Net Neutrality

The Obama Administration's Net Neutrality Proposal Could Change the Internet Forever—but the FCC is Keeping it Secret

The FCC wants to regulate the Internet as a utility, but won't release its full plan.


On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a major new proposal to regulate the Internet as utility, and, in doing so, institute restrictive net neutrality rules on every major component of the Internet. Given the Obama administration's unusual and aggressive effort to push the FCC chief into putting forth the proposal, it's better thought of as the White House's net neutrality proposal. 

The proposal is extraordinary in many ways: According to an op-ed by Wheeler and other accounts, it would not only reclassify wired broadband service as a Title II utility, like the phone system, it would also apply to wireless data. In addition, it would give the FCC new authority over the Internet's backend—the middleman services that transfer data between Internet service providers (ISPs). It would pave the way for new taxes to be applied to Internet service.

It would, in other words, be a fundamental break from the sort of relatively light federal regulation that has defined the Internet since its inception, and it represents a blatantly political reversal on the part of Chairman Wheeler, a technically independent agency head who plainly caved to White House pressure.

But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the proposal, which is 332 pages long, is that it is being kept secret from the public—and it will remain secret until after a vote later this month in which it is likely to pass on a 3-2 basis, with Wheeler and the FCC's two Democratically appointed commissioners outvoting the two Republican-appointed commissioners.

The following picture, tweeted by one of those Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai, earlier today, is about as close as most Americans will get to the proposal before the vote:

Ajit Pai/Twitter

The commissioners can see the plan before they cast their votes. But the rest of us can't. Lobbyists will likely be able to discover key details affecting their clients, and some details will leak out in the press. But the full text of the plan won't be made public at all before the vote.

The proposal is arguably the biggest development in how the government regulates the Internet in almost two decades. As Pai writes in a statement based on an initial look at the plan, "It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works. It's an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world."

And yet the public won't get to see it until after it passes.

This isn't the first time the FCC has kept a major net neutrality plan secret. In 2010, under Chairman Genachowski, an earlier White House-backed net neutrality proposal, later voided in court, was kept secret until passage.

It doesn't exactly inspire a lot of faith in these proposals that they are kept under lock and key until passage. And it speaks to the dubious motives of both the administration and Wheeler that they would rather pass these proposals in secret than make them public and expose them to direct criticism and open debate. The path to what Wheeler calls an "open Internet" isn't itself very open.

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  1. …it’s better thought of as the Obama administration’s Internet.

    I dub thee Obamanet.

    1. I have to admit, his Pimp Hand is strong.

      1. Please. This can’ possibly be from President Obama. Don-cha-no his is he most transparent administration in history? Sez so onna label!

    2. I dub thee Obamanet.

      It’s like Skynet, except the avatar isn’t Helena Bonham Carter, it’s a guy with dumbo ears and no fucking idea what he’s doing.

      1. Oh, he knows what he’s doing.

        1. And it’s fair to say that he believes his actions are ‘good’. Yet clearly he has no fucking clue what is good.

  2. it’s better thought of as the Obama administration’s Internet.

    I think you meant “the Obama [A]dministration’s proposal” (or Internet regulations.) Not quite at the point of “the Obama Administration’s Internet” yet.

  3. We have to pass it so we can find out what’s in it.

    1. Speaking of that, could a future congress and president potentially amend the law to reverse this classification? I’m not that familiar with the precise way the Communications Act empowers the FCC.

      1. Yes. Absolutely. There is nothing constitutionally barring congress or a president via XO from reversing anything an unelected group of bureaucrats working for a regulatory agency have done by fiat.

        In fact, the only thing that’s unconstitutional is the existence of the agency itself.

      2. Could, yes. But won’t, because why the fuck would they? This doesn’t affect them, only the proles.

      3. I’m not sure with how anyone finds it acceptable that such a monumental economic and social change could be legitimately decided by 5 bureaucrats.

        1. It’s scary how much of the business of legislating has been offloaded by congress to executive departments. This is one case of a million.

          1. Congress is half of one cunt hair from being a purely rubber stamp institution.

        2. It’s worse than that. Only three democrat political appointees are needed to fundamentally change the Internet.

    2. Do you know what else we have to pass so we can find out what’s in it?

  4. This isn’t the first time the FCC has kept a major net neutrality plan secret. In 2010, under Chairman Genachowski, an earlier White House-backed net neutrality proposal, later voided in court, was kept secret until passage.

    If this is what passes for a healthy, functioning democracy, I don’t want any of it.

    I think I’m done. Time to hand the reins over to the so-called “tech savvy” millennials.

    1. Time to hand the reins over to the so-called “tech savvy” millennials.

      Nearly all of whom support net neutrality. Because hey, if Comcast sucks, just imagine how much better the federal government will be!

      1. Nearly all of whom support net neutrality

        And they’re going to get it good and hard. Let me preemptively say “fuck you sideways, you delusional idiots” to all the supporters who will undoubtedly blame the unintended consequences on the free market.

        1. I cannot wait for the complaints that the ‘evil billionaire telecom companies’ aren’t spending enough to help the billionaire streaming companies compete directly with them on their network.

    2. Time to hand the reins over to the so-called “tech savvy” millennials.

      Millennials are not tech savvy; they are tech dependent.

  5. And if the plan were made public people would…

    1. With a working estimate of the length and diameter of the stick being shoved up one’s ass, one can at least adequately prepare.

      1. The People seem to prefer it dry and tight.

    2. Object to it. You don’t get democracy, do you?

      1. No I think I do. #Obamanet would become a trending topic on Twitter until TMZ revealed that the Right Shark was gay. Is that about right?

          1. omfg!1! I just realized you and I had a total #NetNeutral exchange!

            Yay #Obamanet

  6. THIS is what makes people head to the gulch.

    I’m saddened more and more every day. I feel out of step with the population, but obviously correct at the same time.

    1. It’s a dubious honor to be the only sane and rational person within 50 miles of where ever you are.

  7. The free market will overcome. They may well kill the internet as we know it and give rise to a new set of protocols outside of their control. It’s less ideal that arbitrary force will drive the next innovations as opposed to free interaction and capital accumulation among men, and it’s certainly a tremendous waste of resources and ingenuity to drive innovation that way. But this is statism.

    1. it would be interesting to see, historically, how much progress came in this form.

      How much avoiding the state’s rules and regulations have led to innovations that make our lives better.

      I smell a book that reason could promote on HUNDREDS of posts.

        1. Uber

      1. As I understand it, Commodore Vanderbilt got rich flouting a monopoly on ferryboats between NJ and NYC. He offered better service at lower prices, too.

  8. I for one hope that they add a tax based on the amount of bandwidth a user consumes. That way I could at least take some comfort in watching the idiots who are pushing this get royally fucked.

    1. We’re all getting the government Millennials deserve.

      1. T’is true you don’t get the government you deserve. You get the government that all the assholes around you deserve. But such is he essence of statism.

    2. fuck you. i would end up paying out the ass and I don’t want any of this shit.

      1. Me too. I just want some company in my misery and the fucks who are pushing this are just trying to keep from having to pay for their own consumption habits.

        My prediction is that bandwidth taxes will become the new cigarette taxes. The pols will be able to raise them at will and sneer at us addicts and say “what are you gonna do, watch less streaming videos?”

        1. I suspect data compression and VPNs will make several leaps ahead in an effort to skirt the injustices inflicted by the government.

          1. I just want to plug in like johnny nemonic.

          2. Along with wireless mesh networks.

  9. You know, I’m getting tired of this. How about Congress acting preemptively to end any hint of FCC jurisdiction over such things?

    1. And disempower a regulatory agency? There are unintended consequences to doing that.

      1. yes, but I’ll take liberty if it’s intended or not.

    2. Yep, watch them leap into action to limit Executive authority.

      1. Not with Jeb Bush a shoo-in for ’16.

        1. Uh yeah. Partisanship is the reason they won’t act. Keep telling yourself that.

          1. Partisans for power.

      2. Just for that, Hugh, I’m writing a poignant, yet stinging letter to my members of Congress. Not the senators and representatives themselves, just their members.

    3. Don’t expect an answer from my sentor’s office.

      Franken loves him some NN.

      WASHINGTON ? On the day the head of the Federal Communications Commission confirmed he would make the strongest possible moves to preserve federal open Internet rules, Sen. Al Franken repeated what he has said throughout the debate over net neutrality: “This is the First Amendment issue of our time.”

      This time, he added: “This is a very good day.”…..ce-utility

    4. “How about Congress acting preemptively”

      They have, a bill in congress is already making its rounds….Obama’s Veto hangs over it.

  10. What problem is NN addressing again? It’s such a rampant, dangerous problem that I’ve never even noticed it.

    1. The fact that you’re stuck with a Monopoly of only two or three carriers in any given municipality.

      1. NN doesn’t even remotely address that, since that’s largely a local gov issue (even though most of the NN retards seem to think it does). The ostensible potential problem it seeks to solve is a “tiered” internet, where network operators are able to prioritize content or charge based on consumption.

        Retards seem to think this means no more bandwidth throttling and unlimited gigabit porn downloads with no data caps, but what it really means is we all get to ride on the lowest possible tier since there is no marginal profit on higher service levels or new infrastructure.

        1. I know that, you know that, but these whippersnappers who were born tweeting their #birthphotos don’t know that, because we’ve always had high def streaming of on-demand video. Always.

          Anything before that is just referred to as the BT (Before Twitter) era.

          I’ve tried to explain to the supporters of FCC regulation that the BT era was very recent, actually. And only a few years ago we were tapping out emails on PINE on a VT100 terminal at 1200 baud.

          1. At this point I should probably confess that I was 11 or 12 years old when my dad got us hooked up to 128kbps DSL in the late 90’s, and I haven’t been without an always-on data connection since. My earliest experiences with the internet were on a 28.8 v.34 modem in a machine running Windows 95. I did come of age before the social media craze was in full bloom though. And actually spent a little time in those early years learning at least some basics about how networks operate.

            1. My first home telecommunications device related to a computer was a 300 baud modem connected to what were called BBSs running an early email system called FidoNet.

              FidoNet was a system of non-connected systems that were organized into a kind of hub-and-spoke system. Every night, at a particular late hour, these systems would begin to call each other on 300 baud modems and transfer mail to one another based on final destination. You could get an “e-mail” to someone across the country in a couple of days.

              During that time I worked for a Defense contractor and I had an early “internet account” with an @-based address. It was accessed via serial port on a DEC VT 100 terminal.

              Year: 1989.

              This was when U.S. media outlets were touting the superior Mini-Tel system in France, and wondering why our government wouldn’t roll out such an advanced technology. As you can see, nothing has changed.

              1. When I was growing up, our network consisted of two cans connected by a string.

                AND WE HAD BETTER GAMES ON IT, TOO!!!

      2. I think you need to look up monopoly in the dictionary

        1. It is not I that needs to look it up.

      3. “a Monopoly of only two or three carriers”

        A biopoly/trioploy?


    2. The fears of people that they won’t be able to force grandma who checks her e-mail once a day to subsidize their 4k video streaming and torrenting.

    3. The goal here, if you haven’t been paying attention, is to introduce the same innovation into the internet that exists on the bakelite phone on your grandmother’s wall.

      1. I’ve read that bakelite phones are harder to tap so there is an anti-surveillance angle there.

        1. I still have one of these:


          And also one of these:


          1. Do rotary phones still work?

            I read somewhere that that phone companies were removing support for them.

            I have one stored somewhere in a box in my closet. I would use it but i have not had a land line in nearly a decade.

            So fun dialing that way. You could remember phone numbers just by the feel and time it takes for the rotary to spool and the sounds it made….you know for back when you actually had to remember phone numbers.

    4. The problem is that we have 21st Century technology – so we need to regulate it like a 19th Century railroad.

    5. This is the left engaging in the same kind of boogeyman/fear mongering that they accuse the right of.

      They constantly harp on the concept of ISPs filtering, throttling, failing to improve their networks to support, etc., based on CONTENT alone.

      No ISP has ever tried or talked about trying to discriminate against content.

      It is, and always was, an issue of bandwidth and/or traffic used.

      Heavy content generators were deliberately seeking cheaper transit providers that knowingly abused peers.

      The ISPs solutions to these obvious
      abuses of the “free, open internet” were one of the following:
      -demand that the entity generating all the traffic buy transit directly from them
      -allow paid and/or free links to reach their paid capacity and then congest (impacts all traffic from that peer)
      -Call company out for violating free peer agreement and demand payment for the connection and/or the traffic that goes over the 50/50 ratio.

      All of these have been complained about as if the ISPs were attacking Netflix and other streaming providers, when in reality they were enforcing the long standing priincples of peering as well as applying passive pressure to the other ISP to stop abusing them.

    6. Delusional idiots claim that ISPs invest nothing in infrastructure. Which is not only not even remotely close to true, but also when they do they’re often hamstrung by local laws.

      Somebody the other day was spewing that nonsense. It turned out I was actually a former employee of his ISP, and when I told him he had no idea what he was talking about he got all pissy and told me that I’m not working for them, I don’t have to toe the company line anymore.

      Evidence and reality are immaterial, they’re convinced that a free lunch will be legislated.

      1. “Delusional idiots claim that ISPs invest nothing in infrastructure”

        Millenials do not remember dial up nor how recently it existed as the only way to get on the internet.

        It is like if 20 years ago you got 5 drips of water each day from the water company then over time it has grown to naigra falls in every home.

        “Not fast enough!!! We need to regulate the water company!!”

        1. If it is not clear i think the law of diminishing returns is part of the problem.

          I mean if you have niagara falls running through your house could you even tell if the amount doubled to two niagara falls running through your house?

  11. So I guess MiniTel it is!

    1. We’ll always have Minitel Rose.

      1. See my post above. American media was in love with Minitel in the late 80s and wondered why we couldn’t regulate ourselves into such an advanced technology, like France’s forward-thinking government did.

  12. The irony is that the people who advocate this claim to be defending “how the internet has always been”, in terms of packet prioritization.

    But in order to force ISPs to adhere to Net neutrality rules, they are advocating a RADICAL MASSIVE change in how it’s always been regulated. The internet has NEVER been subjected to the heavy regulation of a utility. They aren’t keeping the internet the way it’s always been they are actually radically changing the legal underpinnings with completely unforseeable consequences.

    1. The irony is that the people who advocate this claim to be defending “how the internet has always been”, in terms of packet prioritization.

      Which is further proof that they’re not tech-savvy.

      For example, the original idea with SMTP email was that all SMTP servers were to be open allowing anonymous access. They were equated to blue mailboxes on streetcorners. You could drop your letter into any SMTP server and it would be delivered. It was the key to an open internet, and a requirement to being a good “netizen”.

      Fast-forward 20 years and introduce the scourge of SPAM, now having an open SMTP server gets you blacklisted faster than you can say “Hillary in 16!”.

  13. The good news is, the next administration can always change it’s status BACK to information service.

    I wouldn’t be at all shocked if this got held up in courts for two years and the next president quietly kills it.

    1. I’m not holding my breath on that.

      A grownup, running things? Bah.

    2. The good news is, the next administration can always change it’s status BACK to information service.

      The bad news is that government never gives up control of anything it has taken over.

      The power you give the government to do unto others will be used to do unto you.

  14. TechFreedom ?@TechFreedom 2h2 hours ago
    .@GigiBSohnFCC When Wheeler talks about ‘flexibility,’ is he talking about flexibility for innovators ? or just regulators? #NetNeutrality

    malkia a. cyril
    @TechFreedom @GigiBSohnFCC That’s a weird question. Almost every start up in the nations supports strong #NetNeutrality rules.

    That’s some weapons grade delusion.

    1. Many do, because they think net neutrality means they will have access to the same data pipe that Amazon has now. Because that’s totally how it works.

      1. When they don’t get what they want and things are more expensive, I wonder if they’ll want more regulation to fix it.

        1. Of course, because that will be proof of a market failure.

  15. This will do to the internet what Obamacare did to the health insurance industry.

    Essentially crash the provision of internet service, which will be followed by calls for one level of government or another to take over the actual provision of service similar to how some cities/counties handle water, electricity, etc. I don’t have to tell this group why this will be bad.

    ISPs will revisit their settlement free peering policy and begin more rigidly enforcing the provisions in their existing agreements. End result? Fewer Settlement Free Peering (SFP) arrangements, more paid peering. This means the cost of accessing the internet goes up-either to the end users, or to some end users via the service they’re seeking out.

    1. If companies are forced to maintain existing SFP agreements, we can count on companies abusing this. All it takes is a few companies to sell cheap transit to heavy traffic generators, then overload their peer links to “eyeball” providers (ISPs primarily/heavily serving end users).

      These end providers then have to either sit by and allow the links to congest which becomes a passive form of throttling, which will undoubtedly be complained about as a violation of net neuatrality. Alternatively, they have to pay to upgrade the connection and will pass that cost to all users. This will mean that all users of the ISP pay for the above average traffic needs of a smaller segment. It also means that the traffic generating companies will have their business model subsidized by all users of ISPs.

      It won’t be much of a surprise to see some ISPs float out proposals and small scale experiments with metered plans.

      When ISPs begin complaining about the peering problem I’ve described above, we can count on “net neutrality” supporters offering the alternative of ISPs housing caching or distribution servers within their network. When ISPs demand money to house another company’s equipment in their network, we’ll see talk about how it should be free, how the price should be regulated, etc. followed by every two-bit company trying to get a cache/distribution server installed in ISPs’ datacenters for free.

      Very little good will come from this in ANY timeframe.

      1. These end providers then have to either sit by and allow the links to congest which becomes a passive form of throttling, which will undoubtedly be complained about as a violation of net neuatrality

        This. It will be referred to as a “Market failure” requiring further regulation. Thank Crom we got the early jump with Obamanet.

    2. This will do to the internet what Obamacare did to the health insurance industry.

      It will make them richer?…..llies.html

      1. Of course it will make them richer.

        *stares at Holgar, wondering whether or not he’ll “get it”*

  16. OT-60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft, 67, apologizes to ‘creeped-out’ colleagues after lurid texts he sent to lawyer lover, 41, during three year affair are revealed

    Throughout their affair, the two exchanged a series of racy text messages, including one in which he told her he ‘would rather be eating your pudding’ than be at work.

    ‘Don’t work too hard this week bc I wanna wear you out afterward,’ Goines reportedly replied.

    In another message, he told her: ‘Miss you and all that goes with it. Especially my favorite tastes and colors… pink and brown.’…..awyer.html

  17. It would, in other words, be a fundamental break from the sort of relatively light federal regulation that has defined the Internet since its inception…

    The changes would simply return to the rules that existed before 2002, when the FCC re-classified ISPs from common carriers to information service providers. They affect the delivery, not the content. Any claim that these rule changes constitute regulation of the Internet are ignorant or disingenuous.

    Readers on Reason appear to have forgotten (if they ever knew) that the only reason the farms and small towns of rural America got electricity and telephone service was because the government made the utilities and Ma Bell expand into those areas. Argue whether it’s right or wrong all you like, but consider what kind of society will result if the only criterion for action is profit.

    1. You dumb bastard.

    2. So the Tennessee valley has no internet or cell phone data coverage?

    3. The changes would simply return to the rules that existed before 2002, when the FCC re-classified ISPs from common carriers to information service providers.

      What a disingenuous shithead. They never were common carriers:

      Washington, D.C. – Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted another major rulemaking, part of a series of actions, designed to promote widespread deployment of broadband services. The FCC settled a debate over the regulatory classification of cable modem service and launched a proceeding to examine the proper regulatory treatment of this service.

      In a Declaratory Ruling adopted today, the FCC concluded that cable modem service is properly classified as an interstate information service and is therefore subject to FCC jurisdiction. The FCC determined that cable modem service is not a “cable service” as defined by the Communications Act. The FCC also said that cable modem service does not contain a separate “telecommunications service” offering and therefore is not subject to common carrier regulation.…..b0201.html

    4. Any claim that these rule changes constitute regulation of the Internet are ignorant or disingenuous.

      Since the FCC isn’t letting anyone see these proposed rules, you have no idea what the rules are.

      There’s your ignorance.

    5. The changes would simply return to the rules that existed before 2002

      If that was true Net_Neutralty.pdf would be available on

      Any claim that these rule changes constitute regulation of the Internet are ignorant or disingenuous.

      The document is 332 pages of government regulations. Regulate is what government does. Care to explain how the FCC needs 150,000+ words to not regulate the hell out of

    6. The kind of society where people who choose to move far away from society don’t get to then force that society to subsidize their choices.

      I can live with that.

      If city residents have to eat the costs or living in the city, rural residents should have to eat the costs of living far away from one.

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  19. so many secrets and executive privilege that Reagan would be proud. I cant tell that Bush even left office with the job the black bush is doing.

  20. This article inspired me to start a White House petition to make the FCC’s proposal on Net Neutrality public. Regardless of your position on the proposals (which is hard to take when it’s not public), there is no reason this proposal should not be public before the FCC votes on it. Whatever happened to candidate Obama’s promise of transparency?

    The petition is on the White House petitions site, We the
    People. Will you sign it?

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