Update (2019-05-20) Yes, Obamanet was intended to aid and further push to the left Obama’s friends – the Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe and big cable companies (yes, big cable companies like Comcast – the strawman baddies in the leftist net neutrality narrative) and to suppress free speech. Robert Graham on John Oliver, Comcast and Netflix (2017):
Most everything in John Oliver’s piece is incorrect.
For example, he says that without Net Neutrality, Comcast can prefer original shows it produces, and slow down competing original shows by Netflix. This is silly: Comcast already does that, even with Net Neutrality rules.
Comcast owns NBC, which produces a lot of original shows. During prime time (8pm to 11pm), Comcast delivers those shows at 6-mbps to its customers, while Netflix is throttled to around 3-mbps. Because of this, Comcast original shows are seen at higher quality than Netflix shows.
Obamanet can be called reverse net neutrality. The original net neutrality regulations, enacted under the Bush administration in 2005, were intended to protect customers against possible abuse by service providers, such as ISPs. Obamanet I (2010) and Obamanet II (2015) protected service providers (not ISPs, but intermediaries, such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter) from customers’ choice not to pay for transmission of their content. Obamanet also allowed cable companies to set monthly usage limits and to not include their own content in it – the so called “zero rate” – thus completing reversal of the original net neutrality.
Robert Graham is also correct about Jon Oliver himself:
People keep linking to John Oliver bits. We should stop doing this. This is comedy, but people are confused into thinking Oliver is engaging in rational political debate…
The original text (2018-03-16)
The idea of government regulations of ISPs for net neutrality, expressed by Tim Wu in 2003 and mostly adopted by the FCC in 2005, turned on its head under Obama’s administration, which turned it from a user’s right to an obligation. This mandatory net neutrality (Obamanet) was probably the worst violation of the First Amendment since the passage of the Bill of Rights. The supporters of MNN usually claim that it protects users against abuse by their ISPs. In fact, it “protects” users from exercising choice regarding content. The idea that ISPs have strong incentives to mistreat their paying customers is foolish. But even if an ISP does that, the customers have a large set of consumer protection laws on their side. Most cases cited by MNN supporters are lies or misinterpretations. Somehow, consumer protection laws seem to fail (or are not applied) to protect consumers against Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, etc.
We access the internet media under absurd rules, unprecedented for any other media: a typical user paying annual internet access fees of $1,000 cannot choose toward what internet content and services this money would be applied! Obama’s FCC has already made the choice for us. And the choice reflects influence of the far-left groups. Most of the peak bandwidth is consumed by Netflix, Google YouTube, and sundry porno sites. The rest is also allocated without the user’s say.
To access content and services on the internet, the user has to pay again. Most users don’t want to pay a second time, so the websites and services charge them indirectly by collecting their private information and taxing their attention with ads. Nevertheless, the revenues from ads are not sufficient to maintain quality publications. And the formerly respectable publications – The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. – became fake news outlets.
In the absence of mandatory net neutrality, internet subscribers would be able to select how their ISP fees are allocated. Most users would probably allocate only a small part of the fees to the bare access and would pay most for the content and services. Content and services providers would pay the ISP for the use of the bandwidth. The user would pay content providers either directly, or through the ISP, acting as a reseller. I leave details out.
Thus, instead of today’s $80/month ISP bill with a one item, the user’s bill might look something like this:
|General Internet Access||$10|
|Privacy Enhancing Service||$2.00|
|Family Friendly Filtering Service||$3.00|
|News & Views|
|The New York Times||$0.55|
|Reference & Productivity Package||$5|
|TV & Video on Demand||$15|
General Internet Access (GIA) refers to the internet access we have today. GIA traffic would have lower priority compared to the traffic included in the purchased channels and packages.
Privacy Enhancing is a unique service that can be provided only by an ISP. One easy way of enhancing user’s privacy is to frequently change the user’s IP address visible to the “edge providers,” making it more difficult for them to identify the users and compromise their privacy. Additionally, the ISP providing privacy services might route the user’s requests through geographically remote locations, preventing the “edge providers” from determining and targeting the user’s exact location. Of course, in some cases users might want the “edge provider” to know their location and to disable this feature.
Family Friendly Filtering of content used to be obvious. Most frequently, it’s used by parents to protect children from pornography, drugs, child predators, and other dangers. Some families use it to protect themselves from content violating their religious convictions. When the FCC banned network-side filtering in 2015, it exposed children to all these dangers and violated the freedom of religion of everybody. BTW, somebody needs to investigate the link between the content filtering ban in the 2015 FCC decision and the opioid epidemic in rural America. The current push to blame pharmaceutical companies that make painkillers is an obvious money grab.
Content Subscriptions might be the biggest part of the bill. Today, content is the main reason why we use the internet.
Reference & Productivity package might include a decent encyclopedia and other reference books, a quality alternative to the corrupt and anti-American Wikipedia. The encyclopedia publisher, for example, would receive revenue from the package users, employ professionals to write it, and will be accountable to the readers, not to Google and the leftist foundations behind Wikipedia. The package might also include an email service by a provider that does not read the emails of its users, and an access to office software. That might even be Microsoft Office, but not necessarily hosted by Microsoft. Finally, some content would be purchased on demand rather than by subscription.
Restoring our freedom on the internet might solve a lot of the universally recognized problems. The main of them is the lack of quality content, aside from movies and music.
When readers and viewers pay content creators directly for the content they view, there will be quality content. A special case of the content problem is fake news. The same reasoning applies. Readers and viewers who value honest reporting will subscribe to honest news channels, and the revenues from subscription will allow them to elevate the breadth and depth of their coverage. This is how the serious newspaper came into existence in the first place (see endnotes). Tabloids and fake news purveyors have always had their audience and will always be around, but they matter little in the presence of respectable publications.
Another problem is censorship by platforms, such as YouTube. Setting aside the bias of this censorship, the problem exists to large extent because each platform wants to cover all the public, in the U.S. and abroad. Today, these platforms enjoy most privileges of both common carriers and publishers, while fulfilling obligations of neither. They seem to think this is legal. (I am not sure. But paying or otherwise supporting front groups that cause death threats to the FCC Chairman is certainly illegal.) How absurd it can get can be seen in a recent example: YouTube announced hiring 10,000 new censors in order to increase quality of content. It would be an insult to the “creative class” if there were one.
The mainstream news media has “suddenly” recognized that Google and Facebook eat their revenues. In response, they alternate between kissing up to the Big Tech, lashing out at it, and demanding special treatment from Congress (The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act proposal, hawked by the New Media Alliance). In fact, the media can fault only itself. It became a party media, advocated repressions against the opposition, and enjoyed benefits that the ruling party media has under authoritarian regimes. Suddenly, its party lost power! This is a tragedy for it, so its end-of-the-world mood and rhetoric are unsurprising.
The mainstream media’s hostility to the freedom of speech under the guise of net neutrality is a case in point. A normal business model for newspapers is that the reader paying a publisher, who in turn pays for printing and delivery. Mandatory net neutrality turns it upside down: internet users are forced to pay for delivery of all content, not only their “newspaper.” That incentivizes the production of low quality content and elevates a middleman like Google that helps the viewers find what they want in a haystack of garbage. Thus, the benefits accrue to the middleman, rather that the quality content provider. MNN is also an implementation of the wet dream of the communist left – a publicly funded media. Free Press’ McChesney demanded $30 Billion of annual public media funding (1) – and the public involuntarily pays more than that out of the $57 Billion it pays for the internet access. It’s not surprising that the un-Constitutional MNN rules have eliminated conservative media and nearly eliminated the moderate media! It’s also not surprising that the far-left media supports this scheme.
Restoring privacy would be another benefit of the MNN repeal. Under MNN, users pay the ISPs by money, and the content provider by personal information. Under Constitutional internet access rules, the users would pay money to the content providers. The ads would be rare and more likely to come from brands handpicked by content providers, rather than from huge ad networks ran by Google and Facebook. This factor alone would protect our private information from Google, Facebook, and other huge data collectors. Google and Facebook practices have already surpassed privacy invasion and massive surveillance and have become national security issue. The paid content providers would have much fewer incentives to hoard personal information and very strong incentives to keep the collected information to themselves. Content providers that want have consumers’ trust would likely decide to store very little personal data for a short time and use that as one of their selling points.
Today’s platforms that became content providers under MNN (Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) serve content to and from all of the world. Obviously, most of this content is garbage and much of it is offensive to somebody. When these platforms started censoring content, political activists began demanding the removal of content and authors that were averse to their causes, even if it were not offensive. The more censorship goes on, the stronger censorship demands are. Under Constitutional internet access rules, the users would subscribe to content providers they like and will NOT subscribe to those that offend them. Thus, claiming that one is offended by certain content would be difficult. Offended? – Unsubscribe. Additionally, the quality of the paid content would be higher, and the content provider would take care not to offend its subscribers.
Today, the internet (or at least its North American part) is hyper-centralized around Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft. It’s a pathology that fully deserves to be called Obamanet. The internet has been created as a fully decentralized network of networks computers, survivable in a nuclear war. But on Obamanet, a Twitter employee acting without malicious intent can boot the president off Twitter, the common carrier under Title II of the 1934/96 Communications Act. The power of anonymous Google employees with access to the configuration files of Google’s ranking algorithm is unimaginable. They can probably topple governments and shift millions of votes in the U.S. elections, and no prize for guessing in whose favor they might or have already shifted them.
Facebook, Twitter, and other centralized social media networks don’t seem to me as a natural phenomenon. A network of networks of social media communities might be a better alternative. Different networks would have different rules and serve different populations in different countries. Companies operating these networks would develop interoperability protocols for interaction between them. Communities that don’t like each other wouldn’t be connected to each other. A company operating a network of communities would be able to ban another network’s user from accessing its network, but not from the network of which he is a member. But this is just a fantasy now.
There is an obvious danger that some large media companies that own both big media brands and big ISPs (like Comcast, which is the largest internet provider and the owner of MSNBC, CNBC, NBCUniversal, and other media properties) might attempt to lock a large part of their ISP users to their content. It can be addressed by FTC and DOJ creating special rules for such conglomerates, such as prohibiting promotion of their own content to their users. FTC and DOJ shall also address the domination by the Big Tech, which was achieved and is being maintained through illegal means.
It’s necessary to remind some Silicon Valley dwellers that we use the internet; we don’t worship it. American internet access laws and regulations must be in accordance with the Constitution and should benefit the United States and her people.
This is how Ryan Holiday describes the appearance of serious newspapers that replaced the yellow press. The serious newspapers dominated the media landscape in the U.S. over most of the 20th century. Of course, the formerly serious newspapers are back to the fake news / yellow press business model now.
THE MODERN STABLE PRESS (BY SUBSCRIPTION) … Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, ushered in the next iteration of news. … He understood that people bought the yellow papers because they were cheap— and they didn’t have any other options. He felt that if they had a choice, they’d pick something better. He intended to be that option. … But subscription did set forth new conditions in which the newspaper and the newspaperman had incentives more closely aligned with the needs of their readers. The end of that [yellow] wave of journalism meant that papers were sold to readers by subscriptions, and all the ills of yellow journalism have swift repercussions in a subscription model: Readers who are misled unsubscribe; errors must be corrected in the following day’s issue. A subscription model— whether it’s music or news— offers necessary subsidies to the nuance that is lacking in the kind of stories that flourish in one-off distribution. Opposing views can now be included. Uncertainty can be acknowledged. Humanity can be allowed. Since articles don’t have to spread on their own, but rather as part of the unit (the whole newspaper or album or collection), publishers do not need to exploit valence to drive single-use buyers. With Ochs’s move, reputation began to matter more than notoriety. Reporters started social clubs, where they critiqued one another’s work. Some began talk of unionizing. Mainly they began to see journalism as a profession, and from this they developed rules and codes of conduct. The professionalization of journalism meant applying new ideas to how stories were found, written, and presented. For the first time, it created a sense of obligation, not just to the paper and circulation, but also to the audience. … In fact, the press has imitated the principles he built into the New York Times since he took it over. They [readers] buy the paper they trust— the same goes for what radio stations they listen to and television news they watch. This is the subscription model, the brand model, invented by Ochs, internalized. It is selling on subscription and not by the story. – Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator (pp. 94-95). Kindle Edition.
Thus, it’s not surprising that the yellow press supports mandatory net neutrality, which bans the only viable subscription model in which the user pays the publisher for delivered content. Ryan Holiday is an avowed liberal, so I am tempted to quote his highly recommended book on another subject (links are inserted by me):
Media historian W. J. Campbell once identified the distinguishing markers of yellow journalism as follows:
- Prominent headlines that screamed excitement about ultimately unimportant news
- Lavish use of pictures (often of little relevance)
- Impostors, frauds, and faked interviews
- Color comics and a big, thick Sunday supplement
- Ostentatious support for the underdog causes
- Use of anonymous sources
- Prominent coverage of high society and events
Sounds familiar? How about the following:
Most of what the liberal media does is outright hoaxing. We’ve gone from a world where journalists are biased to a world where journalists fabricate stories, as Sabrina Erdely and Rolling Stone did. (p. 264)
Today, with almost every major media outlet opening their platform up to self-interested contributors, when all the protections against conflicts of interest or even basic factual inaccuracies have disappeared, the vast majority of the information we find in the media is biased or manipulated. (p. 233)
Outrage is big business. (p. 295)