Hi, we are Senator Ron Wyden (defender of the Open Internet since I had a full head of hair and rugged good looks) and Alexis Ohanian (defender - and grateful beneficiary - of the Open Internet since Steve Huffman and I founded reddit in 2005). Net neutrality is the current rule of the road requiring all content on the Internet to be delivered at the same speed. It prevents Big Cable from dividing the Internet up into “fast and slow lanes” and charging a toll for content providers if they want their content delivered at an acceptable speed.

Net Neutrality is under attack by Big Cable. We need Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to step up and preserve it. On May 15 (less than 2 days from now!), his commission will put out proposed rules and we need to make sure these rules protect net neutrality and don't harm it.

We care about Net Neutrality because it allows everyone the freedom to compete online so innovators, speech, and our economy thrive.

Make your voice heard. The calls, emails, and comments ARE making a difference. An important thing the reddit community can do RIGHT NOW, is urge their Congress person not to sign onto any letters that are intended to undermine net neutrality and the need to reclassify broadband as a common carrier. Specifically, you can urge your representatives in Congress not to sign a letter like the one that is currently being led by Representative Gene Green.

More on Senator Wyden’s efforts to defend Net Neutrality.

More on Alexis Ohanian efforts to defend Net Neutrality: Motion on CapitolBells, op-ed, crowdtilt campaign for DC ad campaign, and Without Their Permission.

Senator Wyden's verification https://twitter.com/RonWyden/status/466321887480791041

EDIT: Great to hear from you, I have to take off now. REMEMBER, your voices matter, don't sit this one out. - Ron

EDIT: Back on for a few minutes to answer a couple more questions before votes -Ron

Comments: 527 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

sportsDude354 karma

Why isn't the government doing more to promote competition between Internet Service Providers?

Like making it a requirement that consumers have options.

I would think that if there were more competition, like in the UK and Europe, there would be faster speeds and lower prices.

senatorwyden430 karma

Lack of ISP competition is the core market failure that makes enforceable net neutrality rules necessary.

RyanPNW136 karma

So, is changing that lack of competition a key to preventing net neutrality from becoming a perennial issue?

senatorwyden357 karma

Yes, the answer is yes. The only way to address threats to net neutrality now is with enforceable rules, but in the long run, what would be best for the Internet and best for consumers is more competition. That's why the currently proposed mergers are so concerning, and why developments like Google Fiber and other build-overs are very important. There is a correlation between the lack of competition and the need for the government to intervene in markets to protect competition.

Diggidy344 karma

Question for Senator Wyden:

Do your fellow Senators actually have a decent understanding of technology and the internet? I'm not just asking because on TV they all appear to be the same folks that used to need help getting their VCR to stop blinking 12:00 and nowadays need help with their phone twice a day, but because I'm confident that if Capital Hill really understood the internet the proposed FCC rules would appear as silly to them as they do to all of us.

(Oh, and hi from Portland.)

senatorwyden428 karma

A lot of progress is being made, but it wasn't very long ago that the Internet was referred to up here as a series of tubes. To a great extent because of the incredible outpouring of grassroots activism in PIPA and SOPA. Your support in that effort has caused many of my colleagues to get more deeply involved in these issues and that's a great compliment to redditors and the rest of the netroots.

paulschreiber210 karma

It's pretty clear that reclassifying broadband under Title II is the right way to fix this.

What can we do to ensure the FCC reclassifies? Can we force this type of classification through legislative action? Would such legislation pass?

senatorwyden7 karma

I’m glad you asked this question because your action is vitally needed. Right now. My friends at Free Press have highlighted the most immediate thing you can do, which is to urge your representatives NOT to sign Big Cable’s letter opposing reclassification. See here

ncmentis102 karma

First off, Mr. Wyden, as an Oregonian I am glad to be able to vote for someone who cares to know about the issues like you do.

I am a supporter of net neutrality. I think, as it seems most people do, that the most direct route to it is to strengthen FCC regulation of ISPs through invoking Title II of the Communications Act. However, I am concerned that this will not eliminate "internet fast lanes" that privilege paying content over everything else. In fact, some interpretations of Title II language that I've seen suggest that it will facilitate those practices, as long as they aren't openly discriminatory. Will Title II Common carrier status be enough to maintain the open internet? If not, what else would be needed?

senatorwyden101 karma

It's unlikely that we can implement the rules necessary to preserve an open Internet without reclassification. More aggressive enforcement of anti-trust laws will also be necessary to promote competition in broadband.

FavoriteCereal72 karma

What should I say when I call the FCC? and how do I explain net neutrality to my non tech-savvy friends,parents,relatives?

Thank you for fighting the internet fight of our generation.

senatorwyden131 karma

Make your voice heard. The calls, emails, and comments ARE making a difference. An important thing the reddit community can do RIGHT NOW, is urge their Congress person not to sign onto any letters that are intended to undermine net neutrality and the need to reclassify broadband as a common carrier. Specifically, you can urge your representatives in Congress not to sign a letter like the one that is currently being led by Representative Gene Green.

As far as explaining net neutrality - it's the freedom for products, services and ideas to compete online. It's making certain that consumers can't be charged twice for the Internet service they pay for, and that you have the same opportunity to reach all Internet content. Along with limiting liability so that you can't be sued for what's posted on your site or blog, these are the principles that have allowed the net to flourish.

laprice53 karma

Can you comment on the efforts by cable companies and incumbent telcos to prevent the development of municipal broadband initiatives.

For instance in 1997-1998 Eugene's public utility ( EWEB ) held hearings on a plan to provide ISP services in conjunction with the city of Eugene. The plan was quietly dropped after AT&T and ComCast indicated that they would sue the city to prevent such a thing.

How does your bill encourage and protect efforts in that direction that might be made in the future?

senatorwyden61 karma

Right now I am not pushing legislation, the first and fastest step is to work on rules with the FCC.

I have yet to see a reasonable case made for states to restrict municipal broadband. These efforts are generally supported by the incumbent monopoly provider and harm the local consumers by denying them a market choice. To the extent that the FCC is allowed to limit these restrictions I think it would be positive step to take for consumer protection.

RCAMuse51 karma

Hi Sen. Wyden! U of O Student here. Coming from a small Eastern OR town, it's been my experience that small businesses have much better interest in providing decent service, particularly broadband service. What kind of roadblocks are preventing smaller companies from getting into the fiber/cable market and how do we (on a government level) make that process easier?

senatorwyden65 karma

Hello from a fellow Duck. Access to capital is one of the core problems for small companies building out rural fiber. The FCC has been slow to reform the universal service fund (and Congress hasn't helped) to focus on broadband deployment. This is an area we need to pay more attention to going forward.

froggerslogger41 karma

Senator Wyden,

I'm sitting in a cafe in Oregon at this moment, using wifi to look for a job and follow this IAMA. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

How does Net Neutrality fit in with the general scope of where you see the internet going in the next 10 years, and how internet usage relates to our future as a democracy?

You've been active in opposing bulk data collection recently, and obviously there's a lot of discussion on Reddit about the policies of the NSA and the government generally, as well as the policies of foreign governments who transparently interfere with the internet traffic in their countries.

What's your vision for the role of government vis-a-vis the internet?

senatorwyden89 karma

Ideally, the government should be involved in the Internet as little as possible. With net neutrality, the government is being drawn in by the effect that the monopoly ISPs are having on innovation and competition on the net. I have called the Internet the shipping lane of the 21st century, in this case, the government is fulfilling its traditional role of keeping those lanes open and toll free.

The Internet can be a powerful tool to enhance democracy - we've seen those effects in the Arab Spring. It has also revolutionized the way citizens communicate with their representatives. At the same time we must be vigilant about the ways Internet surveillance can undermine democracy.

the_blue_wizard25 karma

First, large services like Netflix, Google, iTunes, Hulu, and others already Pay MASSIVE amounts of money for many many high speed lines into the Internet. I suspect many millions of dollars. If they want their data to flow faster, they simply buy more High Speed lines. Consequently, they already pay for the bandwidth to bring their data into the Internet Backbone.

On the other end, myself and everyone else pay our providers for a high speed line that extracts data streams from the Internet.

But we are both being asked to pay an extortion premium to the Internet Backbone providers, for something that we are all already paying for. The Content Providers pay the company that provide their MANY High Speed lines in, and I pay for my High Speed Line out. The data transfer rate is already been paid on both ends. No need for some jackass in he middle to extort more money from anyone.

Without question, the backbone of the Internet should be considered a Public Utility, and nothing less.

The US govt already gave the major ISPs 400 billion dollars to bring the Internet speed up to that of other countries. Given that the ISPs took the money and did nothing, shouldn't we be asking for that money back?

senatorwyden3 karma

You make an excellent point. Content providers already pay for the bandwidth to reach your ISPs network. Consumers are already paying their ISPs to reach the Internet through and past their ISPs network (at an advertised level of bandwidth, usually 35-50Mbps.) Charging content providers (who pass those charges onto consumers,) to reach the ISP networks is a clear example of double charging for the same product.

The federal government did the right thing in terms of subsidizing the deployment of broadband infrastructure, particularly to rural areas with few customers. It had to step in because there wasn’t sufficient market incentive for the cable companies to lay the fiber. The government recognized that it was in the nation’s interest that every American should have access to high speed Internet services. That’s why it is imperative that the federal government ensure that these investments provide a return for everyone, not just deep pocketed incumbent providers of digital goods and services or the cable companies like Comcast, but every American who has a new idea to share. I call this preserving the freedom to compete.

raven_2015 karma

What exactly is net neutrality?

senatorwyden30 karma

The concept of net neutrality, if not the term, was a founding principle of the Internet. It stands for everyone having the freedom to compete online. This concept, along with limits on liability have allowed the Internet to flourish and become the dominant platform for ideas and speech and economic growth.

Without rules to guarantee all web traffic travels on the same track the economic might of big corporations will shove out competition from start-ups and disruptive technologies, depriving Americans of the next wave of innovative services and products. Just as concerning, a non-neutral net will exacerbate the problems caused by the lack of competition at the ISP level, continuing to drive up the monthly cost to consumers for Internet access and services.

immorta113 karma

For the Senator: what do you think the chances of net neutrality surviving are? I have heard a ton about it on reddit, but not that much any where else?

Is this a big topic right now in Washington?

senatorwyden30 karma

PIPA/SOPA wasn't a big topic until millions of Americans stood up and made themselves heard. Net neutrality has a good chance if all the redditors and other netroots reach out to their congresspeople and the FCC about implementing enforceable rules on net neutrality. Given the overlapping ownership of ISPs and media companies, you can't expect a lot about the issue in mainstream media.

throwinshapes11 karma

Sen. Wyden,

First of all thank you for your hard work. I am a constituent of yours and will continue to support you because of the efforts you have made on the behalf of many Americans, and on this issue many humans.

What do you think of the right to broadband and it's ability to enhance rights to freedom of speech, to development, and of assembly?

I realize that entrenched broadband companies-and the political climate-make this a difficult issue but; would you support the claim that a right to broadband is something that ought to be considered vital to the USA, not only for it's ability to enhance other rights but also as an economic multiplier?

senatorwyden16 karma

The Internet is the ultimate marketplace of ideas, a public commons that provides access to education, health care, entertainment, goods and services. We should work toward a goal of universal access by encouraging competition and addressing market failures.

Blitchiz11 karma

Have you ever worked with Rand or Ron Paul on this issue? I know sometimes libertarian views can get in the way of actually having policy. I would be curious if you have had interactions with them regarding Net Neutrality.


senatorwyden25 karma

I worked with Ron Paul on a number of issues when he was here. Rand and I are partners on the Intelligence Oversight and Intelligence Reform Act (S.1551) which would make important reforms like ending bulk collection of Americans' phone records and banning backdoor searches of their emails, among other things . Rand was also a strong supporter on fighting PIPA/SOPA.

Unfortunately, the massive corporate spending against net neutrality has made it a bad word in some circles so it has become more challenging to assemble a bipartisan coalition to defend the net. Any member of congress who has been pro-Internet freedom in the past should hear from his or her supporters and constituents about being active here.

penang_boy6 karma

Question for Sen. Wyden: How would you address challenges to or enshrine commitments of net neutrality in US trade agreements? Do you intend to incorporate this element in your push for the smart-track approach?

senatorwyden17 karma

it starts with getting strong rules at home. In many cases American Internet services are not only slowed but blocked outright overseas. It is difficult to win the fight against those restrictions without enforceable rules on our own networks.

Uralplz4 karma

Hello Senator Wyden! Thank you for giving us the chance to ask you questions. Since you are my senator and there is no need to write to you about net neutrality what can I do to urge the government to protect net neutrality?

senatorwyden2 karma

The cable companies are coming out swinging and they will not make the fight for net neutrality an easy one.

Make your voice heard. Call your other members of Congress and either thank them for supporting net neutrality or ask them not to sign onto any letters intended to undermine net neutrality like the one being circulated right now in the House. Urge your friends to call theirs too.

Also, it’s very important to submit your comments to the FCC after their proposed rules are released tomorrow. They will set-up a separate comment submission process. I'll tweet the link once it’s posted.

And let your representatives and the Justice Department know that creating monopolies to run internet and cable services is a bad deal for consumers, and a continuing threat to net neutrality. The Comcast-Time Warner merger, for example, would put far too many of our nation’s homes under the power of a single big cable company. If you think your service is bad now, just wait until that company doubles in size.

drunkinnmunky1 karma

Hey guys,

Thanks for backing up Open Internet. My question is this if Mr. Wheeler proposes in favor of Verizon and Comcast. How long do you think it will take to see the damage done. I.e. netflix being capped, BitTorrent not working, trying to build a web/tech startup just being a joke?

senatorwyden2 karma

You, me, Congress, and Chairman Wheeler need to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen. Call your congressperson and tell them not to sign any letters like this one opposing net neutrality and submit your comments on the FCC’s proposed rules when they are announced tomorrow. Over 100 venture capitalists wrote a letter stating that just the discussion of ending an open Internet is hurting investment in start-ups. Getting enforceable rules from the FCC is the fastest way to protect net neutrality.