OP-ED: Local ISP WebPass stands behind Net Neutrality & Citizen Journalism

Published On September 15, 2014 | By Rob Arias | Commentary, Local Business, News & Commentary

Comcast or AT&T? Expensive & Fast or Cheap & Slow? The old adage of “voting with your wallet” doesn’t really apply when you’re faced with the “choice” of Mega-corporation A or Mega-corporation B. This used to be the extent of the options where I live in Emeryville until I lobbied my HOA to pursue adding WebPass, a local provider that supports our community, is carbon neutral, HOA Neutral and supports Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality, if it’s not already on your radar, is in peril if the major providers like AT&T and Comcast have their druthers. Today is the final day to submit public comment to the FCC if you are in fact supportive or against their proposal to create so-called internet “fast lanes” that would allow carriers to prioritize certain internet services and charge extra fees to content providers like Netflix, Facebook & Google for preferential treatment (and theoretically “punish” smaller content providers like say, independent news sites like The E’ville Eye). Over 1.4 million comments, much waged through campaigns from progressive sites including FreePress, The Nation, Battle for the Net, CREDO Action & Daily Kos have been posted during the FCC’s open comment period. Consumer reaction has been decisively opposed but it remains to be see if this will ultimately have an impact on their decisions or if special interests and lobby money will prevail.

webpass-headquarters

So why are there so few internet choices available? Why does America continue to lag behind in broadband speed & proliferation (Currently 7th in broadband penetration behind the notable tech hub of … Latvia?). I don’t think it would be too shocking to even a moderately cynical person if I told you that big corporations are trying to own the internet and their latest strategy is to lobby for laws that tilt the landscape in their favor. If the proposed Comcast/Time Warner merger is allowed, I think we can all predict what this will do for competition, service and cost (hint: less, worse and more). The “Free Market” in the U.S. can unfortunately be exploited by lobbying efforts and legislation as we all know and this is exactly what is threatening the freedom of the internet.

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If AT&T & Comcast offered a superior product at a fair price, this might be palatable … but it clearly is not. Currently, internet costs in the U.S. are amongst the highest in the World while our cumulative speeds just breached the global top-10 last year. In Emeryville, we’re lucky enough to have a few options available. WebPass, Paxio and one I’m less familiar with, Vista Broadband. Paxio has created an impressive infrastructure of fiber throughout some of the main arteries of Emeryville but has yet to penetrate the consumer market the way WebPass has.

Choice is great, but I wouldn’t advocate for WebPass if they weren’t a superior product as well. Want to watch Netflix during peak viewing hours without any buffering? No problem. Their recent YouTube HD Verification supports their superiority over AT&T and Comcast and if you don’t believe me, check out the YouTube Video Quality report.

webpass-youtube-hd-verified

The Cable industry sees the path we’re going on. When TV and the internet become a seamless experience, there will be no need for expensive Pay-TV packages and the a la carte model of TV will prevail. Their Ad revenue will dry up and the landscape will shift to a service, speed and innovation-based environment (This “level playing field” scares the hell out of them).

And don’t get me started on their ploy to thwart so-called cable “cord-cutters” by securing exclusive deals to broadcast sports like the NFL. Cable providers are determined to do whatever they can to maintain their grip on subscribers through live sports. Another devious tactic allegedly employed by Cable providers and some of the bigger corporate rental-housing is negotiating “kick- backs” for guaranteeing preferential treatment and exclusivity (Perhaps this is why Icon at Park has prevented WebPass from establishing service?). Another model the larger providers are trying to steer us toward is a usage-based model instead of the current “All you can eat” model (Kind of like what most of us have for our phone data plans). Go over your allotted amount and you’ll need to ante up for more.

If smaller providers like WebPass prevail, this could disrupt the entire industry. The fragile grip that the Cable companies have on us will come crashing down. They have no choice to make a last stand by consolidating and controlling the internet through preventing competition and lobbying congress.

Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner and AT&T are currently mounting a massive campaign to control the internet with deceptive tactics and millions of lobbying dollars. Comcast itself spent over $18 Million in lobbying efforts last year (Second only to defense contractor Northrop Grumman). The scary thing is, it might actually work! It’s pretty clear that Comcast and the FCC are in bed together and the revolving door between the government agency and the Comcast lobbying wing is sickening with at least 5 former FCC employees including former commissioner Meredith Baker currently on the Comcast lobby payroll (Hmmmm …).

The Battle For Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a huge topic of conversation amongst netizens and one the opposition is trying to blur by campaigning against it under the guise that they in fact supportive of it (again, even the least cynical person might raise an eyebrow to Comcast “supporting” Net neutrality). Do you really think Comcast would support something that might negatively impact them out of sheer goodwill? No. They are a profit-driven corporation with their eyes on creating an oligopoly. They’re not fooling anyone … except maybe the FCC.

Net Neutrality, defined by Wikipedia, is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

If you haven’t watched The Daily Show alumni John Oliver’s rant on HBO, it’s worth a viewing. Oliver calls out the trolls of the Internet to use their vile for some actual good by commenting on things that actually matter:

Netizens have responded and come out in organized opposition to this ploy. A “day of action” was recently organized with support by large content sites including Twitter, Reddit & Netflix by showing the notorious loading symbol that would become more prevent if their sites were affected.

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WebPass supports Net Neutrality

Webpass’ network neutrality policy stated on its website is as such:

  • Our customers pay us to deliver the entire Internet.
  • All packets are treated equally. Exceptions are made for violating the acceptable use policy or activity we deem malicious.
  • We do not accept payment from content providers to increase the prioritization of their packets or to decrease the prioritization of a competitor’s packets.
  • We do not pay content providers to deliver service to our network.
  • We adjust our peering relationships often to provide the best routes possible to our customers.
  • It is normal for a customer’s experience with each website to be different. The customer’s experience is a combination of Webpass’ network performance, the destination’s network performance, and the distance to the destination.

I personally would pay more for a superior product made by a company whose policies I align with, but it’s not a factor. Their costs are extremely competitive at about $42/mo. if you pay annually and there is no monthly modem fee. They have no contracts and I don’t have to negotiate with them after their enticing “deals” expire like AT&T & Comcast. The only caveat of WebPass is that they’re only available in newer, High-density buildings (Something Emeryville has in spades).

WebPass was the first company to align themselves with community journalism by sponsoring us (Full disclosure, they provide me free service in exchange for advertising). I honestly don’t know if I’d still be doing this if they didn’t step forward to support us (Farley’s Coffee and Hot Italian Pizza are two other local businesses that have stepped forward). WebPass continues its proliferation of our town through its point-to-point microwave technology giving E’villains not only freedom of choice … but the opportunity to influence the future of the internet and democracy.

Interested in bringing WebPass to your building? Learn More →

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Share your comments on Net Neutrality by emailing openinternet@fcc.gov or sign the petition on Daily KROS:

Further reading and resources:

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now | Free Press

WebPass, The best little ISP you’ve never heard of | Bright Side of News

Are Cable Companies Hoping Usage-Based Internet Access Will Help Thwart Netflix? | Slate.com

A Cable Merger Too Far | NY Times

What can we learn from 800,000 public comments on the FCC’s net neutrality plan? | Sunlight Foundation

What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality | Wired

5 Arguments Against Net Neutrality | Mashable

Comcast loves the FCC’s net neutrality rules, wants limits on “fast lanes” | Ars Technica

Why you should be deeply dreading the Comcast-Time Warner merger | Salon.com

The Comcast-FCC Revolving Door | OpenSecrets.org

Behind Comcast’s truthy ad campaign for net neutrality | The Washington Post

Why the U.S. Has Fallen Behind in Internet Speed and Affordability | NY Times

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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