Before Net Neutrality, Internet Providers Consistently Abused Their Powers (Brief Timeline)
Since Chairman Ajit Pai’s taking over of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), many have argued that net neutrality is another “Obama era problem” and have turned the debate on open internet into a partisan issue. However, the former President and his FCC chairman were actually strongly pushed by the consumer rights groups for years before these rules were approved because the internet providers routinely abused their powers.
Here is a brief timeline (an updated version of the FP list) of only some of those violations that made it to the headlines at the time and helped net neutrality advocates make their argument in favor of the stricter control over internet providers and to classify the internet as a utility.
2005 – North Carolina ISP Madison River Communications blocked VoIP service Vonage.
2005 – Comcast blocked or severely delayed traffic using the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. (The company even had the guts to deny this for months until evidence was presented by the Associated Press.)
2007 – AT&T censored Pearl Jam because lead singer criticized President Bush.
2007 to 2009 – AT&T forced Apple to block Skype because it didn’t like the competition. At the time, the carrier had exclusive rights to sell the iPhone and even then the net neutrality advocates were pushing the government to protect online consumers, over 5 years before these rules were actually passed.
2009 – Google Voice app faced similar issues from ISPs, including AT&T on iPhone.
2010 – Windstream Communications, a DSL provider, started hijacking search results made using Google toolbar. It consistently redirected users to Windstream’s own search engine and results.
2011 – MetroPCS, one of the top-five wireless carriers at the time, announced plans to block streaming services over its 4G network from everyone except YouTube.
2011 to 2013 – AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon blocked Google Wallet in favor of Isis, a mobile payment system in which all three had shares. Verizon even asked Google to not include its payment app in its Nexus devices.
2012 – AT&T blocked FaceTime; again because the company didn’t like the competition.
2012 – Verizon started blocking people from using tethering apps on their phones that enabled consumers to avoid the company’s $20 tethering fee.
2014 – AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” scheme, offering content creators a way to buy their way around the data caps that AT&T imposes on its subscribers.
2014 – Netflix started paying Verizon and Comcast to “improve streaming service for consumers.”
2014 – T-Mobile was accused of using data caps to manipulate online competition.
In the absence of the current net neutrality rules, internet providers routinely used their powers to violate open internet principles, manipulate competition and even engage in censorship. As the American Civil Liberties Union has said the reversal “would be a devastating blow to the free and open internet we rely on for streaming videos, communicating with our networks – and yes, reading critical news stories about the state of our democracy”.
You can call your representatives and ask them to oppose Chairman Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality before this proposal is approved on December 14.