Federal Communications Commission

Photo Credit: John Pesina | Daily Texan Staff

Surfing the internet in the United States may become more expensive if a recent proposal to end net neutrality rules comes to fruition.

The Federal Communications Commission released a proposal last Tuesday to dismantle regulations ensuring equal access to the internet. If approved in December, the plan would allow broadband companies to fine, slow down and block customers’ access to selected websites.

The current net neutrality rules were pushed by former President Barack Obama administration and established in 2015. Prabhudev Konana, a professor in the Red McCombs School of Business, said these net neutrality rules prevent internet providers from controlling online traffic.

“You cannot prioritize, … block or target content regardless of where it comes from,” Konana said.

With the repeal of net neutrality, Verizon, which owns Yahoo, could push its customers to use Yahoo instead of Google for online searches, Konana said.

“Once it is removed, technically broadband providers can do whatever they want as long as they’re transparent,” Konana said.

The proposal to end net neutrality was created by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump. Pai first opened the net neutrality policy for review in May, establishing a period for public comments. Under his recent proposal, Pai continues pushing for the end of net neutrality.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

Critics of net neutrality, like Pai, claim its removal will push broadband companies to invest in internet infrastructure and promote competition. Konana said Pai’s plan could prompt more companies to invest in the long run, but it would take years.

In the short run, many Americans who currently live in areas with only one internet provider could be left without alternatives, Konana said. These customers’ online experience and surfing could be increasingly controlled by their internet provider.

“In the absence of competition, then the provider has all the power,” Konana said.

The broadband market is currently dominated by Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, according to Business Insider.

Without net neutrality, these broadband companies could charge online service companies such as Netflix to ensure better quality for their websites. But individual consumers and small business would be the most impacted, Konana said.

Since UT’s Resnet network provides internet for students on campus, Konana said UT students would probably not face upcharges while at UT. Still, UT students voiced concerns online, even changing the name of a Facebook group for UT memes to “UT Netmemes for Neutrality Supporting Teens.”

Advertising sophomore Haris Bhatti posted about net neutrality on the page because he worries broadband companies will infringe on people’s freedom.

“(An internet with) net neutrality is the only place where people have control, and companies don’t want that,” Bhatti said.

Radio-television-film senior Mitch Chaiet, an administrator of the Facebook group, said he thinks college students could be the most affected by a repeal of net neutrality.

“We were raised on the open internet,” Chaiet said. “Most people pushing for the repeal are older telecommunicators who don’t have an emotional attachment.”

The FCC will formally rule on Pai’s proposal on Dec. 14.

Photo Credit: John Pesina | Daily Texan Staff

Finally, the left and right wings can agree on something. 

Recent bipartisan and presidential support behind net neutrality, in addition to the FCC chairman's sudden announcement of full support Feb. 4, brought the U.S. several steps forward in the battle over the Internet, but stirred up controversy within the government and much debate online. While the discussion over what Internet service providers can and cannot do to users’ Internet access might not be on every student’s radar, net neutrality should be enforced to promote free speech and take strides toward equality.

For those who don’t know, net neutrality is the term used to describe a limit on companies’ control of what Internet users have complete access to. As of now, large ISPs like AT&T and Comcast can make access to certain sites faster or slower depending on their popularity and how much sites are willing to pay for a faster speed. This leaves smaller pages stuck with a slow connection when users attempt to gain access.

It may not seem like a pressing issue to all until the question of who actually benefits from this deal is examined. Large companies in opposition want to give the benefit of speed to those backed by money and leave behind those who may not have the ability to pay. That leaves everything from social justice blogs trying to make a change in the world to independent labels attempting to start up their career unable to reach those they aim to. When giving a voice to the voiceless or even attempting to stop injustice, paying extra for people to go to a site can be a burden.

Under Obama’s proposal, the Internet would have utility-style regulation under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. With regulations against paid speed prioritization, Internet conditions would improve as the FCC would have more legal control over the discriminatory actions of Internet companies. 

Section 202 of Title II prohibits any "discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service." 

This would prohibit ISPs from creating fast lanes, leveling the playing field for all sites, no matter their budget. This means any business or person, from startups to bloggers, can get their name out there with no trouble or restrictions from ISPs.

Opponents argue that net neutrality would be a step backward from the freedom Americans have gained over the years. In a point made by UT alumna Chelsea McCullough on the Texas Enterprise blog, she claims, “Title II means that apps like Instagram, your Kindle, anything that transmits Internet connectivity could be subject to an intense level of regulation, taking us back 80 years.” What really takes us back, though, is a situation wherein powerful people side with the rich, trivializing the customers' experience. 

Limited access to sites not backed by money causes a shortage in what individuals are exposed to, again meaning those using their First Amendment right to freedom of speech to call out wrongdoings or expose crooked corporations may not be heard — or heard after an unnecessarily slow buffering time.

Slowing small sites down if they can’t pay up could make a huge difference in income and job opportunity. Nowadays, most Americans access information and ideas online — circumstances different from when the Internet was originally created. With this shift in popularity, laws and regulations need to be modified in order to protect users and keep the Internet free and open. ISPs don’t have the right to control how much or what knowledge their consumers have access to. In order to win the fight for equality, ISPs shouldn’t be able to provide their services with bias.

Griffin is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow Griffin on Twitter @JazmynAlynn.

Net neutrality” is a contentious subject. The debate itself exists somewhere in the crosshairs of arduously written Federal Communications Commission regulations, fumbling politicians and the lack of popular understanding of “big data” — where it exists and who has the power to manipulate it. If your aim is to alienate Americans almost everywhere, sprinkle in some good old bipartisan hostility and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe. 

Yes, net neutrality is certainly complex to confront. But with both sides screaming “stifled innovation,” we must ask ourselves who the real winners and losers in this fierce debate are. What is the reality behind “net neutrality”?

The trouble is, the concept of net neutrality is a double-edged sword. Net neutrality, or the concept that internet service providers should treat all content equally, cannot be dismissed by the simple “big business versus big government” notion that exists in the standard debate. The current status quo is far more complex and so are the potential winners and losers. 

Internet service providers, the big guys such as Comcast and AT&T, can offer “fast lanes” to companies willing to cough up extra cash — offering prioritized service to content providers, freezing out the chance of competition from smaller start-ups, etc. For those of you who say this could never happen, think again. A little over a year ago, Comcast bullied Netflix into paying more for the data it used and slowed down the service speed for consumers until they complied. While this instance raises a host of different questions surrounding bandwidth and efficiency, the crux of the matter is that large providers have both the ability and the economic interest to treat content providers preferentially. 

The fact that broadband providers win big from this arrangement probably shocks almost no one. But the question here lies beyond the big guys, or our own hazy notions of online egalitarianism. What about investors and network infrastructure? Does the internet’s new FCC classification limit the incentive to expand?

Without the flow of extra cash from content giants, ISPs of the world might be hesitant to increase existing capacities for a surging demand. In fact, some venture capitalists contend that the longtime preferential status-quo is a necessary component of emerging internet business models. 

“Vertical integration of new features and services by broadband operators is an essential part of the innovation strategy companies will need to use to compete and offer customers the services they demand,” said Adam Theierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, in a 2004 article he wrote entitled “Net Neutrality: Digital Discrimination or Regulatory Gamesmanship in Cyberspace?” 

Leonid Bershidsky, a columnist at Bloomberg View, likens the “vertical integration” to Skype. The company, which provides free video-chats, was fought by telephone operators at every turn, and Skype was initially rejected by almost all mobile networks because its free service conflicted with traditional voice plans. 

“Skype eventually succeeded because it made deals with carriers, not because the government intervened on its behalf,” Bershidsky said. “It’s an example of [initially] disruptive startups and incumbents innovating successfully to the consumer’s benefit — perhaps because competition wasn’t disrupted by regulators in the name of “fairness’.”

Net neutrality is a lot of things, at its core. It is so many things, in fact, that trying to write about them all makes my brain hurt a little. But it’s not a partisan debate, despite what Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter feed might have you believe. And it’s not a scheme to limit innovation, because there are certainly content providers who stand to benefit from the arrangement. What it boils down to, essentially, is the idea of regulatory restraint. How much do we trust our government to enforce the organic concept of open internet?

Whether the FCC will approve the new regulations likely won’t be decided until later this year. And the “forbearance” they choose to implement can’t really be predicted yet. So like most other things in government, Americans everywhere will just have to do what we do best: cross our fingers, tweet our tweets and wait and see.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

John Doe is a successful engineering student in his final year of school. Armed with a 4.0 GPA, numerous academic awards and a long list of professional experience, Doe is primed to enter the job hunt. He has no shortage of suitors and receives an interview request from a top technology company. With his impressive resume and interview skills, Doe is virtually assured of securing his dream job. He goes through the motions of the application process but in the fine print he finds the phrase: “Please hand over your Facebook password so that we can inspect your profile.”

Say what?

The House recently voted down an amendment that would have banned employers from demanding access to Facebook accounts. This amendment was a part of a larger Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reform package, and its failure could be attributed to other factors, such as its vague language. For example, one clause gave the FCC the power “to adopt a rule or to amend an existing rule to protect online privacy.”

Granted, the amendment needs to be rewritten to ensure that people would not have to put blind faith in the FCC to do the right thing. However, the amendment should have still passed in its current form because of the magnitude of what was at stake. This failure shows a disconnect between lawmakers and the general public on the issue of privacy.

The phenomenon of requiring an applicant’s Facebook username and password as a part of the hiring process is a gross violation of an individual’s privacy. There is a fine line between a person’s private and professional lives. Many feel the need to separate the two, and employers have no right to forcibly obtain that information. In rough-and-tumble economic times, it is extremely unfair for employers to force applicants to choose between their privacy and getting a job.

Although it is important for applicants go through a background check, requiring Facebook passwords is a step too far.

This practice is akin to requiring applicants to hand over the keys to their house so that employers can make sure that everything is nice and tidy. While they are at it, why not let them also get the mail out of your mail box? Because both actions would be crimes.

Facebook’s own terms of use state that “you will not share your password ... let anyone else access your account or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account,” yet employers are now forcing some applicants to violate this agreement.

People ought to be outraged, as employers who engage in this practice seem to have lost their sense of what privacy means. Such blatant violations of individual privacy should be deemed illegal. Congress, however, does not feel the same way.

A decade ago, privacy meant that others could not intrude into a person’s private property or disseminate a person’s private information. With the explosion of social media, however, that definition, along with the laws that protect it, are no longer adequate. Facebook has played an active role in this redefinition process but has also perpetuated the loss of privacy. Facebook’s past insensitivities about user privacy have propelled sensitive personal information into the public domain. This new access to information has prompted employers to take the next step by getting to know everything about an applicant.

The practice of requiring Facebook passwords as a part of the job application process must end. Congress must take action to ban this practice and ensure that modern privacy is respected.

Shi is an electrical and computer engineering junior.

Bandwidth ownership will soon change hands from some television broadcasters to cellphone and wireless networks in order to sustain the expanding use of mobile devices.

The Federal Communications Commission has been authorized by Congress to auction public airwaves currently used by local television broadcasters to create wireless Internet systems and cellular networks. The auction would take place in one or two years, helping to provide bandwidth for tablets, smartphones and other data-dependent devices whose recent and explosive growth has lead to a data crunch — particularly in major cities.

“More and more people are using cellphones for more and more things,” said radio-television-film professor Joseph Straubhaar. “When you get so many people using smartphones, there’s a lot more burdens on the network and that leads to a lot of dropped calls and slower Internet access.”

Service providers are forced to choose between raising their service fees or accessing more bandwidth to maintain strained networks, and some believe the FCC is efficiently managing the country’s resources in order to keep costs low, Straubhaar said.

“Part of what the FCC has wanted all along is to take bandwidth in television broadcasting and convert it for different services,” Straubhaar said. “Since they’ve used it for so long, broadcasters feel like they had squatters rights to that spectrum. They tend to forget that it was public property and that it was always clear that the FCC was licensing out its usage.”

Ann Arnold, president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, said despite increasing demand for mobile data, the country relies on cable television and it would be hazardous to ignore its importance.

“There are 256 television stations in the state of Texas, and those stations are the lifelines of their communities,” Arnold said. “They provide information about public events, emergencies and Amber Alerts. It’s unclear how many of those stations would go off the air if their bandwidth is sold.”

The FCC currently maintains that bandwidth would only be auctioned if the station agreed to sell their spectrum. Since demand is highest in urban centers, Arnold said that the FCC could aggressively push city broadcasters to sell their airwaves.

“None of the broadcasters still profiting are going to agree to sell their spectrum,” Arnold said. “It’s possible that the less-profitable small spectrums in rural areas would sell, but the FCC isn’t interested in rural networks. They want metropolitan.”

Part of the spectrum opened up by the auction will be allotted to emergency services for networks providing information when others were unable to function. The city of Austin has not yet discussed this possibility, said Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesperson Candice Cooper.

Internet advertisers also see advantages in diverting more spectrum to wireless devices, said Colin Gilligan, account planning director at Austin marketing firm Tocquigny.

“Web searches on mobile phones increased four times from the beginning of 2010 to 2011,” Gilligan said. “With more market, there will be expanding opportunities for mobile and interactive ads and add formats that the new network will be able to handle.”

The providers of these ads, such as Google’s search engine, would benefit from increased coverage, Gilligan said.

“Google might be reaching out so that they benefit from the increased number of searches available with more spectrum,” Gilligan said. “More searches means more profit for Google.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: FCC set to auction off public airwaves

Floyd Brown and his daughter Olivia Brown pose for a photo Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in Anthem, Ariz. Borwn, pulled Olivia, a high school junior, from a local public school after she came home upset that one of her teachers was using profanity in the classroom and school administrators didn’t address his concerns. He now helps with her home schooling at his business.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PHOENIX — A teacher’s role may be to expand a student’s vocabulary, but one Arizona lawmaker wants to make sure that doesn’t include four-letter words.

A state legislator has introduced a bill that would punish public school teachers if they use words that violate the obscenity and profanity guidelines set forth by the FCC.

State Sen. Lori Klein introduced the measure because a parent in her district complained about a high school teacher using foul language.

The words were “totally inappropriate,” and teachers that don’t keep their language clean aren’t setting a good example for students, she said.

“You’re there to be educated,” Klein said. “You’re not there to talk smack.”

Critics say the bill is unnecessary and discipline should be handled by schools, not the Legislature.

Klein, a Republican from Anthem, made national headlines last fall when she pointed her gun at a reporter while demonstrating the weapon’s laser sight during an interview.

Klein’s proposal may be constitutional, but “not necessarily wise,” said James Weinstein, a Constitutional Law professor at Arizona State University

Weinstein said the FCC has made exceptions for offensive language based on context, and that could make things complicated.

“FCC standards aren’t exactly black and white,” said Anjali Abraham, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union.

A spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislators said the organization is not aware of any other state with a law similar to the Arizona proposal.

If the bill becomes law, a teacher whose speech or conduct violates FCC regulations would receive a warning, and after three incidents, the teacher would face a week of suspension without pay. A teacher would be fired after the fifth offense.

The proposal applies to K-12 teachers, and is limited to speech in a classroom setting.

Klein told the Senate committee Wednesday that she wished the issue could be left to school boards, but she didn’t feel they were protecting “young, impressionable kids” from offensive language.

Floyd Brown, the parent in Anthem who complained to Klein, knows better than most what kind of impression words can make.

Brown is a longtime Republican strategist who produced the infamous “Willie Horton” ad during the 1998 presidential campaign, which tied Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis to the release of a convicted murderer serving a life sentence.

Brown is also the founding chairman of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit led to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that barred the government from limiting corporation and labor union spending for political purposes.

Last year, Brown’s daughter Olivia came home from high school upset that a teacher was using the F-word in class. Brown brought the issue to school administrators, but they didn’t take him seriously, he said.

Brown said he pulled his daughter, then a sophomore, out of the school and she’s now being homeschooled.

“I’m not going to subject my daughter to that kind of environment,” Brown said

Brown said he took his complaint to Klein because he lives in her district.

A representative for the school district said the school received no complaints about staff using inappropriate language, which would violate the district’s professional conduct policy.

Most districts adopt professional conduct policies barring the use of profane language or actions by employees while at work, said Tracey Benson, a spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, which creates model policies for districts.

That policy should remain in the hands of school boards, superintendents and principals, said state Sen. David Schapira, a Tempe Democrat.

The state doesn’t need to change the law just because there was one incident that “may not have been handled the right way,” he said.

“I don’t remember this being a big problem when I taught high school,” Schapira said.

A Senate committee advanced the measure Wednesday morning by a vote of 5-2 along party lines, with Republicans in favor. The bill must pass through another committee before it goes before the full Senate.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, who voted against the bill, said administrators and school boards should be the ones to punish educators, not the Legislature.

“We’re really holding a big hammer over teachers,” Gallardo said.

Kelly Parrish, an English teacher at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, said she always keeps her conduct professional, but feels the restrictions could cause trouble. when the curriculum is not “G-rated,” she said. Words that the FCC would not allow on television or radio can come up while discussing literature, such as racial slurs in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she said.

“We’re supposed to be preparing them for the next level,” Parrish said. “If we just put them in a bubble and protect them, I don’t think we’re doing a good job at making them ready for real-life situations by sugar-coating everything.”

Radio stations and TV channels all over the country aired a nationwide Emergency Alert System test Wednesday to unify communication in the case of a national emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, organized a national emergency broadcast alert that would signal an undisclosed national emergency, said FEMA spokeswoman Stephanie Moffett.

“We are doing the test now to see what works, what doesn’t and what improvements need to be made,” Moffett said. “It’s been in the works for months, and we wanted to do this when there was a time to test things out before something happens — if something happens — to merit the use of the system.”

In case of a national emergency, messages will be aired on televisions and radio stations nationally just like the local alert systems people are familiar with now, Moffett said. The only difference is that this was the first nationwide test, and all radio stations and TV channels to participated, she said.

Ann Arnold, president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, said that the alert system is a useful diagnostic test for communicating with people across the nation.

“The EAS test is certainly still a viable mechanism for distributing information,” Arnold said.

A younger generation may be more interested in newer forms of technology, but broadcasting is the most reliable means of communication, Arnold said.

The Amber Alert test, which notifies people about child abduction through local and regional broadcast channels, exemplifies the effectiveness of using this medium, she said.

“Internet goes in and out, and cell phones don’t always have the best reception to receive text messages,” Arnold said. “Part of this is [also] testing the equipment and machinery of the system to make sure everything works in the case that we would need it to.”

FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said in a statement that FCC and FEMA are currently collecting data about the results.

“This initial test was the first time we have tested the reach and scope of this technology and what additional improvements that should be made to the system as we move forward,” Racusen said. “Only through comprehensively testing, analyzing and improving these technologies can we ensure an effective and reliable national emergency alert and warning system.”

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: National EAS test assesses effectiveness of alert system

The first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System will be conducted on Wednesday at 1 p.m. in an attempt to prepare the American public for future emergencies.

“It’s a part of larger efforts to strengthen our nation’s preparedness,” said Jackie Chandler, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman. “As a team, we’re testing this so that everybody will be prepared before, during and after disasters.”

After two years of preparing for this public alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission have joined together to provide a 30-second EAS test that will interrupt television and radio programming across the U.S.

“This is the first nationwide test. We’ve never had an actual emergency alert system test,” Chandler said. “It’s a little similar to the local or the state version, however this will involve radio and television stations including satellite cable in all U.S. state and territories.”

Through this test the FCC hopes to locate any flaws in this nationwide alert and to fix what is not working, said Lauren Kravetz, spokeswoman for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

The test is not something that the public should take great concern over, Chandler said.

“The most important thing right now is that we’re letting people know ‘don’t stress, it’s only a test,’” Chandler said.

Last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget took the first steps in keeping the Internet fair and open.

The office finally signed what is commonly known as the net neutrality rules. Net neutrality goes something like this: The Internet is an open medium and you connect to it via Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon.

Net neutrality is the notion that all websites are equal in terms of connection speed and quality and your ISPs are not allowed to discriminate against different kind of content online. For example, net neutrality ensures that a company such as AT&T cannot make your Gmail work more slowly than your Yahoo! Mail just because Yahoo! is an AT&T partner.

Net neutrality has been a hotly debated topic over the past couple of years, and the passage of the regulations will no doubt stoke the flames once again. And while these new guidelines are an important first step toward protecting net neutrality, they do not go far enough.

This ideal has created a level playing field for everyone on the web. Sites including The Daily Texan’s are able to compete with sites such as CNN because both have the same accessibility level. Certain telecommunication companies, however, want to disrupt this equilibrium by becoming gatekeepers of the Internet. They want the authority to decide which websites go fast, slow or won’t go at all. Essentially, these ISPs want to tax the Internet by creating a fast lane for their own web content and those of companies that pay them, while demoting everyone else to the slow lane.

The Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines offer a temporary sigh of relief, as they prohibit ISPs from blocking or impeding web content on their networks. These new rules focus those providing a fixed wire connection.

However, they do not apply to wireless providers, who can monitor various traffic speeds.

With the mass proliferation of smart phones and tablets, wireless devices are growing at a very fast rate and the FCC must expand its ruling to ensure that content accessed wirelessly are not regulated in any manner.

And don’t expect opponents of net neutrality to go away without a fight. The FCC ruling was passed three-to-two, entirely along party lines with the three Democratic commissioners for the new rules and the two Republican commissioners against them. Companies such as Verizon and Metro PCS are expected to challenge the legality of these soon-to-be laws with aid from lawmakers. These opponents argue that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate the Internet and that the new regulations will hurt consumers.

These arguments are flawed on many fronts. The FCC’s goal is to ensure that the Internet remains open and that companies should not be allowed to upset that balance.

While Republican lawmakers want to keep government out of regulating the Internet, passing the reins to companies and allowing their regulations to kick in would clearly hurt consumers. It would force us to partake in a pay-per-view version of the Internet as websites would have to charge a fee to stay on the fast lane.

Just imagine doing a research paper without the use of Google or Wikipedia because you cannot access or pay for them. Net neutrality protects students by providing us the freedom of choice. Because everything online is equal, we can freely choose between different avenues of entertainment or academic related activities. The loss of net neutrality would severely damage our ability to expand our knowledge.

Net neutrality ensures that innovation on the Internet can continue because the next big thing will be accessible by anyone, anywhere. Corporations won’t be able to simply push their way to a top spot on the web simply by paying large sums of money.

The beauty of a free-flowing Internet governed by net neutrality is that it empowers the individual. Anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to access huge troves of digital knowledge for personal uses.

Internet service providers’ jobs are to move data, not to filter it.


Shi is an electrical and computer engineering junior.