As expected, the three Republicans on the now right wing-controlled Federal Communications Commission voted today to repeal the net neutrality rules that have for two years barred service providers like Comcast from engaging in discriminatory practices like throttling and blocking.
The two Democratic commissioners dissented sharply, declaring the vote and the process leading up to it a sham. The rules, originally approved in 2015 as part of Tom Wheeler’s groundbreaking Open Internet initiative, reclassified broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act, thereby giving the FCC the authority to regulate companies like Comcast as common carriers.
“I dissent, because I am among the millions who is outraged,” said Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers.”
“Why are we witnessing such an unprecedented groundswell of public support, for keeping the 2015 net neutrality protections in place? Because the public can plainly see, that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the Internet – the Internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime – over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”
“And if past is prologue, those very same broadband internet service providers, that the majority says you should trust to do right by you, will put profits and shareholder returns above, what is best for you.”
“Each of us raised our right hands when we were sworn in as FCC Commissioners, took an oath and promised to uphold our duties and responsibilities ‘to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination… a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.’ Today the FCC majority officially abandons that pledge and millions have taken note.”
Today’s vote, orchestrated by Verizon and Comcast puppet Ajit Pai — Donald Trump’s choice to run the FCC — seeks to revert to the regulatory scheme that was in place before 2015, which did not require that American ISPs treat traffic equally. However, it is certain to be challenged in court.
“Yesterday I sent a letter to the FCC asking them to delay their vote gutting net neutrality,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement released minutes after the vote. “Unfortunately, they did not.”
“Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country.
“We are 5–0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action. There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again.”
“We will be filing a petition for review in the coming days. Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses.
“I was proud to stand with Governor Inslee yesterday when he announced that Washington State will step up to protect consumers in light of this disappointing federal action,” the Attorney General added. “I commend him for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him to that end.”
“America has been a world leader in innovation in large part because we’ve benefited from a free and open internet, but we won’t remain at the top by adopting backward policies that hurt consumers,” said U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene in a statement denouncing Ajit Pai’s scheme.
“I strongly oppose the FCC’s decision to fully repeal net neutrality and allow internet service providers to influence the content users can see. Given the opportunity, internet service providers could block content and services or charge premiums for the kind of open access we’ve come to expect. There’s no question that today’s vote is a massive loss, both for consumers and for innovation.”
“Despite the pleas of millions of Americans, President Trump’s FCC voted to change the internet as we know it, and turn it into yet another money-making tool for large corporations,” said Washington’s senior United States Senator Patty Murray.
“This move is shameful and wrong, and I encourage the many, many people affected by today’s decision—from students and families, to small business owners and the next generation of innovators—to keep fighting back. We will not forget who and what comes first in the Trump/Republican agenda.”
“Today’s decision threatens our booming innovation economy,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “It’s impossible to know where the next big companies will come from, which makes an open and free internet all the more important to innovators, entrepreneurs and job creators – especially in the tech-driven Pacific Northwest.”
Cantwell and fifteen other Democratic senators intend to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo today’s action by the FCC and restore the rules approved by Commissioners Tom Wheeler, Mignon Clyburn, and Jessica Rosenworcel during the presidency of Barack Obama. However, since Republicans control the Senate, it’s unlikely to go anywhere, at least not until 2019.