Net Neutrality Now!
Net Neutrality Now! (Photo: Backbone Campaign)

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing is the text of found­ing NPI board­mem­ber Gael Tar­leton’s mes­sage to the Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion urg­ing the Repub­li­can-con­trolled body not to scrap the rules that pro­tect Inter­net free­dom in the Unit­ed States — a move NPI strong­ly oppos­es. Gael has served on NPI’s Board of Direc­tors since its incep­tion in 2010; she rep­re­sents Wash­ing­ton’s 36th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in the State House of Representatives. 

Dear FCC Chair­man and Commissioners:

Pro­tect Net Neu­tral­i­ty. Every pub­lic offi­cial has a clear-cut respon­si­bil­i­ty to the pub­lic mis­sion of a pub­lic agency. This deci­sion you are about to make is that clear-cut: pro­tect net neu­tral­i­ty to serve the pub­lic good.

Dur­ing the course of my pro­fes­sion­al career, I have had the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to ana­lyze the U.S. com­mu­ni­ca­tions infra­struc­ture that was vul­ner­a­ble to Sovi­et strate­gic nuclear attacks. Then I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work for a large com­pa­ny that bought Net­work Solu­tions, which was the small com­pa­ny that worked for the U.S. gov­ern­ment to cre­ate domain names for the internet.

I learned about net neu­tral­i­ty from the civ­il ser­vants who cre­at­ed the Inter­net with fund­ing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. They built the iIter­net to sup­port uni­ver­si­ties, nation­al lab­o­ra­to­ries, and defense agen­cies con­duct­ing research and devel­op­ment with fed­er­al funding.

In the pri­vate sec­tor, I led research teams in the Unit­ed States, Rus­sia, Ukraine and Europe, using the Inter­net to imple­ment crit­i­cal U.S. gov­ern­ment research pro­grams. At one of the nation’s top pub­lic research uni­ver­si­ties, I worked with fac­ul­ty and stu­dents whose edu­ca­tion­al and research projects required online stud­ies, inter­na­tion­al research exchange pro­grams, and coor­di­na­tion with research part­ners through­out the U.S. fed­er­al government.

All of these edu­ca­tion­al and research endeav­ors depend­ed on equal access to the inter­net regard­less of time zone dif­fer­ences or days of the week.

I was an elect­ed Com­mis­sion­er of the largest air­port and sea­port in the Pacif­ic North­west, and know that glob­al trade, com­merce, and tourism are impos­si­ble with­out ubiq­ui­tous access to the inter­net. There is not a sin­gle busi­ness or secu­ri­ty oper­a­tion in Amer­i­ca — not an air­port, rail sys­tem, truck­ing oper­a­tion, or ship­ping enter­prise — that will func­tion with­out 247 access to the Inter­net to con­duct finan­cial trans­ac­tions and trans­mit vital secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion glob­al­ly or locally.

Now I am a State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Wash­ing­ton State. I am the Vice Chair of the Tech­nol­o­gy and Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of the High­er Edu­ca­tion and Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tees. Equal access to the inter­net is the sin­gle most impor­tant fac­tor deter­min­ing whether entre­pre­neurs, stu­dents, cor­po­rate behe­moths, and small busi­ness­es can func­tion in a mod­ern, glob­al econ­o­my. With­out equal access to the inter­net, there is no equality.

When inter­net access is dis­rupt­ed, local and glob­al economies, sup­ply chains, and edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions are crip­pled. Equal access to the inter­net is an imperative.

You are pub­lic ser­vants. Your respon­si­bil­i­ty is to pro­tect the invest­ments that the U.S. tax­pay­ers have made in build­ing and main­tain­ing crit­i­cal pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tions infrastructure.

You are appoint­ed to a posi­tion of extra­or­di­nary respon­si­bil­i­ty. The truth is this: you are account­able to the peo­ple you serve, and the peo­ple you serve are the Amer­i­can peo­ple. All future gen­er­a­tions will be affect­ed by the deci­sions you make dur­ing your terms of office.

The Inter­net is not a con­ve­nience. It is not some­thing for sale. It is not owned by pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions and it is not some­thing giv­en out as rewards. The Inter­net is the 21st cen­tu­ry’s equiv­a­lent of elec­tric­i­ty or clean water. It is an essen­tial pub­lic good for every indi­vid­ual, com­mu­ni­ty, state, and nation.

As pub­lic ser­vants, your mis­sion is to pro­tect the pub­lic resources entrust­ed to your care. The inter­net was cre­at­ed with pub­lic mon­ey. The Inter­net was designed to serve the pub­lic good. Noth­ing in the FCC’s char­ter gives your agency the author­i­ty to unrav­el the Inter­net and decide who gets access when.

Pro­tect net neu­tral­i­ty. Do the right thing.


Here are the email address­es for the Repub­li­can commissioners:

  • ajit.pai (at) fcc (dot) gov
  • mike.orielly (at) fcc (dot) gov
  • brendan.carr (at) fcc (dot) gov

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mis­sion­ers (Mignon Clyburn and Jes­si­ca Rosen­wor­cel) are on record in oppo­si­tion to the plan to gut net neu­tral­i­ty, but you can email them too.

  • mignon.clyburn (at) fcc (dot) gov
  • jessica.rosenworcel (at) fcc (dot) gov

About the author

Gael Tarleton is an NPI Advisory Councilmember and former Washington State Representative who led two Russian subsidiaries during the 1990s and lserved as a senior defense intelligence analyst on Soviet strategic nuclear programs at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency from 1981-1990. She served on NPI's board from its inception through 2021.

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