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January 14 2014

Verizon gewinnt in erster Instanz gegen FCC – Keine Netzneutralität mehr in den USA

Heute hat das Bezirksgericht Washington der Klage des amerikanischen Internetserviceproviders Verizon gegen die Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statt gegeben. Damit hat Netzneutralität in Amerika keine rechtliche Grundlage mehr.

2010 stellte die FCC drei Regeln zur Netzneutralität im sogenannten “Open Internet Order” auf. Darüber wurde fest gelegt, dass Internetprovider jederzeit transparent über ihre Verwaltung des Datenverkehrs informieren müssen, keine Inhalte blockieren und Datenpakete nicht “unangemessen” diskriminieren dürfen. Verständlicherweise (wir kennen das ja nur zu gut aus Deutschland) waren die ISPs nicht erfreut über diese Regelung und Verizon legte im Bezirksgericht Washington im September 2011 Klage gegen den FCC. Der Vorwurf: Die Regeln zur Netzneutralität festzulegen, befindet sich außerhalb des Kompetenzbereiches der FCC und stellt damit einen illegitimen Eingriff dar.

Nun hat das Gericht die “no blocking” und “no discrimination” Bestandteile des Open Internet Orders für nichtig erklärt. Ein Grund dafür ist der wackelige rechtliche Boden, auf dem die FCC damals den Open Internet Order formuliert hatte. 2002 entschied die FCC, Internetprovider explizit nicht als “common carriers”, per FCC Definition die übrigen Telekommunikationsanbieter, aufzufassen. Diese Entscheidung hatte auf das heutige Urteil weitreichende Konsequenzen, denn damit habe der Open Internet Order, der Argumentation von Verizon und dem Gericht zufolge, die Internetprovider unrechtsmäßig reguliert.

Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.

Der CEO von Free Press, Craig Aaron , machte deshalb die FCC, respektive ihren ehemaligen Vorsitzendens Julius Genachowski, deshalb für das Urteil mitverantwortlich:

“[Julius Genachowski] made a grave mistake when [the FCC] failed to ground its open Internet rules on solid legal footing. Internet users will pay dearly for the previous chairman’s lack of political will.”

Die FCC und NGOs wie Public Knowledge behalten sich vor, den Fall zur Not auch bis zum Supreme Court zu tragen, wobei der aktuelle FCC-Vorsitzende Tom Wheeler zuletzt eher zweideutige Aussagen über die Netzneutralität getätigt hat. Es ist zwar noch kein endgültiges Wort gesprochen, aber das Prinzip der Netzneutralität existiert in Amerika erst einmal nicht mehr.  

Und natürlich ist das kein reines amerikanisches Problem. Content-Anbieter werden sich so oder so mit dem neuen amerikanischen Standard auseinander setzen und der aktuelle Kommissionsvorschlag für eine europäische Netzneutralitätsverordnung ist eine Mogelpackung. Aus diesem Grunde hat die Digitale Gesellschaft als Teil eines europäischen Bündnisses verschiedenster Bürgerrechtsorganisationen die Kampagne Save the Internet ins Leben gerufen. Wir haben jetzt die Chance, echte Netzneutralität auf europäischer Ebene zu verankern. 

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May 16 2013

Drosselkom: Offline and Online-Protests against ISP Plans to slow down Internet Connections – and for Net Neutrality

Activists protesting at Telekom AGM

Activists protesting at Telekom annual meeting

Internet activists in Germany demand a free and open Internet today, protesting in front of the annual general meeting of major German ISP Deutsche Telekom. They criticize the companies plans to slow down internet connections after a certain amount of traffic has been used. What is worse: the company is violating the principle of net neutrality – internet services can buy their way out of those limits.

Three weeks ago, the former state-owned monopoly telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom AG announced plans to enforce traffic limits on their DSL customers. After transferring a certain amount of data, like 75 gigabytes a month, DSL-connections will be slowed down to 384 Kbit/s instead of the original 16 Mbit/s. Imagine a car usually driving 50 km/h, but after driving for 1.000 km it is slowed down to 384 meters per second – it’s functionality is broken.

She thinks, the next Google should be built in Germany. In the middle of the month, she cannot work on it any more.

She thinks, the next Google should be built in Germany. In the middle of the month, she cannot work on it any more.

Making matters even worse, Telekom also openly announced, that internet companies can pay them to be excluded from those customer limits. This is already being done with the music streaming service Spotify: their traffic will not be counted for the customer limit – and Spotify will remain available at full speed even when its competitors are slowed down. The market leader is trying to kill the principle of net neutrality – that all bits are created equal.

Needless to say, this has created quite a stir in German media and among net activists. Together with many others, internet activist group Digitale Gesellschaft worked on stopping Telekoms plans and advocating for net neutrality. Active for two years already, the campaign site EchtesNetz.de explains the concept of net neutrality and provides simple explanations on why it is essential for a free and open internet.

When the plans were announced, activists shifted into full-fledged campaign mode:

Massive banner at Telekoms annual meeting - above their welcome banner.

Massive banner at Telekom annual meeting – above their welcome banner.

  • Drossl.de calculates, that with the new rules, DSL-connections only work for a few hours a month with their advertised speed – and fall back to the digital stone age for the rest of the month. It also provides a video, showing that Telekoms own website takes almost two minutes to fully load with the slow speed.
  • Two videos take Telekom TV commercials – and adjust them to the new reality.
  • Hilf-Telekom.de (“help Telekom”) allows web users to create their own posters for Telekom advertising – activists have created over 4.000 remixes with fun and wit.
  • A song took up the meme “broken functionality” and ended up on iTunes charts – with all revenue donated to Digitale Gesellschaft.
  • A poster campaign visualized that a working internet connection is an essential part of modern life and must not be taken away.

Highlight however are todays protests at the annual general meeting of Telekom in the German town of Cologne. Since early in the morning, an assembly of activists has been protesting in front of the shareholder meeting. One highlight was showing a massive 13,5 × 4,5m banner right above Telekoms welcome banner – a cooperation of Digitale Gesellschaft and Chaos Computer Club.

Online Demonstration on Telekom.de

Online Demonstration on Telekom.de

At the moment, a protest march through the city is starting. Simultaneously, an online demonstration “occupying” Telekoms website is also taking place.

Until three weeks ago, activists struggled to explain the abstract concept of net neutrality to the public. With unexpected support from the major ex-state ISP, the concept is now known to more people than ever. The free and open internet is in danger and Telekom must not succeed with their plans. Other countries like the Netherlands, Chile, Slovenia, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico have understood this – and passed laws enforcing a neutral net. Although the EU commission has acknowledges its importance, it has failed to adequately regulate it. If the EU doesn’t do it, it is time for individual Member States to enshrine net neutrality into law.

Protect the free and open internet – enforce net neutrality!

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