Net Neutrality: Back to the future

Explore the bills, court cases, and disagreements that led up to today.

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Communications Act of 1934
  • A statute that regulates all aspects of the communications and broadcasting industries in the U.S. including telephone, television, and radio communications.
  • Creates the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the overseer and regulator to these industries.
Telecommunications Act of 1996
  • First significant telecommunications law since the passing of the Communications Act of 1934.
  • Its main purpose was to stimulate competition in the telecommunications markets by allowing free entry into the industry and allow businesses to compete in any market.
Communications Decency Act (CDA)
  • Included as Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
  • This was the first attempt by the U.S. Congress to regulate indecency and obscenity on the internet.
  • The Act's anti-indecency provisions were struck down in 1997 following Reno v. ACLU.
Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA)
  • The CPPA expanded the definition of child pornography by adding two categories of restricted media, effectively banning "virtual child pornography".
  • In 2002 the Supreme Court struck down the CPPA.
Reno vs. American Civil Liberties Union
  • In this Supreme Court case, two provisions of the Communications Decency Act that criminalized providing minors with obscene materials were called into question.
  • Final Ruling: All nine Justices ruled that the two provisions of the Communications Decency Act were unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment.
  • The ruling became the first major Supreme Court ruling on how materials distributed over the Internet are regulated
Child Online Protection Act (COPA)
  • Lawmakers second attempt at criminalizing and regulating internet pornography and was a direct response to the Reno vs. ACLU case.
  • It prevents minors from accessing content on the internet that are considered harmful to them.
  • Limits commercial speech & exclusively affects U.S. providers
Internet Tax Freedom Act
  • The bill prohibits federal, state, and local governments from taxing internet access and from imposing discriminatory internet only taxes.
  • The Act is still in effect, with its most recent extension expiring in December 2014.
Dgital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA)
  • Divided into 5 titles, DCMA is a copyright law that implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties
  • It amends Title 17 of the U.S. code by stating that websites are not liable for copyright infringement of their users
Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA)
  • Part of Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, this act shields online service providers from liability because of their users' copyright infringement as long as providers comply with Title II requirements.
  • OCILLA is sometimes referred to as the "Safe Harbor" provision of the DMCA.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • Describes the responsibilities website operators who collect, use, or disclose personal information about children, have in protecting the privacy and safety of children under 13 online.
  • The goal of COPPA was to give parents control over what information is being collected on their children online.
  • Several companies including Xanga, Hershey Foods, and Bonzi Software have been fined for COPPA violations.
Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
  • Requires K-12 schools and libraries receiving federal funding to adopt and implement a children internet safety policy, preventing minors from accessing inappropriate content online.
  • One of the required measures they need to implement are Internet filters
U.S. vs. Microsoft Corp.
  • In this antitrust law case, the main question was whether Microsoft had manipulated its application programming interfaces to favor Internet Explorer over third party web browsers and becoming a possible monopoly.
  • On November 2, 2001, the Department of Justice agreed to settle the case with Microsoft.
  • In the terms of the settlement, Microsoft was required to share its APIs with third-party companies and appoint a 3 person panel. This panel will have full access to Microsoft's systems, records, and source code for 5 years.
Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition
  • Lawsuit against two provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act
  • Final Ruling: The court annulled the two provisions in question, stating that they are unconstitutional and violates a person's right to engage in lawful speech
Ashcroft vs American Civil Liberties Union
  • Case questioned the effectiveness of COPA in protecting children from harmful online content and that it would infringe on the rights of adults to receive non-pornographic or harmful messages
  • Final Ruling: A permanent injunction was placed blocking COPA enforcement, ruling that using community standards would be more harmful and that the law was unconstitutional
  • Effectively made COPA obsolete
FCC Brand X decision
  • In a Declaratory Ruling, FCC concludes that cable modem services are an information service and not a cable service.
  • FCC determines that cable modem services are not subject to common carrier regulations because they don't have a separate telecommunication service.
Net Neutrality is Conceived
  • Columbia Law professor Tim Wu coins the phrase "net neutrality" in a law review article
FCC fines ISP for blocking VoIP
  • North Carolina telecommunications company, Madison River Communication, is accused of intentionally blocking voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls
  • In a settlement, Madison River agrees to refrain from blocking VoIP calls for 30 months and to pay a $15,000 fine to the government
  • FCC's first attempt at enforcing net neutrality policies
National Cable & Telecommunications Association vs. Brand X Internet Services et al.
  • Supreme Court upholds FCC's decision to classify cable Internet providers as information services and not telecommunication services
  • Competing internet service providers (ISPs) such as Brand X are denied access to cable and phone lines
  • Cable Internet acess is left unregulated by the FCC
FCC issues a pro-net neutrality statement
  • FCC makes an Internet Policy Statement guaranteeing consumers the freedom to use their Internet connections as they please
  • Statement outlines 4 principles to promote and preserve an open and free Internet for consumers
FCC reclassifies DSL
  • FCC decides to reclassify DSL broadband service as information services instead of telecommunication services
  • Phone companies are exempt from common carrier rules that require them to share their infrastructure with Internet service providers
Internet and Universal Service Act of 2006
  • Requires the FCC to provide incentives to telecommunication carriers for investments in telecommunication infrastructures
  • Amends the Telecommunication Act of 1996
Consumer's Choice and Broadband Deployment Act
  • Bill proposes an "Internet Consumer Bill of Rights", requiring all ISPs to adhere to the bill of rights
  • Consists of nine principles such as consumers are allowed to access and post any lawful content they want and to connect any legal device to the network as they please
  • Allowed the FCC to place fines on violators who would interfere with consumers' internal activities
Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)
  • It requires schools, libraries, and select few businesses to block children from accessing social networking sites.
  • If adults or children under adult supervision need to use these sites, the institutions are required to disable the restrictions for educational purposes
  • Deemed controversial and as such failed to pass
Comcast interferes with Bittorrent speeds
  • Comcast is accused of intentionally blocking and delaying upload speeds for Bittorrent users via Comcast's network
Comcast Complaint
  • Public Knowledge openly accuses Comcast of degrading certain types of traffic including BitTorrent, in violation of net neutrality principles, and asks the FCC to investigate.
FCC Finally Takes Action
  • In response to the Comcast complaint, FCC decides to take action, scrutinizing Comcast's network management practices
OFAC's Website Blacklist
  • The Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) publishes a blacklist of websites that U.S. companies are prohibited from associating with and are required to freeze their assets
Comcast Issued A Cease-and-desist Order
  • With a 3-2 vote, FCC gives Comcast a cease-and-desist order, requiring them to stop interferring with Bittorent's upload speeds and to continuously disclose how traffic will be managed to subscribers
  • This marks the first time that a broadband provider has been found guilty of violating net neutrality rules.
  • Historically, this marks the FCC's second attempt at enforcing net neutrality policies
Comcast Corp. vs. FCC
  • Comcast files an appeal, challenging the FCC's cease-and-desist order, in D.C.'s District Court of Appeals
Comcast wins case against FCC
  • In the Comcast Corp. vs. FCC case, the D.C. Court found that the FCC had provided no valid justification to regulate Comcast's network management practices.
  • It also questioned whether the FCC had any authority under the Communications Act of 1934 to regulate ISPs or enforce net neutrality rules.
Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010
  • This gives the President of the United States the power to shut off the internet if it poses a threat to the country.
  • Main goal of the bill was to enhance security online and prevent any attacks that may disable industries and disrupt economies.
  • It creates an Office of Cyberspace Policy and a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications
Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act (COICA)
  • A proposed amendment to Chapter 113 of Title 18 of the U.S. code.
  • This act allows the U.S. Attorney General to use the U.S. district court to bring a court action against an infringing domain name and order it to stop.
  • The bill however was never enacted in 2010, requiring it to be resubmitted and eventually rewritten to become Protect IP Act.
Open Internet Rules
  • In an attempt to regulate and curb ISPs, FCC created the Open Internet Rules
  • The Rules enforced transparency of ISPs' network management and operations, prohibited ISPs from interferring with users' access to online content, and maintained an equal and fair Internet by preventing ISPs from picking favorites
Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act
  • Similar to Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act but takes a different approach
  • One of the things the bill does is it creates a National Office for Cyberspace, which will be the principal office in charge of dealing with all cyberspace issues, and a Federal Cybersecurity Practice Board, responsible for developing and updating online security policies and procedures
AT&T & T-Mobile Merger
  • AT&T announces an intent to purchase T-Mobile USA.
  • In response, the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to block the takeover, eventually leading to AT&T abandoning the deal on December 19, 2011
Protect Intellectual Property Act (Protect IP or PIPA)
  • A rewrite of the COICA, PIPA gives the U.S. government and copyright holders access to more tools to limit use of rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods especially websites outside of the U.S.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
  • A House of Representatives version of Protect IP (PIPA)
  • Allows the Department of Justice to obtain court orders against websites accused of engaging in copyright infringement.
  • Prohibits search engines, ISPs, payment facilitators and online advertising networks from associating and doing business with these websites.
Verizon Communications Inc. vs. FCC
  • Verizon requests an appeal, challenging FCC's Open Internet Rules, stating that the agency had no authority to use the rules to regulate ISPs
  • Case is argued on September 9, 2013
Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act (CISPA)
  • It gives the U.S. government more options and resources to enhance security of networks against attacks
  • Goal: to help the U.S. govt. investigate cyber threats and ensure that the network is equipped with sufficient security against cyberattacks
Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act)
  • An alternative to SOPA and PIPA
  • The act seeks to stop money transfers to foreign websites whose primary purpose is to engage in piracy and counterfeiting, thus protecting legitimate online businesses, social media, websites and internet innovation.
AT&T's Open Internet Complaint
  • Public interest groups issue an intent to file an Open Internet Complaint against AT&T to the FCC
  • The complaint resulted when AT&T began to block FaceTime on its network unless subscribers sign up for AT&T's new family share plan
FaceTime Unblocked
  • After tremendous public backlash, AT&T agrees to stop blocking FaceTime for limited data users
  • Unlimited data users however don't get this privilege
Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act
  • It would amend the Internet Tax Freedom Act by making the ban on state and local governments from taxing Internet access permanent
The Death of Net Neutrality
  • On this day, a DC circuit court ruled in the Verizon Communications Inc. vs. FCC case that the FCC had no authority to enforce network neutrality rules against Verizon and other broadband providers since they are not identified as common carriers under the law.
  • Effectively eliminated the only existing rules protecting net neutrality
Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014
  • Restores the rules adopted by the FCC for preserving open internet & broadband industry practices
Comcast Time Warner Cable Merger
  • Comcast offers $45.2 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable.
  • The FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division are currently reviewing the merger.
Internet Freedom Act
  • It prohibits the FCC from reissuing regulations or issuing new regulations that would preserve an open internet and net neutrality
New Tentative Net Neutrality Rules
  • FCC releases its new net neutrality proposal
  • Important topics in the proposal: the allowance of Internet fast and slow lanes and reclassification for Title II of the Communications Act
Amendment to Communications Act of 1934
  • The amendment prevents the FCC from placing broadband ISP back under Title II of the Communications Act and from classifying ISPs as common carriers
Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2014
  • The proposed act will require the FCC to prohibit paid prioritizations agreements between broadband and content providers
  • It will also ban the FCC from creating internet fast and slow lanes
Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA)
  • It allows the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S government and technology and manufacturing companies
  • Bill's goal: to help the U.S. government discover cyber threats and to make sure that the network is secure enough against a cyberattack
Open Internet Act of 2014
  • Introduced by Rep. Scott Peters, the act permits the FCC to adopt the Open Internet Rules in order to preserve an open internet
  • Requires FCC to restore portions of the Open Internet Rules that were rejected by the judge in the Verizon vs. FCC case
Internet Slowdown Day
  • On this day, numerous websites joined forces to promote net neutrality and a fair and equal Internet by displaying the symbolic loading symbol
Hybrid Approach to Net Neutrality
  • FCC is considering a plan that would separate broadband into two services, one as retail and another for back-end.
  • Back-end services will be classified as common carriers.
  • Quoting the WSJ, "The FCC offers a middle-ground take on net neutrality. And everyone hates it."