The Internet and Television Association, which represents many broadband providers, has praised the votes against the new rules. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has also staunchly opposed both narrow privacy regulations and net neutrality. For readers unfamiliar with the latter group, their espousal to limited government politics and “virtuous capitalism” is particularly laughable. As expected, they too applauded the deregulatory move.

Also worth mentioning is the chump change needed to sway lawmakers. Put another away: how much does privacy cost? Granted, buying Senators and Congress members isn’t exclusive to one party line or another, but one party responded remarkably well to it for this vote. This list details the contributions made to Senators supporting anti-privacy since 2012. Additionally, this list details how much money Congress members have received. While it seems easy to make an overly simplistic connection between money and votes—and neither party is above taking charitable donations from varying industries—it is worth noting that this vote was extremely partisan, and no champion of the bill offered to substantiate the reason this legislation is good for consumers, other than uttering elusive “anti-consumer” and “free market” platitudes. Similar regurgitant is being recited while plans to unwind the EPA, renewable energy, and climate change policies are being put in motion.

While this kind of regression in the digital age is alarming, there are other policies in place that protect consumers, albeit not to the same extent. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act all have privacy provisions relating to customer information. Specifically, Title II, Section 222 of the Telecommunications Act imposes privacy requirements; however, they are from 1996 and mostly apply to telecom services. The FCC vowed to write new internet-specific rules regarding how ISPs are to handle privacy. In a rare win for privacy advocates, the rules (which passed last year) explicitly detailed how ISPs were to store and handle data, and offer customers clear notices and opt-in requirements. Those rules are all but nullified now. If AT&T’s arguably unconstitutional surveillance business model is any indicator, archaic laws are not sufficient for modern internet access.

Last year the FCC laid out landmark rules protecting internet privacy. Now, the current FCC leadership and members of the U.S. Senate are actively seeking to erase them. In fact, S.J. Res. 34 has already passed the Senate, and H.J. Res. 86—The House version of the bill—goes to Congress immediately. The House plans to take up the legislation this week, and we can be assured that is so constituents are not afforded the opportunity to learn the damage that is being done.

For those in need of a primer, eliminating the privacy protections will allow ISPs to aggressively monetize personal data without consent—to the tune of selling internet activity to marketers, targeted advertising, and redirecting traffic to paying third parties. For those interested in acting—and that should be everyone who uses the internet—towards preserving the rights to online privacy, here are some ways to get involved.

Senate Republicans have voted to rescind momentous laws protecting Internet privacy that the FCC wrote and adopted last year. U.S. senators voted 50 to 48 to approve a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) that would prevent that privacy framework from going into effect. What’s more, the resolution seeks to bar the FCC from enacting similar laws. As of March 23rd, 2017, the resolution has passed the senate and moves toward the House where, barring a complete backlash, it will likely pass.

The Federal Communications Commission’s new rules were adopted last year to prevent ISPs from exploiting users’ behavioral data in contentious ways, such as selling it to paying third parties or creating targeted advertising. ISPs are no longer interested in just being network providers; they seek to monetize the consumer’s routine use of the internet to create their own digital economy—and they seek to do it without explicit consent. The previous FCC leadership viewed this as an overreach, thus the new privacy rules were set to go in effect. The rules primarily ensured the following:

The last year has seen a massive surge in interest in the FCC and Net Neutrality. We've reported on it a few times -- partly to educate and partly to help motivate readers to voice an opinion -- and boy, did people speak up. Over four million individual comments were logged with the FCC regarding their opinion of this issue, spanning gamers to Barack Obama. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the industry wanted to approach the net neutrality conversation during CES.

On May 15th, the current net neutrality rules are going up for preliminary vote at the FCC. This initial vote is only a step in the overall process for the unfair segregation of web traffic to come to life. Our first article broke down the basics of what is in flux, so if you're unsure of what's going on, that's the place to check first. Our second article was a short opinion piece (read: doused in sarcasm and lit aflame with satire) on Chairman Tom Wheeler's response to "reassure" us.

net-neutrality-infographic"What is Net Neutrality?" infographic.

We felt that we should give readers a decisive guide to voicing views and making a difference. Reddit has good recommendations from people who are, and were, involved in the government. Their insight is invaluable to those wanting to do something helpful. Some of the basics are calling the FCC, contacting your Congress and Senate Representatives (they work for you, so use them), and a few other ways to get your voice heard. When reaching out to representatives, one of the most important things to remember is to be polite, professional, and friendly so that you are taken seriously; the people answering the phones are likely interns of some variety -- they'll mark your comment down, ask your name and zip, and then hang up. No need for aggression. Short of money, the means through which most lobbyists get their way is because there is not a big enough outcry from the public to counter them, or those who do complain aren't taken seriously because of how they object.

If you've followed our coverage of net neutrality proceedings in the US, you'll know that there's been a fierce emboldening in the US Government's enablement of a class-based internet. AT&T's patent-pending approach to deploying a micro-transaction-esque content delivery hierarchy for streamed video and gaming content is starting to look a lot scarier right now.

net-neutrality-comicImage Source: CFC Oklahoma.

After the FCC's proposal to allow ISPs the dictation of "normal speed" and "low-speed" traffic in the form of extorting content providers (Netflix, YouTube), internet backlash has prompted a disingenuous addendum by the Commission. Federal Communications Commission Chariman and mendacious troglodytic neophyte of technology Tom Wheeler is reported to have added to his plan:

After our earlier posting about Google's intentions to move to several large cities in North Carolina, we noted that the ball would now be in the court of the local officials to make progress on Google's demands. Google requires certain infrastructure and licensing to be in place before deploying its Fiber network to new regions and has a strict "checklist" that towns must complete before the company will proceed.

google-fiber-speedtest

In an official statement today, the Town of Cary announced that it has unanimously agreed to Google's fiber hut licensing and leasing terms; this agreement will enable Google to make use of upwards of five fiber huts for light relay and transfer stations, which would effectively propagate optical signals to business and residential buildings. In speaking with Cary officials, we learned that the Town would lease the property, but Google would own the hut and its included equipment.

Two things are going to be happening this year for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that will directly affect the internet and its present management. The first is the upcoming preliminary vote on the revamped rules of “net neutrality” on May 15th; the second has to do with the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which would give a 40% userbase share to an ISP that already has a history of throttling users and businesses.

att-evil-logo

If it hasn't yet become clear that we give no quarter to ISPs, Verizon has now blipped on our +1 Radar of Detect Evil. And it's a big, red, checkmark-shaped blip.

xkcd-internet-securityFull comic on XKCD, found here.

Verizon CEO and Thesaurus-Waving Champion of Double-Speak Lowell McAdam says his company totally won't not-use the struck-down FCC regulations as a means to charge you negative less money in the future. You see, McAdam says that the thought of a mega-corporation misbehaving when left unregulated is -- what was his word? -- "histrionics," and that you should just "contribute to the investment to keep the web healthy."

Translation: "Can I have some money now?" (Thanks, Homer).

Google's Fiber ISP division recently emailed residents of North Carolina (where we operate our business, actually) to initialize conversations about bringing the ISP to NC. The company has already taken residence in Kansas and is transitioning to Austin (fighting AT&T along the way), where it offers data-rates upwards of 1 Gigabit per second (up/down), or roughly 1000 Mbps. In other words, it's approximately 62x faster than TWC's best download rate in parts of Cary, NC, and about 500x faster than upload rates in the same location.

google-fiber-rabbit-afiA Failure Inside.

North Carolina is well-known in the technology sector for its apocalyptic hellscape of zombified Telecomm companies, including Nortel Networks -- which refuses to die (really, put it down), Bell, and Lucent. RTP and the Triangle already have major fiber infrastructure laid in the ground, though lack to-the-wall optical wiring for residential areas. Part of Google's Fiber offering is to run fiber optic lines to residential areas at low cost to the consumer (even allowing the consumer to foot part of the bill in exchange for a reduced monthly rate); Google enforces strict requirements upon State officials in the form of a checklist, which must be fulfilled before the company will begin its transition to NC. This is good, because our state politicians are extremely competent and efficient when it comes to accomplishing things.

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