Telcos killed net neutrality. Can states bring it back?

There’s no way that repealing net neutrality could make the internet go absolutely crazy.

No way that lawmakers and corporations would seize the chance to drive their favorite boondoggles, insane brainfarts and most dearly-longed-for scams through the internet that’s now become a major portion of the public square as well as a crucial marketplace, with juicy financial bonuses for anyone who can seize and then sell control of it.

Of course not.

Which must be why Comcast is calling for internet fast lanes.

Telcos showed their true colors quickly

You youngsters might not believe this, but I remember back in, oh, musta been twenty and seventeen, when Comcast promised that it didn’t want internet fast lanes.

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Course, times have changed since then. It’s a new world now.

What made its way was, amongst other things, half a billion dollars spent by Comcast, AT&T and the NCTA on demolishing net neutrality – almost as if they stood to gain from its destruction.

(Since Ajit Pai started being investigated by the FCC, presumably on charges of being a blatant crook who laughed about it on camera,that promise has been replaced on the Comcast website. I guess they really, passionately believe in all the stuff the law obliges them to do anyway.)

What they really want: fast lanes for first responders?

In March, David L Cohen, Comcast’s regulatory chief, told the annual Free State Foundation’s Telecom Policy Conference:

‘There is a recognition that something might come along that is not anticompetitive, that is pro-consumer, that is a specialized service available not to every user of the internet, [and] that would be in consumers’ interests and in the public interest.’


AT&T has since said that it’s interested in fast lanes for ‘new technologies like autonomous cars, remote surgery, enhanced first responder communications, and virtual reality services.

Enhanced first responder communications. That’s the fire department, folks.

Remember, AT&T isn’t offering to accelerate first responders’ traffic over everyone else’s because the fire department’s 911 call is more important than the sixth season of Weeds (I’m behind; sue me). They’re threatening to throttle their traffic unless they pay up – with your money.

And Verizon argued in court after bringing the case that led to the FCC’s disastrous, paid-for ruling in 2017, that it should have the right to block access to websites that don’t pay up.

These companies have made no secret of their desire to hold the internet to ransom.

But since they depend on packet inspection to do their dirty tricks and throttle one type of traffic while speeding others, a VPN stops them in their tracks.

Let’s all go to court

Meantime, net neutrality is back before Congress with the backing of basically the whole internet, including Apple, Google and Amazon. And it’s in federal court as well, with 21 states suing the FCC to prevent repeal.

States including Montana and New York have passed their own state-level net neutrality regulations and California and Washington are walking bills through the statehouse that will establish statewide net neutrality. Together, these states represent around 25% of the American population.

So what’s the next move in the ISP playbook?

Anxious about the return on investment for their half-billion in lobbyist dollars, the telecoms monopolists are tooling up to sue ‘em right back. A lobbyist group representing the telco giants has promised to ‘aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible.’

If you think that’s Orwellian, look at the title it was posted under: ‘All Americans Deserve Equal Rights Online.

(Small print: some to be more equal than others.)

We’ll probably get net neutrality back…

The chances are that net neutrality will be restored; if Apple, Amazon and Google want it, they have far deeper pockets than Verizon, and the resistance at state and local level to selling the internet to the highest bidder is pretty fierce.

But in the meantime, and especially if you live in an area of the USA where you’ve been abandoned by your representatives and your open market in ISPs is Hobsonian, it’s past time to get a solid VPN and use it. It’s your internet, after all.

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