D.C. Marks Anniversary of Restoring Internet Freedom Order

Various network neutrality groups were marking the one-year anniversary Friday (Dec. 14) of the FCC's vote to reclassify broadband as a Title I information service; roll back network neutrality regulations against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, and deed the Federal Trade Commission primary regulatory oversight of the 'net.

FCC chair Ajit Pai marked it by pointing out that the internet was still humming along, as it were, and investment was up.

Actually, the rules didn't go into effect until June 12, 2018, so it is only roughly the six-month anniversary of the dereg actually taking effect, though the market could pretty much start counting on it last December despite Democratic efforts to nullify Pai's deregulatory Restoring Internet Freedom order.

Fight for the Future, which had fought to retain the rules and a Title II common carrier definition of internet access, marked the day with a "naming and shaming" billboard calling out the members of Congress who have failed to support a Congressional Review Act resolution that would nullify the reg rollback. Those legislators have until the end of the lame duck session to back the CRA so it can be discharged from committee, where Republicans aren't advancing it, and get a vote in the full House. That is almost certainly not going to happen.

The mobile digital billboard will circle the Hill throughout the day Friday, said FFTF

Internet users are still royally pissed off about the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, and they’re paying close attention to where their elected officials stand on the free and open Internet” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, of the 'moving' shout down.

"We’re ready to continue the fight in 2019, from analyzing legislation coming out of the new Congress, to challenging predatory actions by Big Telecom, to standing up to the chairman Pai-led FCC," said Public Knowledge of the anniversary, using it as a chance to solicit funds for that effort. "Every dollar makes a difference for our work in 2019 and beyond. We cannot win our #FightForFairness without you."

In an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, Pai was asked about that one-year anniversary. He had a ready answer: "The internet remains free and open and consumers continue to be protected," he said. "Going forward, we are very excited about the fact that broadband infrastructure is up [an] millions more Americans are getting on the right side of the digital divide and that is the kind of trend we expect in 2019 and beyond. The internet economy that America has had is going to continue to be the envy of the world and the American consumer is going to continue to be protected and we are going to see an increase in internet access and competition..."

Activists dispute the investment boost and suggest the reason ISPs have not rushed to stake a claim on blocking, throttling or anticompetitive paid prioritization is that it would make more sense, politically, to make fewer ripples by testing the waters gradually, rather than making a big splash by jumping in immediately.

For her part, Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who strongly backed the Title I based rules and opposed their repeal, marked the day by releasing her latest podcast, this one with actress and net neutrality activist Justice Bateman (Family Ties, Arrested Development) talking about why she has been advocating for open internet rules for a decade.

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.