Monday, January 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Why you should care about net neutrality

Imagine that your Internet service provider hampered your access to legal websites or blocked them altogether — for profit or for no reason at all. Say, for instance, that your broadband provider disabled Google because another search engine paid for exclusive rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has made this world possible by limiting the Federal Communications Commission's authority to keep the Internet open for unfettered exchange of information. A ruling last week says the Internet is not a utility under federal law, so the FCC can't enforce the important principle of "net neutrality."

Now it is up to the FCC with a possible assist from Congress to answer back. The agency should redefine broadband providers as what they are — utilities that provide a pipeline for information — and bar them from picking winners and losers in the free flow of information. If the courts decide the FCC doesn't have that power, then Congress should act.

Net neutrality is a simple concept. Broadband providers should treat all legal information on the Web equally. The ISP owns the pipeline, but it should not pick favorites and control what flows through it.

Verizon had challenged the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order, which codified net neutrality. Although the court seems to value net neutrality, it sided with Verizon, largely because the FCC classified broadband years ago as an "information service," which can't be so tightly regulated, rather than as a telecommunications service, which is subject to closer oversight. Broadband providers who have spent billions building their high-speed networks have argued that they have the right to manage them as they see fit. Verizon says it believes in net neutrality, but it is now under no legal obligation to honor it.

In reality, most Internet providers face little competition, though many residents of the Tampa Bay area are lucky to have a choice. Without competition, Internet users have to accept the terms their provider offers. If a provider lets Hulu or Amazon Prime pay for faster or even exclusive movie service, you would be out of luck if you wanted to watch Netflix. Or what if a broadband provider denied access to a political site it just didn't like?

Remember MySpace? What if it had cut a deal with broadband providers to be the exclusive social network when Facebook was just starting up? It would be a very different world today. Giving companies with deep pockets the ability to game the system for their own benefit is bad policy and would let them squeeze both consumers and small, innovative startups.

The stakes are high, because the Internet is the main conduit for information in today's high-tech world. But it's really quite simple: Broadband providers should control only the pipeline. It should be up to consumers to decide what flows through it.

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Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18