Caricature of Ajit Pai
Caricature of Ajit Pai by DonkeyHotey

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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