The news of our government’s least,  letting the likes of Google and Verizon make their own deals, after calling off the talks concerning net neutrality, shows that we are living in the interesting kind of times that the Chinese warned of as being a curse.

It does seem that the intellectual midgets always gravitate to the FCC, though I have no idea why. It has been that way since I was a child.

The fist part of this entry is from PC World, where I first read of the news that the end of talks had occurred, then, I am going to follow that up with a piece from Senator Al Franken, who may have been a comedian for the first part of his life, but since much comedy is based upon true circumstance, he is now showing his keen understanding of many of today’s most difficult issues, such as net neutrality.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has called off negotiations on a network neutrality compromise scheduled for the coming days, saying the talks have not been fruitful enough.

This is exactly the sort of behavior that I would expect, but not hope for, from the cretins who are running the show at our FCC. When the first hint of the lack of power to control the workings of communications came, with the Comcast debacle, it was clear that it was time for some emergency legislation from Congress, or else a complete dismantling of the FCC, because it was not earning its keep.

The FCC’s decision to cancel this round of negotiations comes after news reports late Wednesday that Google and Verizon Communications were close to their own deal on network management practices.

Anyone, above the level of cretin (which, of course, leaves out the automatons working at the FCC), knows that this deal is going to destroy net neutrality, and no amount of spin from the Google or Verizon ad machines will make it any different. (BTW, this is the first time I’ve seen Google in the light of corporate bad guy…)

The negotiations have been “productive on several fronts,” Edward Lazarus, the FCC’s chief of staff, said in a statement. However, the discussions have “not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet — one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice,” he added. “All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.”
An FCC spokeswoman didn’t say whether the FCC’s decision to call off the talks and the news reports on Verizon and Google’s negotiations were related.

Isn’t is amazing how many words can be slung together that, at first sound interesting, yet on second reference we see that it is just so much fertilizer.

The FCC has been hosting net neutrality negotiations with broadband providers and other interested groups since June, after providers and dozens of U.S. lawmakers objected to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan to create formal rules at the agency. Net neutrality rules would prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic.
Verizon said Thursday it remained committed to the negotiations hosted by the FCC, despite the news reports that it was close to a private deal with Google. Verizon and Google both denied a New York Times report saying the two companies were negotiating a deal that would allow Google to pay for faster access over Verizon’s network.

Does that sentence sound like net neutrality to you? If I am not mistaken, that is exactly the kind of thing that net neutrality is supposed to prevent.

That article is “mistaken,” Verizon said in a statement. “It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. Our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.”
Several digital rights and consumer groups objected to a private deal between Verizon and Google.

Get the shovels, it’s getting deep in here.

“The notion that a critical question of public policy could be privately negotiated between two industry giants turns the notion of Internet neutrality on its head,” Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement. “The goal of Internet neutrality is to prevent gatekeepers and ensure a level playing field. Any negotiation that begins and ends with two companies threatens to undercut that goal.”
Genachowski proposed that the FCC craft formal net neutrality rules in late 2009. In May, he called on the FCC to reclassify broadband as a regulated, common-carrier service after an appeals court ruled that the agency didn’t have the authority to enforce informal net neutrality rules in a case involving Comcast slowing peer-to-peer traffic.
But several U.S. lawmakers have questioned whether the FCC should reclassify broadband, suggesting instead that Congress take up net neutrality.
Gigi Sohn, president of digital rights group Public Knowledge, called on the FCC to move forward with net neutrality rules following the collapse of negotiations.
“The path before the Federal Communications Commission is now perfectly clear,” she said in a statement. “It must act to ensure that consumers are protected, that everyone can have access to broadband and that the commission has the authority to ensure and open and non-discriminatory Internet.”
Public Knowledge and other digital rights groups had raised concerns about the FCC negotiations, saying the talks left out several groups interested in net neutrality.
The negotiations were “largely restricted to the biggest industry players,” she said. “The FCC now can use the comments and public views submitted to it as a basis for its decisions, as the commission should have done all along.”

It looks as though the entire working staff of the FCC have taken leave of their senses, and left any amount of intestinal fortitude they had somewhere that it cannot be reached.

What is wrong with these people, that they cannot see what should be as plain as the nose on their faces?  Do these people have no sense of a WTF moment? Are they suddenly not conversant in the English language?

Left to their own devices, the large companies (not only Verizon and Google) will completely obliterate any thought of freedom and fairness on the internet, and each of the big players will be establishing their own fiefdoms, and we will have the electronic equivalent of feudal England.

Is that what you want?

Here is what Senator Franken has to say about this, and remember, he knows a bit of what he speaks, as a long time veteran of television, both on-camera and behind-the-scenes.

Editor’s note: Sen. Al Franken was elected to the Senate as a member of the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) Party from Minnesota. He was sworn in July 2009 after a statewide hand recount. Before he joined the Senate, he spent 37 years as a comedy writer, author and radio talk show host.

(CNN) — If we learned that the government was planning to limit our First Amendment rights, we’d be outraged. After all, our right to be heard is fundamental to our democracy.

Well, our free speech rights are under assault — not from the government but from corporations seeking to control the flow of information in America.

If that scares you as much as it scares me, then you need to care about net neutrality.

“Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental to free speech. The internet today is an open marketplace. If you have a product, you can sell it. If you have an opinion, you can blog about it. If you have an idea, you can share it with the world.

And no matter who you are — a corporation selling a new widget, a senator making a political argument or just a Minnesotan sharing a funny cat video — you have equal access to that marketplace.

An e-mail from your mom comes in just as fast as a bill notification from your bank. You’re reading this op-ed online; it’ll load just as fast as a blog post criticizing it. That’s what we mean by net neutrality.

But telecommunications companies want to be able to set up a special high-speed lane just for the corporations that can pay for it. You won’t know why the internet retail behemoth loads faster than the mom-and-pop shop, but after a while you may get frustrated and do all of your shopping at the faster site. Maybe the gatekeepers will discriminate based on who pays them more. Maybe they will discriminate based on whose political point of view conforms to their bottom line.

We don’t have to speculate. We can look to the history of the media gatekeepers for examples.

Back in the 1990s, Congress rescinded rules that prevented television networks from owning their own programming. Network executives swore in congressional hearings that they wouldn’t give their own programming preferred access to the airwaves. They vowed access to the airwaves would be determined only by the quality of the shows.

I was working at NBC back then, and I didn’t buy that line one bit. Sure enough, within a couple of years, NBC was the largest supplier of its own prime-time programming. To take advantage of this new paradigm, Disney bought ABC, Viacom (the parent company of Paramount) bought CBS and NBC merged with Universal.

And since these conglomerates owned both the pipes through which Americans received information (in this case, TV networks) and the information itself (in this case, TV shows), they developed a monopoly over what you could watch.

Today, if you’re an independent producer, it’s nearly impossible to get a show on the air unless the network owns at least a piece of it.

Now Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, and NBC/Universal want to merge. This new behemoth would be able to charge other cable carriers more for NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and the 35 other cable networks it will own in whole or in part. This means that other carriers won’t be able to afford as many choices — and it means that your cable bill will go up.

Comcast is also the nation’s largest home internet service provider. And as more and more of our television is provided through the internet, other internet giants such as Verizon and AT&T will have to look toward merging with CBS/Viacom or ABC/Disney.

We’ll end up with a few megacorporations in control of the flow of information — not just on TV, but now online as well.

From my seat on the Judiciary Committee, I plan to do everything I can to stop these mergers or at least put rigorous restrictions on them. But if this trend toward media consolidation continues, the free and open internet will be a thing of the past unless we write the principle of net neutrality into law right now.

This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. Everyone has a stake in protecting the First Amendment.

And it isn’t even strictly a political issue. The internet’s freedom and openness has made it a hotbed for innovations that change our lives. It’s been an incredible engine of job creation.

The internet was developed at taxpayer expense to benefit the public interest. If we let corporations prioritize some content over others, we’ll lose what makes it so valuable to our economy, our democracy and our daily lives.

Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the key to preserving the internet as we know it — and it’s the most important First Amendment issue of our time.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sen. Al Franken.

I know this has been a long bit to slog through, and if you have, thanks. It does, however, affect our lives, and as such, should be paid attention. If we are restrained in what we can know, how free can we be in any other sense?

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