Historical Context for the Imminent Demise of Network Neutrality

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote 3-2 along party lines to obliterate the regulations that preserve the principle of network neutrality in the United States. Many have written more eloquently than I can on the policy implications; some excellent examples reside here, here, and here.

But the spectacularly misnamed “Restoring Internet Freedom” Order represents much more than a big wet kiss to internet service providers, giving them carte blanche to engage in data-discrimination dependent on content-creators’ – and your – ability to pay to send and receive. It functionally removes the FCC from having any role to play in making sure that ISPs don’t balkanize the online world to extract maximum revenue, pushing that responsibility into the lap of the Federal Trade Commission – though one Commissioner has already gone on record saying the FTC doesn’t have the legal authority or technical expertise to handle it.

As added bonuses, the Order also preempts any and all state laws that might seek to preserve the principle of network neutrality going forward, and allows ISPs to play fast and loose with the disclosures they must make regarding what you actually get when you pay for broadband service. Read More

Early-Internet Pirate Radio Sites Resurrected

Those of us who predate the Internet remember GeoCities with some fondness. It was one of the first portals on the World Wide Web to allow you to build your own web page. The business model was pretty simple: give folks some space and rudimentary tools to put content online and sell ads around it.

Launched in 1994, GeoCities became a vibrant space where people shared their passions and knowledge; this is how we did it before there were blogs and social networks. By 1999, it was the third most popular destination online, and Yahoo! scarfed it up during the first dot-com bubble for a whopping $3.6 billion. Ultimately, blogs and social networks eclipsed GeoCities, and its plug was pulled (everywhere but Japan) in 2009. Read More