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

Edi­tor’s Note: In an impor­tant vic­to­ry for our dig­i­tal lib­er­ties, the Unit­ed States Sen­ate today vot­ed 52–47 in favor of restor­ing net neu­tral­i­ty as the law of the land in this coun­try. The action now shifts to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which would also need to vote in favor of net neu­tral­i­ty to over­turn the action tak­en by Ajit Pai’s FCC. The fol­low­ing are the speech­es giv­en by Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell in sup­port of a free and open Inter­net pri­or to the vote.

Pat­ty Mur­ray’s pre­pared remarks in sup­port of net neutrality:

Thank you, M. President.

I’m here to lift up the voic­es of the fam­i­lies I rep­re­sent in Wash­ing­ton state…

…who, like so many oth­er Amer­i­cans, agree that the inter­net should be free and open…

…who agree that our coun­try should sup­port small busi­ness own­ers, entre­pre­neurs, stu­dents and mid­dle class families—NOT big cor­po­ra­tions and spe­cial interests…

…who agree that con­sumers — not broad­band providers—should get to pick the web­sites they vis­it or appli­ca­tions they use…

…who agree the inter­net should be a lev­el play­ing field that ben­e­fits end users, and not slant­ed by broad­band providers block­ing con­tent or charg­ing for pri­or­i­tized access.

That is why so many of us are on the floor today: to give a voice to the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans who want the inter­net to remain a place that fos­ters inno­va­tion, eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty, robust con­sumer choice, and the free flow of knowledge.

M. Pres­i­dent, these things aren’t a luxury.

They are what makes Amer­i­can inge­nu­ity possible…

…and as a for­mer preschool teacher, I sup­port net neu­tral­i­ty because it helps the next gen­er­a­tion of inno­va­tors — our stu­dents, espe­cial­ly those in rur­al and low-income areas.

Schools have worked hard to improve access to high-speed con­nec­tiv­i­ty for all stu­dents because they know—from ear­ly edu­ca­tion, through high­er edu­ca­tion, and work­force training—students need high-speed inter­net in order to learn and get the skills they need.

Their teach­ers need the inter­net to col­lab­o­rate with col­leagues, access edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als, help stu­dents learn valu­able research and inter­net safe­ty skills, and expand access to a high qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and Eng­lish learners.

Rolling back net neu­tral­i­ty threat­ens that edu­ca­tion­al equi­ty and wors­ens the dig­i­tal divide.

So let’s pro­tect the free and open inter­net. Not just for today’s con­sumers, but for students—the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can innovators.

The choice couldn’t be easier.

Either stand with every­day Amer­i­cans — or with the mas­sive cor­po­ra­tions that have found a new way to make more mon­ey off of them.

Thank you, I yield the floor.

Watch this speech on demand.

Tran­script of Maria Cantwell’s speech in sup­port of net neutrality:

Mr. Pres­i­dent, I thank my col­league from Hawaii and our empathies are with the state of Hawaii as they respond to this vol­cano erup­tion. I noticed this morn­ing on the news, they’re ref­er­enc­ing it could be as bad as Mount St. Helens, and trust me, that was a dev­as­tat­ing impact to our state. So I hope that all fed­er­al agen­cies are help­ing in any ways we can for Hawaii’s nat­ur­al disaster.

And thank her for also talk­ing about the impor­tance of net neu­tral­i­ty. I, too, come to the floor to defend the open inter­net because it is a pro-con­sumer, pro-inno­va­tion rule that we have to build on because it’s worth the 7% of our GDP and 6.9 mil­lion jobs. That is what the inter­net econ­o­my is.

Net neu­tral­i­ty that we are fight­ing for today has four bright lines, four lines that help busi­ness­es, helps con­sumers, and helps our inter­net econ­o­my grow.

They are, don’t block con­tent, don’t throt­tle content—that is, don’t slow it downs—don’t cre­ate paid prioritization.

That’s like say­ing, in the Burg­er King ad, if you want the next whop­per avail­able, pay $15. I think they did a pret­ty good job of show­ing what would hap­pen if you had every busi­ness oper­at­ing that way. And the fourth rule is trans­paren­cy. Make sure that you know exact­ly what you’re get­ting charged for.

The Oba­ma-era fed­er­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem adopt­ed rules that basi­cal­ly pro­tect­ed con­sumers and busi­ness­es on those four things.

Why did they do that?

Because there were some that were try­ing to eek their way into mak­ing more mon­ey off of con­sumers and busi­ness­es on what is basic ser­vice. Title 2 was the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work that the Oba­ma-era FCC used to make sure that con­sumers were pro­tect­ed, and they were the strongest tools avail­able and helped in mak­ing sure there was non-monop­o­lis­tic behav­ior that would harm businesses.

So togeth­er, the rule that was estab­lished by the then-Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion sys­tem was an open inter­net with the FCC being the cop on the beat. That is to say, if you have these rules, you also have to have some­one who is going to enforce them. Some­one who is going to look at the monop­o­lis­tic behav­iors of cable com­pa­nies or providers and say, that is unfair to con­sumers and businesses.

But under the Trump-era FCC, all of those things were thrown out.

And so that is why we’re here today.

Our col­leagues are try­ing to say we want to go back to the pro­tec­tions of the inter­net that are called net neu­tral­i­ty to make sure that the FCC becomes, instead of a pas­sive enti­ty that just okays every charge that cable com­pa­nies want to do, instead says, these rules about not slow­ing down con­tent, not doing monop­o­lis­tic behav­ior, these things are wrong and we are going to be the police­men on the beat.

The FCC can pro­tect con­sumers and inno­va­tors and they can make sure that inter­net traf­fic does not vio­late an open internet.

But as I said, the Trump-era FCC is try­ing to throw out these strong rules and cable com­pa­nies are already—already—starting to raise prices for high­er speed.

In Van­cou­ver, Wash­ing­ton, Com­cast recent­ly announced that high­er-speed tiers will be avail­able but only to con­sumers who pur­chase expen­sive paid TV bundles.

That’s why we’re here. Because while it sounds like, why do we want to give cable com­pa­nies the oppor­tu­ni­ty to throt­tle or block or cre­ate paid pri­or­i­ti­za­tion, we also have to real­ize that today the inter­net econ­o­my is so much big­ger than it has ever been, that it is a job cre­ator and an innovator.

In my state, it’s 13% of our econ­o­my and thou­sands of jobs that con­tin­ue to grow every day as new appli­ca­tions for the inter­net are created.

It’s so impor­tant that busi­ness­es who are even using these apps to help run their busi­ness­es more effi­cient­ly con­tin­ue to get access to those tools.

But what about an inter­net that a cable provider decid­ed to arti­fi­cial­ly slow down that web­site and there­by cre­at­ing a dis­in­cen­tive for the very things that are help­ing to make our busi­ness­es more efficient?

So we want to make sure that the FCC does its orig­i­nal job.

What is that?

Well, they are there to pro­mote devel­op­ment and adap­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works in the pub­lic inter­est. That is, they are serv­ing consumers.

And that is the cen­ter of their mission.

The cen­ter of their mis­sion should not be serv­ing cable com­pa­nies, and that is why courts have said to the FCC, if you want to have author­i­ty to pro­tect an open inter­net, you have to do that under Title 2.

Basi­cal­ly, the court explained that enforc­ing the open inter­net prin­ci­ples and being a watch­dog against abuse is impor­tant to the FCC’s mis­sion of pro­mot­ing and devel­op­ing and an adop­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions that’s in the pub­lic inter­est. But that those pow­ers have to flow from Title 2 of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act.

So that is why the Oba­ma-era FCC adopt­ed those rules.

So today we know that inter­net is a basic necessity.

It’s the access that helps our health care deliv­ery sys­tem work, our edu­ca­tion sys­tem work, our bank­ing sys­tem work, shop­ping, all sorts of things that make it just a nec­es­sary tool in life today. When a ser­vice is that essen­tial and crit­i­cal to indi­vid­u­als and a com­mu­ni­ty and crit­i­cal to their eco­nom­ic suc­cess, we need to make sure that con­sumers have pro­tec­tions, to make sure that it is not abused.

In the Unit­ed States, we have just three — well, in the Unit­ed States, just three providers of inter­net access have about 70% of the consumers.

In any mar­ket with only a few play­ers, it is essen­tial that we pro­tect busi­ness­es and con­sumers, and that is exact­ly what Title 2 does. It helps pro­tect us from cable com­pa­ny goug­ing and its close cousin, paid prioritization.

It makes sure that the bar­ri­ers to entry are not erect­ed so that entre­pre­neurs or start-ups who want to bring new prod­ucts to mar­ket aren’t arti­fi­cial­ly slowed down and a larg­er com­peti­tor who can pay more for it can con­tin­ue the access.

Just recent­ly we had an event with Redfin, some­one who is chang­ing the real estate mar­ket, a com­pa­ny in the Pacif­ic North­west, and help­ing dri­ve down the cost to con­sumers for real estate pur­chas­es. They made it very clear that Redfin was able to devel­op today because it had an open inter­net, and its con­sumers and busi­ness part­ners could con­nect to it. But under a world where they were just start­ing over and start­ing out new and they had to pay for a kind of pri­or­i­ti­za­tion to get good broad­band ser­vice, they may not have been as successful.

So these rules, Title 2, gives expert agen­cies the tools to look behind the cur­tain and make sure that cable com­pa­nies are pro­vid­ing the ser­vices that do not vio­late an open inter­net. And there is a rea­son that cable com­pa­nies don’t want to fol­low these rules, because they want to make more money.

I get it. They want to make more money.

But I would say that, with 40% of Amer­i­cans hav­ing no choice in who they buy inter­net ser­vices from, we have to be much more vigilant.

These com­pa­nies have sev­er­al ver­ti­cal­ly inte­grat­ed com­pa­nies at the top, and they are seek­ing to amass more and more con­tent. And that could give them the tools again to block con­tent, to slow it down, or to “X” out a com­peti­tor if they so choose.

I don’t want to see the FCC sit­ting on the side­lines and not polic­ing this kind of envi­ron­ment. I know that AT&T now is try­ing to merge with Time Warn­er, and these large com­pa­nies, they want to con­tin­ue to amass con­tent and to dri­ve the mar­ket­place. But the Amer­i­can con­sumer’s sat­is­fac­tion with these big com­pa­nies is at an all-time low. Do they think that they’re going to do the right thing on their own? Do they think cable com­pa­nies will do that?

Well, the cable indus­try ranks at the very bot­tom of 43 indus­tries in con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion. In fact, it has been in the dead-last posi­tion for five years. So does the pub­lic think that they’re doing the right things when it comes to them or their busi­ness­es? I think that that sur­vey says it all. They have great concern.

And what are the rea­sons that cable com­pa­nies give for why they don’t want to fol­low net neu­tral­i­ty rules? [T]hey say, it will hurt their invest­ment in networks.

Well, I guess I’d ask a ques­tion — did the Oba­ma-era FCC rules slow down invest­ment? No, it did­n’t. Big cable com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to make invest­ment in their net­works. And the year fol­low­ing the rule that went into place, the entire indus­try shows that the total cap­i­tal expen­di­tures increased by more than $550 mil­lion above the pre­vi­ous year’s investment.

For exam­ple, in the 2017 earn­ings report, Com­cast, the nation’s largest broad­band provider, not­ed that it’s cap­i­tal expen­di­tures increased 7.5%, $9 bil­lion, and that it con­tin­ued to make deploy­ment in plat­forms like the X1 and wire­less gate­ways. Like­wise, AT&T spent $22 bil­lion in cap­i­tal invest­ments, up $20 bil­lion from the pre­vi­ous year. In fact, 2016 rep­re­sents the indus­try’s high­est sin­gle year jump in broad­band net­work invest­ment since 1999.

So the notion that they are some­how going to slow down on invest­ment is just not true. The his­toric growth came after com­pa­nies had a full year to digest the impacts of Title 2 and net neu­tral­i­ty rules being put in place by the Oba­ma-era FCC.

So where are we today? Well, these com­pa­nies con­tin­ue to make mon­ey and they want a free pass on con­tin­u­ing to make more.

That is why our goal is not the prof­its of big cable companies.

Our goal to make sure that the inter­net econ­o­my con­tin­ues to grow and the jug­ger­naut of job cre­ation and inno­va­tion con­tin­ues to expand.

We want the inter­net ecosys­tem that has dou­bled as a per­cent­age of GDP from 2007 to 2017 to con­tin­ue to grow. As I said, in my state it’s about 13% of our state’s econ­o­my and I spend prac­ti­cal­ly every day in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate hear­ing about anoth­er inno­va­tion from some­one in my state.

It may be the farm econ­o­my and more effi­cient ways to pro­duce prod­uct or get prod­uct to mar­ket or man­age their live­stock. It might be in telemed­i­cine, in help­ing some­one from one side of the state to the oth­er to get access to care.

It may be as basic as con­nect­ing peo­ple to their fam­i­lies and loved ones. But it is the inter­net that we know today and it is so inte­gral to our lives.

Well, I hope that the com­mon sense leg­is­la­tion in front of us, the CRA, which would restore those Oba­ma-era FCC net neu­tral­i­ty rules, pass­es. I hope that our col­leagues will under­stand that get­ting exor­bi­tant inter­net fees from cable providers is not the direc­tion the Amer­i­can peo­ple want to go. Amer­i­can entre­pre­neurs, inno­va­tors, and con­sumers can­not afford to take that hit. What they want to see is an open inter­net, one that con­tin­ues to allow so much more of the inter­net econ­o­my to flourish.

Let’s make sure that we say to the FCC, we don’t want you fold­ing or sit­ting on your hands. We want you to police the inter­net and we want you to have the rules to do it. That is why we must pass the CRA today and I hope our col­leagues on the oth­er side of the aisle will join us because there is just too much at stake in our inno­va­tion econ­o­my. I thank the Pres­i­dent, and I yield the floor.

Watch the speech on demand.

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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