This is, as you might imagine given the title, the second in a 2-part series. The reason we’re covering the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition) in some detail is because we are a member of the group and we believe in the values it is dedicated to uphold.
Politics can sometimes be divisive and volatile. However, if you believe fundamentally in liberty and the ability of individuals and companies to make their own decisions online, it’s not difficult to agree with the parameters of the i2Coalition. Our membership places us in good company among Internet heavy-hitters such as Google, Parallels, cPanel, and a slew of top registrars, data centers, and hosting companies.
Please consider what it means for us to stand up for the Open Internet in this way, and that becoming our client or continuing as one means choosing a company that is dedicated to upholding our, your, and all Web users’ Internet freedoms. We like the Internet, generally speaking, the way it is. We don’t want interference to break down its efficient and economically prosperous free-flow of information and resources.
Looking Back & Moving Forward
The first part in this series was on the Open Internet, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – which refers to it, in brief, as “the Internet as we know it.” You probably recognize the FCC as the US federal agency that governs mass media. It’s important to note that the FCC no longer determines the regulations for online copyright: intellectual property online is, instead, the domain of the Department of Homeland Security (yes, you read that correctly).
In the last article, I discussed the three stipulations that are used by the FCC to delimit the Open Internet. The rules are not for individual consumers; rather, they are a simple and basic way to provide guidance for how broadband providers must treat clients and traffic. The codes govern both mobile (ie MiFi, or a mobile hotspot) and fixed Internet (a typical home or business network). In review, here are the FCC’s 3 rules:
- Full Disclosure: A company that offers broadband service must make its policies and procedures freely available. These elements of its business practices include the following: a.) general overview of how it manages its network; b.) general overview of how its network performs; and, c.) the terms and conditions of how it functions in commercial relationships.
- Anti-Censorship: A broadband firm is not permitted to prevent users from accessing anything online that is within the confines of the law – including apps, content, and downloads. Machines that aren’t dangerous to the network also cannot be restricted. Specific to mobile service, it is not acceptable for broadband companies to restrict access to any online location or to any service that provides the same service as their own video telephony or voice platforms.
- Anti-Discrimination: All broadband users must be granted the same ability to visit and interact with whatever online materials they so choose. The flow of traffic must be non-discriminatory. An example of a problem in this regard is when certain sites and online apps perform at a decreased level – at a lesser speed or diminished performance quality.
The Internet Infrastructure Coalition is concerned with the Open Internet because of how these rights (of users) and responsibilities (of Web providers), broadly speaking, are under assault by legislation in the US federal government. We want the Open Internet to remain in effect. A closed, filtered, or censored Web is not how we think the online world should operate; unfortunately, not all individuals and entities agree with us, which is why it’s such an important issue to understand and discuss.
Also, again, there are two sides to every argument. I will look at the other side, then, so we can get a broad view of the subject. To do so, I’ll take a look at perspectives from citizens who don’t want the Internet to remain open (a continuation from Part 1):
Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 4:
“I once saw a baby go online for the first time. The baby, granted, already had a pipe in its mouth and was wearing a bowler hat, so it was kind of a strange baby – and it might have even been a demon. Still, the baby — four months old, but big for its age at 6’4” and 260 pounds — logged onto the Web (this was in a laboratory in Mountain View, California) and went straight to Google. There, it searched for several different topics geared toward self-improvement and development of a world hierarchy led by an army of surly, opiate-addicted, and exceptionally large infants. Four hours later, it had created an Internet worm that it used to phish for its dinner for the next twenty-eight years. Then they kicked it out of the lab. Down with the triple-W!” – Jacob Davis, Pierre, SD, USA
The i2Coalition: Basic Mission
Companies that make up the infrastructure of the Web are concerned about recent adjustments toward governance of the Web on the part of the US federal government. Web copyright, as mentioned above, is now under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) via the 2009 National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) – and that change has generated crackdowns.
Per the i2Coalition, the new way that the Internet is regulated is a major threat to the Open Internet. Congress, it says, is “drafting laws that subvert due process and bring great risk to U.S. based web hosts and their clients.” Essentially, having copyright handled by an executive branch department that was founded to combat terrorism creates a situation that is inflexible and allows for knee-jerk arrests and unfair seizure of websites.
The DHS says that it conferred with “private sector entities,” along with various governmental agencies and departments, to draft the NIPP. The i2Coalition, however, argues that it is being ignored on issues that will have massive impact both on the ways it does business and on the Internet as a whole.
Members of the i2Coalition could be instrumental on steering regulatory committees toward viable pathways to answer legal concerns. The association believes the viewpoints of its members on what proposals might have negative consequences are crucial to allowing the industry to function coherently.
Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 5:
“One time I went to a website, and they stole money from me. I gave them my credit card information, and instead of charging me $17.95, like it said on the site, I was charged $18.95. I called those fraudsters over 7000 times over the weekend. Their customer service office wasn’t open, but I don’t give up easy. I just kept leaving messages. Their system kept accepting them. I guess they don’t monitor their voicemail over the weekend, so they were basically holding my money hostage for over 48 hours. Then I created a slam site, reported them to the Better Business Bureau, and vomited in a paper bag and mailed it to the owner’s mother – I found her online. What a pain. Now I just keep pre-filled vomit bags in stock so I have one on hand if this happens again.” – Dirk Ventura, Tierra Verde, FL, USA
The i2Coalition: Public Policy & Membership
Now let’s talk about specific policy statements set forth by the i2Coalition. The coalition believes Internet freedom, transparency, and non-interference allow the Web to function most effectively as a segment of the US and world economy. It also believes the Web, if allowed to operate broadly and within an environment characterized largely by self-governance, is fundamentally positive to the nation and the international community.
The group’s “core principles” are six-fold:
- Incorporating a variety of stakeholders in the development of laws and codes, with all major affected parties helping to determine what Web controls make sense
- Allowing the market to be a determining factor in the creation of policy, so that the Web is understood and governed holistically rather than hierarchically
- Adopting a lawmaking and code-enforcement attitude that gives the Web the ability to evolve, change, and flourish as new technologies are released
- Protecting individual liberty, privacy, and openness
- Involving both the public and private sector leaderships to engage in mutually beneficial policymaking
- Advocating that private entities utilize best practices so that all parties’ goals can be simultaneously achieved.
Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 6:
“I remember the first time I saw a calculator. I said, ‘Mary’ – that’s my cocker spaniel – ‘Mary, it’s just a matter of time before I have to look at some guy’s head with its pie-hole open, spouting off on why his favorite sports team is better than mine. Mary, sadly, is now deceased. But my passion to ensure as many pie-holes as possible stay shut lives on. Let’s close the Internet, the libraries, the mouths, and the minds. Then let’s all have a barbecue at my place and forget about it. I’ll make coleslaw.” – Chester Ford, Bowling Green, OH, USA
Conclusion: Membership & Involvement
The i2Coalition needs support from both industry players and the public to achieve its aims. If you agree with the concept of net neutrality or “the Internet as we know it,” joining forces with the group is one way to make your voice heard.
If you’re interested in membership, you can provide the organization with your contact information; the organization will then be in touch to complete an application; or you can fill one out yourself now. Involvement with the i2Coalition is not just about policy initiatives the group currently has in place. The group also generally wants to, via integration and consideration of the ideas set forth by member companies, “find our collective voice as an industry.”
Keep in mind also that the i2Coalition is not just about membership. It also seeks to involve the public in the Open Internet debate. An example is its petition to the Obama administration to listen to the Internet infrastructure industry and its concerns related to Web regulations. The petition has its basis not just in vested interest but in the skills, expertise, and experience of member organizations. Interested parties can sign up to receive email updates as well.