Editorial: Cooler Heads, Please

People can and do strongly disagree over whether the FCC should or should not have repealed network neutrality rules. But the rhetorical thermostat needs to be lowered a few degrees.

Verizon Communications made several errors in not lifting speed limits on the Santa Clara, Calif., fire department. Though the department could have immediately paid a few bucks more for a higher service tier, there appeared to be some confusion about that, for which Verizon has rightly taken responsibility.

It’s new policy, as it should be, is to immediately lift any restrictions on speeds during emergencies and to offer a new plan with “unlimited data, with no caps on mobile solutions and [that] automatically includes priority access.”

Pro-net neutrality activists have latched on to the incident to buttress their case against the rollback of open internet rules and the reclassification of ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act, but also to ratchet up the rhetoric in ways that could prove unfortunate.

Free Press, for example, sent an email to its supporters claiming, “Without the open internet to illuminate police brutality, the family-separation crisis, White supremacy and other injustices, we’ll see more violence and atrocities in our communities.” It said the FCC’s repeal of the rules “gave the fire department nowhere to go when people’s lives were literally on the line.”

Such hyberbole does not advance the legitimate debate about the future of internet regulation.