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Dear FCC: We See Through Your Plan to Roll Back Real Net Neutrality


Pretty much everyone says they are in favor of net neutrality–the idea that service providers shouldn’t engage in data discrimination, but should instead remain neutral in how they treat the content that flows over their networks. But actions speak louder than words, and today’s action by the FCC speaks volumes. After weeks of hand-waving and an aggressive misinformation campaign by major telecom companies, the FCC has taken the first concrete step toward dismantling the net neutrality protections it adopted two years ago.

Specifically, the FCC is proposing a rule that would reclassify broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that this move would protect users, but all it would really do is protect Comcast and other big ISPs by destroying the legal foundation for net neutrality rules. Once that happened, it would only be a matter of time before your ISP had more power than ever to shape the Internet.

Here’s why: Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service” that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider; or it can be an “information service,” like cable television, that curates and selects what subscribers will get. “Telecommunications services” are subject to nondiscrimination requirements–like net neutrality rules. “Information services” are not.

For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to apply net neutrality rules to broadband providers, the courts struck them down. Essentially, the D.C. Circuit court explained that the FCC can’t exempt broadband from nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: if we wanted meaningful open Internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband as a telecom service. Reclassification also just made sense: broadband networks are supposed to deliver information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an Internet uprising to persuade the FCC to reclassify. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015 the FCC reclassified broadband as a telecom service. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, its net neutrality rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

Given this history, there’s no disguising what the new FCC majority is up to. If it puts broadband back in the “info service” category and then tries to appease critics by adopting meaningful net neutrality rules, we’ll be in the same position we were three years ago: Comcast will take the FCC to court–and Comcast will win. It’s simple: you can’t reclassify and keep meaningful net neutrality rules. Reclassification means giving ISPs a free pass for data discrimination.

Chairman Pai’s claim that this move is good for users because it will spur investment in broadband infrastructure is a cynical one at best. Infrastructure investment has gone up since the 2015 Order, ISP profits are growing exponentially, and innovation and expression are flourishing.

At the same time, too many Americans have only one choice for high speed broadband. There are good reasons to worry about FCC overreach regulation in many contexts, but the fact is the U.S. broadband market is now excessively concentrated and lacks real choice, and there are few real options to prevent ISPs from abusing their power. In this environment, repealing the simple, light-touch rules of the road we just won would give ISPs free reign to use their position as Internet gatekeepers to funnel customers to their own content, thereby distorting the open playing field the Internet typically provides, or charge fees for better access to subscribers. Powerful incumbent tech companies will be able to buy their way into the fast lane, but new ones won’t.  Nor will activists, churches, libraries, hospitals, schools or local governments.

We can’t let that happen. So, Team Internet, we need you to step up once again and tell the FCC that it works for the American people, not Comcast, Verizon, or AT&T.  Go to dearfcc.org and tell the FCC not to undermine real net neutrality protections.

Contact the FCC Now



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/dear-fcc-we-see-through-your-plan-roll-back-real-net-neutrality

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The FCC Needs to Cut Through The Noise and Listen to The Public’s Support for Net Neutrality


The Federal Communications Commission’s vote tomorrow will be a step towards undermining the rules that protect Internet users from data discrimination by their ISPs. These net neutrality rules, though not perfect, have broad support from the public. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems to be preparing to dismiss and ignore the wishes of ordinary Internet users by forcing us to use a broken and discredited online comment filing system.

It’s been a sad few weeks for the FCC’s IT department. Following Last Week Tonight host John Oliver’s segment on net neutrality, in which the comedian called on viewers to defend net neutrality protections by filing comments, the FCC’s comment system was disabled. The agency’s Chief Information Officer claimed that the system had been targeted in a distributed denial-of-service attack, bombarding it with traffic and making it difficult to file comments. But despite requests from the public and members of Congress, the FCC hasn’t given any details about the supposed attack or why it concluded that the system was attacked at all, rather than simply being overwhelmed by the number of comments it received.

Following that initial problem, the FCC’s site reportedly received more than 58,000 nearly identical comments containing names and addresses that appeared to be taken from a marketing database. These comments, which seemed to be fraudulent, supported Chairman Pai’s gutting of net neutrality. To date, the FCC hasn’t said what it’s doing to safeguard its comment system and make it ready to handle the thousands, even millions, of public comments it’s likely to receive after tomorrow’s formal vote.

What’s so important about maintaining ECFS and actually hearing the opinions expressed by ordinary Internet users there? Taking comments from the public is not merely a tradition – it’s a key safeguard for democracy. Independent agencies like the FCC have vast rule-making powers. In many areas, they have more practical power over our lives than Congress does, because Congress doesn’t have the capacity or expertise to create the detailed rules that govern telecommunications and other industries.

Unlike Congress, independent agencies aren’t elected by the people—they’re run by boards that are filled by presidents and congressional leaders. They can’t be voted out of office (except indirectly as their members are replaced by future presidents). Because they’re not held accountable through the political process, agencies are required by law to accept and consider public comments before making major changes to the rules. If the FCC responds to attacks on its public comment system not by defending the system, but by discounting and ignoring public opinion expressed through that system, then the agency is answerable to no one. (In theory, Congress could step in and pass new laws concerning net neutrality, but meaningful action by Congress is unlikely this year).

Digital democracy is not easy. The FCC can’t just count comments for and against net neutrality as though they were ballots in a ballot box. But neither can Chairman Pai ignore the opinions of Internet users in the U.S., the majority of whom want to keep being protected against data discrimination by ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. Letting those users be blocked, drowned out by bots, or ignored when they express their opinions on net neutrality is no way to begin.

You can submit comments to the FCC through EFF’s commenting tool at dearfcc.org. We will work to get your comments through and make your voice heard in Washington.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/fcc-needs-cut-through-noise-and-listen-publics-support-net-neutrality

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The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a plan to eliminate net neutrality and privacy for broadband subscribers. Of course, those protections are tremendously popular, so Chairman Pai and his allies have been forced to pay lip service to preserving them in “some form.”  How do we know it’s just lip service? Because the plan Pai is pushing will destroy the legal foundation for net neutrality. That’s right: if Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. And if he’s read the case law, he knows it.

Let’s break it down.

The FCC’s Proposal Makes It Impossible to Enforce Core Net Neutrality Requirements

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service,” like telephone service, that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider, or it can be an “information service,” like cable television or the old Prodigy service, that curates and selects what content channels will be available to subscribers. The 1996 law provided that “telecommunications services” are governed by “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934, which includes nondiscrimination requirements. “Information services” are not subject to Title II’s requirements.

Under current law, the FCC can put either label on broadband Internet service – but that choice has consequences. For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to impose even a weak version of net neutrality protections the courts struck them down. Essentially, the D.C. Circuit court explained [PDF] that it would be inconsistent for the FCC to exempt broadband from Title II’s nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: if it wanted meaningful open Internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband service under Title II. It was also clear to neutral observers that reclassification just made sense. Broadband looks a lot more like a “telecommunications service” than an “information service.” It entails delivering information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an Internet uprising to persuade the FCC that reclassification made practical and legal sense. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015, at the end of a lengthy rulemaking process, the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and issued net neutrality rules on that basis. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, those rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

But now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to reverse that decision and put broadband back under the regime for “information services” – the same regime that we already know won’t support real net neutrality rules. Abandoning Title II means the end of meaningful, enforceable net neutrality protections, paving the way for companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable to slice up your Internet experience into favored, disfavored, and “premium” content.

Title II Is Not Overly Burdensome, Thanks to Forbearance

While we are on the subject of the legal basis for net neutrality, let’s talk about the rest of Title II. Net neutrality opponents complain that Title II involves a host of regulations that don’t make sense for the Internet. This is a red herring. The FCC has used a process called “forbearance” – binding limits on its power to use parts of Title II – to ensure that Title II is applied narrowly and as needed to address harms to net neutrality and privacy. So when critics of the FCC’s decision to reclassify tell horror stories about the potential excesses of Title II, keep in mind that those stories are typically based on powers that the FCC has expressly disavowed, like the ability to set prices for service.

What is more, Title II offers more regulatory limits than the alternative of treating broadband as an information service, at least when it comes to net neutrality. Where Title II grants specific, clear, and bounded powers that can protect net neutrality, theories that do not rely on Title II have to infer powers that aren’t clearly granted to the FCC. As proponents of limited regulation, these theories concern us. The proper way to protect neutrality is not to expand FCC discretion by stretching the general provisions of the Telecommunications Act (an approach already rejected in court), but to use a limited subset of the clear authorities laid out in Title II.

The FTC Cannot Adequately Protect the Privacy of Internet Subscribers

Reclassifying broadband as an information service not subject to Title II also creates yet another mess for subscriber privacy. The FCC crafted good rules for Internet privacy, but Congress just rejected them. But it left in place the FCC’s underlying authority to protect privacy under Title II, which leaves privacy in limbo. Abandoning Title II for broadband altogether would mean that the FCC no longer has much of a role to play in protecting broadband privacy – and it’s not clear who will fill the gap.

Some have looked to the FTC to take up the mantle, but just last year AT&T persuaded a federal appeals court that, as a company that also owned a telephone business, the FTC had no power over any aspect of AT&T. That precedent covers the entire west coast and leaves millions of Americans without recourse for privacy violations by their Internet service provider. And there’s no doubt that AT&T and others will try to extend that precedent across the country.

Even without this precedent, the FTC’s enforcement authority here targets deceptive trade practices. The agency will only take action if a company promises one thing and delivers another.  If the legalese in a company’s privacy policy explains how it is free to use and sell your private information, and it follows that policy, the FTC can’t help you.

Tell the FCC to Keep Title II and Not Undermine Net Neutrality

The FCC is now accepting comments on its plan. Make yourself heard via DearFCC.org.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/why-losing-title-ii-means-losing-net-neutrality-and-privacy

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Launching DearFCC: The Best Way to Submit Comments to the FCC about Net Neutrality


John Oliver wants you to contact the FCC about net neutrality. Our new tool makes it easy to contact the FCC and helps you craft unique comments with just a few clicks.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made a dangerous proposal to destroy the FCC’s net neutrality rules—the very same rules that keep Internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from choosing which websites you can and can’t access and how fast those websites will load. But before he can enact this terrible plan, he has to make the proposal publicly available and accept comments from regular people about how it would affect them. That’s where you come in. 

Today, we’re launching a new tool that will help you craft a unique comment to the FCC: DearFCC.org. Using custom-generated text, we help Internet users develop and submit personal comments to the official docket with just two clicks.

We launched a similar tool in 2014 to help users have a voice, and over a million people used DearFCC to speak out. Now we need your help to defend that victory. 

Net neutrality—the right to access all Internet content freely without your Internet provider slowing down or even blocking content at its whim—is fundamental to our democracy. As communities across the United States fight to speak out on contentious political issues, the citizenry needs to know that government-subsidized monopolies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon aren’t dictating which website we can access. The clear, light-touch rules enacted by the FCC in 2015 are the Internet’s best hope for ensuring we have a free and open Internet.

Let’s send Chairman Pai a message: this is our Internet and we’ll fight to protect it.

Contact the FCC Now 

 



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/launching-dearfcc-best-way-submit-comments-fcc-about-net-neutrality

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FCC Announces Plan to Abandon Net Neutrality and ISP Privacy


Today, the chairman of the FCC announced his desire to abandon the agency’s net neutrality protections – which  protect online competition, free speech, and privacy from interference by Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T – by undermining the legal authority behind those protections.

Rolling back the FCC’s Open Internet Order would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection to shape your Internet experience and the market for services and devices that rely on that Internet connection. Since most Americans have only one option for broadband service, ISPs would have unchecked power to extract tolls from you and from businesses that wish to reach you. While the big incumbents like Facebook and Netflix might be able to pay those tolls, the next Facebook or Netflix would have a very hard time competing. Investors hesitate to fund startups that can be held for ransom by someone like an ISP. And the situation is even more dire for nonprofits like schools, libraries, educational sites, and political groups.

Chairman Pai suggests these fears are unfounded, but we’ve seen ISPs use every method at their disposal to favor their own content over competitors, going up to and even over the lines drawn by the previous FCC. This is particularly concerning given that at least one major ISP, Verizon, ran a news service that banned content regarding mass surveillance and net neutrality itself as contrary to the company’s interests. In Canada, an ISP blocked access to a site being used by a labor union to organize against it. A decade of misguided FCC policymaking unfortunately helped create the dysfunctional ISP market; the Open Internet Order is our best hope for preventing ISPs from abusing their power to become private gatekeepers on speech.

Today’s announcement cleverly pretends that the current “bright-line rules,” which clearly prohibit blocking and throttling, might survive. The law says otherwise. If Chairman Pai follows through on his intention to “reclassify” broadband service, it would be legally impossible for the FCC to enforce any such rules.  How do we know this? Because the DC Circuit said so.

The same is true for privacy. Pai suggested that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce privacy requirements, but this is an empty promise for two reasons. First, the FTC can only intervene if an ISP breaks a privacy promise, and ISP lawyers are very good at avoiding enforceable promises. Second, a federal appeals court has held that a company can’t be the subject of FTC action if any part of its offerings is a “common carrier,” like telephone service. So if your ISP also offers telephone service, the FTC can’t touch it. That’s the law right now on the west coast and it’s a regime that telecoms doubtless will continue to promote elsewhere.

In short, Pai’s proposal leaves Internet users and small businesses completely at the mercy of ISPs. No one in the government would be able to step in to prevent abusive blocking and throttling of Internet content, pay-to-play fast lanes, or privacy violations by ISPs.

That in turn will be devastating for competition, innovation, and free speech. The harms of ISP discrimination and market failure were well-documented in the months-long rulemaking and millions of comments that urged the FCC to protect net neutrality in 2015. The new FCC seems determined to ignore the evidence and the wishes of the vast majority of the public, in order to advance the desires of some powerful ISPs.

The Internet has won this fight before, and we can win it again. The best way you can help now is to tell Congress to stop the FCC from throwing Internet users and innovators to the wolves. If you have a startup, you can also join a letter from over 800 small businesses from all fifty states in supporting net neutrality.

Take ActionTell Congress: Don’t Surrender the Internet.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/fcc-announces-plan-abandon-net-neutrality-and-isp-privacy

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EFF and Allies Write to Congress: FCC Chairman Pai's Network Neutrality Plan Unworkable


EFF and a coalition of other groups wrote a letter to Congress today detailing the failings of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s reported—but undisclosed—network neutrality plan and requesting that lawmakers hold hearings over any FCC plans for the Internet.

So far, media outlets have reported that Chairman Pai intends to surrender the legal authority the FCC holds over cable and telephone companies. All the FCC apparently wants in exchange is empty promises from the industry to not end Internet freedom while relying on the Federal Trade Commission to protect users. Our letter to Congress details why that plan, as reported, will fail to protect an open Internet and how placing all of their eggs in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) basket invites the industry to game the system and avoiding any meaningful accountability.

Here is why the plan fails:

1) The FTC lacks rulemaking power and therefore can not create open Internet rules much like the Open Internet Order.

2) A recent circuit court ruling has vastly limited the FTC’s ability to oversee the activities of telephone companies due to their status as common carriers, granting the telecoms a powerful loophole from any federal enforcement actions. In essence, FCC Chairman Pai’s plan could allow AT&T, Verizon, and any local telephone company in the states of Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington to exempt their broadband business from any federal consumer protections.

3) The undisclosed plan appears to rely on cable and telephone companies publishing written pledges to do no harm to the open Internet so the FTC could hold them accountable, but nothing in the law will require those companies to keep those promises. They are more than free to change their pledges to reshape the Internet, charge higher prices, and invade consumer privacy.

In short, Americans are being asked to substitute the rule of law that guarantee an open Internet for promises that do not have to be kept. Tomorrow the FCC Chairman is scheduled to deliver a speech regarding his vision for the future of the Internet. We will find out if Chairman Pai intends to continue down the path of surrendering the Internet to Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T or if he will reverse course.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/eff-and-allies-write-congress-fcc-chairman-pais-network-neutrality-plan-unworkable

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The FCC Wants to Eliminate Net Neutrality Protections. We Can't Let That Happen.


In 2015, following years of dedicated activism – including individual actions by millions of Internet users – Team Internet scored a crucial victory: clear, enforceable protections for net neutrality. The new head of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) wants to take away those protections and allow broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T to become permanent Internet gatekeepers. The good news is we can stop him. We need to tell Congress: Don’t let the FCC surrender the Internet!

Take ActionTell Congress: Don’t Surrender the Internet.

According to several news reports, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning to gut the FCC’s Open Internet Order, eliminating hard-fought net neutrality protections. What do we get instead? ISPs have to promise, cross their hearts and hope to die, to include certain net neutrality “principles” in their terms of service.  The ISPs will doubtless jump at the chance, because they know what we know: artfully drafted pledges and promises don’t mean much when there’s no firm legal obligation to back them up.

In theory, of course, there is a way to enforce terms of service commitments. Pai’s plan would rely on the Federal Trade Commission to go after service providers that violate their promises, on the theory that any such violation would be an unfair and deceptive business practice. But as The Verge’s Nilay Patel, and former FCC Counselor Gigi Sohn point out, companies change their terms of service all the time, and as yet we haven’t heard of anything in Pai’s plan that would stop them from doing so. Moreover, it’s not clear that all ISPs would have to make those promises. And, while the FCC’s current rules are proactive, the FTC would be limited to bringing enforcement actions after the harm has already occurred – and there’s only so many actions it can bring. Moreover, there’s no reason to expect that the FTC – or most subscribers – will have the expertise needed to figure out when service providers are breaking their promises. Finally, in at least some states, the FTC can’t actually bring enforcement actions against many ISPs, thanks to a 2016 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As Sohn explains, “Another name for the Pai Plan might be “Just Trust Us.” Hardly a comforting thought in a market where ISPs face little competition and serve as the sole gatekeeper to the [I]nternet.”

Pai is expected to announce his plan as early as tomorrow, and if so, the FCC could vote on the plan at the Commission’s May 18th open meeting.

But Pai can’t reverse the will of millions of Internet users without giving us a chance to weigh in – directly and through our representatives. The FCC’s net neutrality rules are crucial for the Internet – they help make sure that ISPs run their networks in ways that are fair to users and innovators alike. Without those protections, ISPs can abuse their position as gatekeepers to the broader Internet to further cement their monopolies, hurting Internet users, content providers, nonprofits and small businesses in the process. We don’t need to look back very far to see the kind of harmful practices ISPs can get up to without effective oversight. We can’t let the FCC trade the desperately-needed rules of road we fought so hard to put in place for empty promises. It’s time to tell Congress: Don’t let the FCC surrender the Internet!

Take ActionTell Congress: Don’t Surrender the Internet.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/fcc-wants-eliminate-net-neutrality-protections-we-cant-let-happen

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Tell FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai: Startups Depend on Net Neutrality


Startups, entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, and incubators are signing onto a letter urging Trump’s FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai not to undermine the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

The letter affirms the need for net neutrality rules to protect entrepreneurs and innovators, and responds to recent reports that Pai plans to roll back the Commission’s net neutrality rules, replacing them with empty promises from broadband providers:

Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new fees on us, inhibiting consumer choice. Those actions directly impede an entrepreneur’s ability to “start a business, immediately reach a worldwide customer base, and disrupt an entire industry.” Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers.

Fortunately, in 2015 the Federal Communications Commission put in place light touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. We are concerned by reports that you would replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.

It’s not too late to add your voice to theirs. Engine Advocacy, Y Combinator, and Techstars are calling for members of the startup community to sign on to the letter by 5pm ET on April 28th.

 

 

 

 



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/tell-fcc-commissioner-ajit-pai-startups-depend-net-neutrality

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Dissent Made Meaningful


Over the last year, large numbers of Americans have grown politically active for the first time. Reflecting the depth of our constitutional crisis, however, many seem not to know how to meaningfully raise their voices or participate in the political process.

Civic Participation Beyond Elections

Turnout in American elections has remained abysmally low for decades, suggesting some degree of either apathy, suppression, or both. Even Americans who do vote often overlook a litany of further opportunities available to those who pursue them.

One source of guidance to many nascent activists has been the Indivisible guide, which emphasizes constituent communications to Members of Congress. It was compiled by congressional staffers whose suggestions aim to replicate the direct engagement of Congress successfully promoted by Tea Party networks that have shared EFF’s transpartisan concerns about, for instance, mass surveillance and the threat it poses to democracy.

To their credit, the Indivisible guide’s authors acknowledge that their guide “is not a panacea, and it is not intended to stand alone.” While important, letters from individual constituents are most effective when combined with other strategies.

How to Make a Letter Matter

Contacting an elected member of Congress represents an important act of political expression. Even when taking the time to write letters, however, individual constituents can be disregarded, or engaged in passing without commanding attention. Many who do gain the attention of their elected representatives’ offices receive only a form response. 

Letters can, however, carry influence, particularly when they include:

  1. An explicit request or demand for a particular vote on a specific piece of proposed legislation,
  2. A request for a meeting in person, and
  3. Support from at least three (and ideally half a dozen to a dozen) neighbors who co-sign the letter, identify themselves as constituents living in that office’s legislative district, and attend the meeting together.

Are you part of a community group that gathers to examine the issues and write letters together? Letter writing events can become infinitely more influential when participants simply sign each other’s letters, so that they reflect—and are received as indicating—dissent not just by an individual, but rather by an organized group of constituents.

To expand its reach, a grassroots group can easily direct letters not only at its Member of the House of Representatives, but also two U.S. senators, as well as members of the state legislature. It takes only five people writing one letter each to meaningfully raise a shared concern across those layers of federal and state representation. 

Groups of more than five can also reach elected officials at the municipal and the county level, where policy opportunities are most fluid and potentially transformative.

Dissent in Public

Even letters written on behalf of groups remain generally private communications. Escalating pressure on elected representatives requires taking one’s concerns to the public sphere.

One way to express public dissent is to write and submit an op-ed for publication in a local newspaper. Concise, persuasive, forceful writing of 700 words or fewer can often interest editors seeking commentary to share with a broad audience. Whether or not an op-ed submission is published by a newspaper, social media or outlets like Medium.com can offer an alternative platform for publication. Finally, groups of constituents can sometimes meet a newspaper’s editorial board to educate editors who write their own columns.

Beyond press–based public dissent are any number of event–based alternatives, from expressive events like rallies, marches, and protests, to educational ones like teach ins, public discussions, or debates. Even seemingly recreational events like concerts or parties can prompt a public discourse if organized to emphasize substantive themes.

Finally, creative visual stunts, like flash mobs, light brigades, and banner drops—especially when amplified through social media—can offer groups with relatively few participants the chance to reach large audiences.

Events educating a public audience can shift the ground beneath an elected official and ultimately offer more influence than requests or demands made directly to their offices. 

Opportunities

Training is available for any of these tactics through the Electronic Frontier Alliance, a network of local grassroots groups across the U.S. that remotely convenes each month. Any network of neighbors who share concerns about digital rights is welcome to explore and apply to join the EFA.

The Alliance offers groups that join access to EFF supporters in their own areas, other grassroots organizers elsewhere, and EFF staff available to provide policy or organizing guidance on request (including a sample letter seeking a meeting with a congressional office). Materials are currently under development offering detailed guidance on various campaign models, from hosting digital security workshops, to seeking legal restrictions on mass surveillance by local police. 

Throughout the year, Congress takes occasional recesses, when lawmakers return to their states and districts. During these periods, congressional delegations are most accessible to constituents—and more vulnerable to their criticism. The Senate and House calendars include information about in-district work periods, one of which concludes this week.

During this week’s recess, we urge concerned readers to: 

  1. Voice your concerns about Congress’ recent decision to side with corporate ISPs over their users and your privacy,
  2. Explain your support for net neutrality and encourage opposition to potential proposals that would further limit the FCC’s jurisdiction, and
  3. Share your reasons for wanting transparency, oversight, and meaningful limits on NSA mass surveillance.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/dissent-made-meaningful

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Hollow Privacy Promises from Major Internet Service Providers


It’s no surprise that Americans were unhappy to lose online privacy protections earlier this month. Across party lines, voters overwhelmingly oppose the measure to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules for Internet providers that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law.

But it should come as a surprise that Republicans—including the Republican leaders of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission—are ardently defending the move and dismissing the tens of thousands who spoke up and told policymakers that they want protections against privacy invasions by their Internet providers.

Since the measure was signed into law, Internet providers and the Republicans who helped them accomplish this lobbying feat have decried the “hysteria,” “hyperbole,” and “hyperventilating” of constituents who want to be protected from the likes of Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. Instead they’ve claimed that the repeal doesn’t change the online privacy landscape and that we should feel confident that Internet providers remain committed to protecting their customers’ privacy because they told us they would despite the law.

We’ve repeatedly debunked the tired talking points of the cable and telephone lobby: There is a unique, intimate relationship and power imbalance between Internet providers and their customers. The FTC likely cannot currently police Internet providers (unless Congress steps in, which the White House said it isn’t pushing for at this time). Congress’ repeal of the FCC’s privacy rules does throw the FCC’s authority over Internet providers into doubt. The now-repealed rules—which were set to go into effect later this year—were a valuable expansion and necessary codification of existing privacy rights granted under the law. Internet providers have already shown us the creepy things they’re willing to do to increase their profits.

The massive backlash shows that consumers saw through those industry talking points, even if Republicans in Congress and the White House fell for them.

Now that policymakers have effectively handed off online privacy enforcement to the Internet providers themselves, advocates for the repeal are pointing to the Internet providers’ privacy policies.

“Internet service providers have never planned to sell your individual browsing history to third parties,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen wrote in a recent op-ed. “That’s simply not how online advertising works. And doing so would violate ISPs’ privacy promises.”

Aside from pushing back on oversimplification of the problem at hand, we should be asking: What exactly are the “privacy promises” that ISPs are making to their customers?

In blog posts and public statements since the rules were repealed, the major Internet providers and the trade groups that represent them have all pledged to continue protecting customers’ sensitive data and not to sell customers’ individual Internet browsing records.  But how they go about defining those terms and utilizing our private information is still going to leave people upset. These statements should also be read with the understanding that existing law already allows the collection of individual browsing history.

Comcast said it won’t sell individual browsing histories and it won’t share customers’ “sensitive information (such as banking, children’s, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent.” It also said it will offer an opt-out “if a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads.” We think leaving browsing history out of the list of information Comcast considers sensitive was no accident. In other words, we don’t think Comcast considers your browsing history sensitive, and will only offer you an opt-out of using your browsing history to send you targeted ads. There’s no mention of any opt-out of any other sharing of your browsing history, such as on an aggregated basis with third parties. While we applaud Comcast’s clever use of language to make it seem like they’re protecting their customers’ privacy, reading between the lines shows that Comcast is giving itself leeway to do the opposite.

Verizon similarly pledged not to sell customers’ “personal web browsing history” (emphasis ours) and described its advertising programs that give advertisers access to customers based on aggregated and de-identified information about what customers do online. By our reading, this means Verizon still plans to collect your browsing history and store it—they just won’t sell it individually.

AT&T pointed to its privacy policies, which carve out specific protections for “personal information … such as your name, address, phone number and e-mail address” but explicitly state that it does deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified.” So just like Verizon, we think this means AT&T is collecting your browsing history and storing it—they’re just not attaching your name to it and selling it to third parties on an individualized basis.

In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA—which represents the major wireless ISPs—argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information’” and said that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

The common thread here is that Internet providers don’t consider records about what you do online to be worthy of the heightened privacy protections they afford to things like your social security number. Internet providers think that our web browsing histories are theirs to profit off of—not ours to protect as we see fit. And because Congress changed the law, they are now free to change their minds about the promises they make without the same legal ramifications.

These “privacy promises” are in no way a replacement for robust privacy protections enforced by a federal agency. If Internet providers want to get serious about proving their commitment to their customers’ privacy in the absence of federal rules, they should pledge not to collect or sell or share or otherwise use information about the websites we visit and the apps we use, except for what they need to collect and share in order to provide the service their customers are actually paying for: Internet access.

That would be a real privacy promise.



Source link: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/04/major-internet-service-providers-privacy-promises-ring-hollow