Friday, November 17, 2017

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.


Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17