Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week that the FCC would roll back “net neutrality,” which led to many complaints from Democrats. But they need to answer this: Why is it better for the federal government rather than customers to decide how networks should handle data? (Federal Communications Commission via Wikimedia Commons)
Most people who navigate the Internet have certain expectations when surfing the world wide web. Upon navigating the Internet, the expectation is that the cable or phone company connects to the websites, applications, and selected content without running interference.
Having complete control of the Internet experience void a service looking at every key-stroke, speeding up or slowing content, or blocking equates to expecting to be in control of the Internet experience defined as “Net Neutrality.”
Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites navigated. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.
The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.
The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.
The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers as Americans have migrated to the internet for most communications. It reflected the view of the Trump administration and the new F.C.C. chairman that unregulated business will eventually yield innovation and help the economy.
Despite overwhelming opposition from Congress, technical experts, advocacy organizations and, of course, the American people, the FCC moved to eliminate 2015’s Open Internet Order and the net neutrality protections it established.
The order passed, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” essentially removes the FCC as a regulator of the broadband industry and relegates rules that prevented blocking and throttling content to the honor system. The FTC now ostensibly has that role, but it is far from an expert agency on this topic and cannot make preemptive rules like those that have been in place for the last few years.
As expected, the vote was 3 to 2 along party lines, with Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the order, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting against.
Clyburn and Rosenworcel made their feelings known at the meeting with some fierce remarks on the order and the procedures leading up to it:
“I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you. But what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”
“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules,” said Commissioner Rosenworcel. “I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
Both will soon publish more substantive dissenting statements that lay out the problems with the order as voted on and perhaps give a hint as to how it may be legally challenged once it takes effect.
Chairman Pai introduced the same talking points he’s been pushing since 2015. That the law that dictates the internet remain “unfettered by federal and state regulation” (that part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act is advisory, and also about porn); that the 2015 rules were “designed in the ’30s to regulate Ma Bell” (they were rebuilt from the ground up in 1996, as he explained moments earlier); that the regulations had destroyed jobs (the jobs never existed); that small ISPs were harmed (I’ve asked the ones he’s cited repeatedly and they have never explained how) — and how edge providers are a bigger threat than ISP discrimination.
He asked that the internet be “driven by engineers” and not “lawyers and accountants” — ironic because hundreds of prominent engineers have pointed out the technical shortcomings of the order, which is largely based on economic analysis and legal hair-splitting.
Pai’s remarks were interrupted by security, which asked everyone to leave the meeting room so it could be swept by what appeared to be bomb-sniffing dogs.
Commissioner O’Rielly said the 2015 order, which was “railroaded” by the Obama administration, dealt primarily with theoretical threats, and called commentary suggesting possible harm “fearmongering.” He also said he saw no reason to have public meetings on the topic, since anyone interested could just leave a comment.
Commissioner Carr said this was “a great day,” recalling the halcyon days of 2008-2014, during which the internet grew unencumbered by 2015’s “unprecedented…massive regulatory overreach.” The open internet we know, he said, emerged from that framework; “Title II did not build that,” he said, and its removal will not lead us to a “Mad Max” version of the internet.
He also said, misleadingly, that the classification of broadband under Title I is the only one “blessed” by the Supreme Court, in 2005. In fact, the Supreme Court famously specifically declined to “bless” any particular classification, deferring to the FCC’s choice as an expert agency; and more recently courts have upheld the classification of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service — not to mention the fact that the people who actually created the modern internet insist that is the case as well.
As with all FCC orders of this magnitude, its effects do not take place immediately. The rules must first be entered in the federal register, something that will likely take place early next year.
According to the Washington Post, “Some analysts believe the uncertainty surrounding net neutrality provides an opening for congressional legislation to settle the issue once and for all. Republicans on Capitol Hill are optimistic. But their efforts are likely to stall unless they can court Democratic votes, and many Democrats view litigation against the FCC as the preferable course of action.”
Varying opinions on “Net Neutrality” point to a divide that began as a bipartisan issue, but has shape shifted into two distinct sides.
LeNora Millen 12-15-17
Government Shutdown: What’s Closed, Who is Affected?
Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud
Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.
A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.
That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.
New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)
The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.
People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.
Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:
- Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
- When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
- Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
- Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
- Report suspected instances of fraud.
- Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.
- Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
- Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
- Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
- Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
- Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.
Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.
With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.
Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Trump Children’s Health Insurance Tweet Contradicts White House Administration
Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump contradicted his own administration on Thursday when he tweeted that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should not be included in a short-term plan to fund the government.
Trump’s tweet sent on Thursday morning, seemingly undercut the “Stopgap Spending Bill,” leaving many confused at what could be construed as an “Anti-Chip” tweet.
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