Clyburn Vows to Fight Title II Rollback

Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn joined Democrats on the Hill in their pledge to fight the rollback or Title II reclassification of internet access, calling it an unacceptable abdication of government's duty to protect the public interest.

That followed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's announcement of his plans to vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking reversing the reclassification, eliminating the "general conduct standard" and seeking comment on the other Open Internet rules.

In a statement in advance of a press conference, Clyburn said that Pai's proposal would "dismantle the internet as we know it," and issue a "hall pass" to the largest broadband providers "while leaving those we took an oath to protect, the American consumer, back in detention."

Related: Ajit Pai's Speech Draws Immediate and Passionate Reaction

Clyburn voted to approve reclassification back in 2015. She called that a pro-consumer "delicately struck balance" that Pai was willing to dismantle to do the bidding of a handful of big broadband providers.

Those broadband providers, she said, "should not be in the driver's seat, determining how you use the internet, controlling what content you view, or dictating what kind of devices you can use."

Related: ISPs Praise Pai's Title II Move

She said the average American has no "real" choice for high-speed broadband, which is bad enough without also "rolling back our clearest authority to fund broadband deployment."

"I urge everyone in favor of an open internet to speak out, and rally against rolling back consumer protections," she said.

Asked if she would block the Pai initiative, at least temporarily, by denying a quorum for a planned May 18 vote, she did not say, but did say she would do whatever she could, so appeared to leave that option open.

The Democratic House members holding the press conference had to hold court outside the Capitol building, and delay their conference, to make way for busses full of Senators returning from a meeting on North Korea with President Donald Trump.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose district includes Silicon Valley, said that the FCC was trying to kill start-up babies in their crib with its "dinosaur footprints."

She said Pai was a young man whose "old thinking" was on the wrong side of history. She took a shot at his former job at a telco. "He thinks he is still working for Verizon."

She said she considered herself one of the "mothers" of the Open Internet of protections. He called it pathetic that Pai thought he was looking to the future. She said he would be killing off small businesses.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, said  the rules had been well thought out and there was no reason to roll them back. "I want to kill this effort to kill network neutrality." He called it a Vladimir Putin-like effort to keep people from accessing the Internet and that if the rollback were not rolled back, it would be a Midterm election issue.

Asked if there were some legislative compromise on net neutrality rules, Pallone said there was no reason to believe the Republicans would support substantive protections. "The well is already poisoned," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.