Free Press: Today's FCC Ruling Will Not Stand

Net Neutrality Fund
December 14, 2017

Free Press

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to approve the deceptively named “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” The order dismantles the agency’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules, abdicating FCC authority over internet service providers and clearing the way for blocking, throttling and discrimination by the nation’s largest phone and cable companies.

Free Press will take the FCC to court to challenge its reversal on the proper definition of broadband, the accuracy of its contentious justifications for tossing out the rules, and the many process fouls that have plagued the FCC proceeding since it began earlier this year.

Right after today’s vote, Free Press Action Fund and its allies launched an internet-wide campaign to demand that Congress use a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn today’s FCC order. In the past month, nearly a million people have called their elected officials on Capitol Hill to urge them to take action on behalf of real Net Neutrality protections.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Net Neutrality is the nondiscrimination law of the internet. It’ll be just as necessary tomorrow as it is today. That’s why open-internet advocates and millions of internet users and activists will do everything to restore it in the near term and over the long haul. We’ll work tirelessly to fix the many legal, factual and moral failings that the FCC majority used to prop up its flawed and foundering decision.

“Commissioners Pai, O’Rielly and Carr twisted the history of the Communications Act to arrive at their prejudiced conclusions. They prattle on about the 2015 order’s alleged departure from precedent but it’s a smokescreen. It’s today’s bad decision that departs from the FCC’s mandate and longstanding mission. The 2015 decision got the legal theories for Net Neutrality right, yet we’ve always had these principles for communications networks — and we always should.

“Net Neutrality protects internet users’ freedom of choice. It’s doesn’t concern itself only with fights between big companies like Comcast and Google. Competition between established players is vital, but so too are education, empowerment and expression for all.

“People use the internet today to grow both small businesses and social movements. They use it to sow not just the seeds of entrepreneurship but justice. It is this agency’s job to work toward the goal of universally affordable and open-internet service. But Pai and his enablers quit their job and abandoned their posts — while preempting states’ power to even try to fill in the gaps.

“Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel never quit their charge. They brought their brilliant minds and their passion for public service to the fore, truly listening to the people affected by this decision. They never forgot that nondiscrimination rules like Net Neutrality make it possible for communities too often ignored in the media to speak out for themselves and strike out on their own.

“That’s what is at stake here. Ajit Pai’s siren song suggests that nothing will change as a result of this decision. He’s wrong. It’s not just that your binge-watching might cost more — and make no mistake, it will, if cable companies wish. The real problem is we’ve lost fundamental rights as a result of this vote, along with our protections against ISPs’ editing whims and controlling ways. A right is still essential even when it’s not being violated, but we’ve seen violations before and will again all too soon.

“Don’t believe Ajit Pai’s simpering lies on any detail, not even for a second. His incessant smirking and scolding don’t change history or reality. They don’t alter the statute Congress wrote for broadband internet-access lines. The Pai FCC’s inarticulate technical claims on these issues, and its inaccurate understanding of communications law in general, are the rotten core of its order today.

“We’ll have plenty to say in court about the legal mistakes littered throughout this decision. It’s willfully gullible and downright deceptive to suggest that nondiscrimination rules are no longer needed — despite the massive power of the cable and phone companies that control broadband access in this country.

“This rulemaking has been full of procedural missteps too, from the agency’s failure to provide proper explanation and notice of its legal theories, or proper recognition for the complaints it received under the 2015 rules, to its widely publicized failure to accept real public input and clean up fraud in its systems for doing so.

“Fake comments aren’t the only bad data clouding this decision. Pai has no evidence for his claim that the 2015 decision’s return to the right legal framework in Title II harmed broadband providers’ deployment, speeds or financial performance. Free Press has shown definitively that all of these indicators went up in the wake of the Open Internet Order needlessly struck down today, and we’ve also shown how online investment and innovation boomed with those protections firmly in place.

“This isn’t the end of the fight for Net Neutrality, though it’s a milestone the FCC never would have reached had it paid attention to the facts. We’re confident that judges and lawmakers reviewing this decision will disapprove of its conclusions and its methods too. Until they do, we’ll be on guard for ISP violations and working to put the right remedies for them back in place.”

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