How does a broadband internet provider decide what it wants to see and not what it doesn’t want to see?
The answers to these questions are now part of the public record, thanks to a trove of documents filed in a California court.
It is a battle between the telecom giants and a small group of internet activists and privacy advocates.
The documents show that Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are seeking to block internet providers from using some features, such as speed limits, on their networks.
The fight has also pitted the telcos against a coalition of companies, including the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and state regulators, including California, who say the internet should be open and free.
Verizon, which has an estimated 500 million customers, is one of the country’s largest internet service providers, and has a market share of about 20 per cent.
It argues that it can be an equal partner to its competitors and protect its customers’ privacy.
The company says the rules that it’s in the process of applying to the Federal Communications Board, the US government body that sets broadband rules, are too vague and that it has “unprecedented” influence over how the internet is used and regulated.
“Verizon’s position is that they are doing a good job,” said Verizon spokesperson Tom Shannon in an email to the ABC.
“We’re in this to make the internet better and protect consumers.”
Mr Shannon says the USFCC is not involved in the fight, but the group of state regulators have said they have “a lot of concerns”.
Mr Shannon said Verizon is not alone in the effort to kill net neutrality.
The US Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit in the US that says the internet could be closed down without a consumer’s consent.
“There’s an incredible amount of uncertainty and confusion that has created an environment where people don’t trust the system, that they don’t want the government to be able to control what they’re doing,” he said.
“The USFRC is concerned that there’s no real evidence that the internet will be restored to its original state, or that consumers are going to get the benefit of the free market without this regulatory interference.”
The FCC said in a statement it’s working with the FTC and other federal regulators to clarify how net neutrality rules work, and that the agency is also looking into “whether the Commission’s net neutrality rule is consistent with the Federal Trade Conduct Act”.
But the US Department of Justice, which is also investigating the company’s practices, has said it believes the FCC’s proposal is too vague.
“In addition to the FTC’s complaint, the DOJ is reviewing the proposed rule and will make a determination as to whether to intervene in the proceeding,” a spokesperson for the department said in an emailed statement.
The FCC has said its net neutrality proposal is consistent, and does not go far enough.
“The Commission’s proposed net neutrality plan, which seeks to provide consumers and internet providers with the protections and benefits that broadband delivers, is in line with its long-standing policy, which prohibits discrimination and ensures that broadband providers are not prohibited from discriminating in their services or services offered,” it said.
Verify.net is a free tool that allows consumers to verify that their internet service provider is offering them the best service.
It’s available on the internet provider’s homepage, where you can see how the network works.
The verification tool, like the others available on Verizon’s website, requires users to provide some basic information about themselves and their broadband provider, and then verify that the service meets the provider’s minimum requirements.
The tool also allows consumers and online service providers to verify if their broadband service provider can’t be trusted with their data.