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Diversity Groups Ask FCC to Preserve Sec. 706 'Net Backstop

Diversity groups supporting Ajit Pai's net neutrality rule rollback have been meeting with FCC officials to make sure that those diverse interests continue to be protected and advanced in a new net neutrality enforcement regime.

The FCC is proposing to roll back net neutrality rules and let the Federal Trade Commission take the lead on enforcing no blocking, throttling or unreasonable discrimination pledges by ISP's, with an assist from the Justice Department on any anticompetitive conduct.

According to The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB), they have held five meetings over the past few days with representatives either the staffs of all five commissioners and/or their bosses to advise them to rethink not preserving the FCC's Sec. 706 authority to prevent violations of "core net neutrality principles."

Sec. 706 is the congressional directive to the FCC to make sure advanced telecommunications is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. That was the authority that undergirded the first Open Internet Order that was not based in Title II.

They said that "even assuming that the FTC agrees top allow net neutrality complaints to jump to the head of its rather long complaint queue, there is still a learning curve and a big "'unknown' associated with an enforcement paradigm that has never before been attempted."

Related: Rosenworcel, NY AG: FCC Must Investigate Net Neutrality Comments, Delay Vote

They said that if the FCC does not want to retain a Sec. 706 backstop, it should issue a further notice of proposed rulemaking FNPRM or find some other way to address the impact of removing reliance on Sec. 706 on bridging the digital divide, small businesses and online participation.

They also want the FCC to open a new docket on digital redlining while stating in the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding that digital redlining (not providing advanced communications) based on race, ethnicity or income is out of bounds.

"If the loss of Section 706 enforcement constrains the FCC’s ability to put an end to digital redlining, that would be devastating," they said.

They beg to differ with the FCC's suggestion in the draft order that "simply channeling greater 'fast lane' investment dollars to the carriers, all by itself, will solve the digital redlining problem."

Without proscriptive rules under Sec. 706, and if Congress does not act, there could be no way to stop digital redlining period, they warned, while also praising the FCC for the diversity steps it has taken, including launching an incubator program as part of media ownership deregulation.

The FCC is preparing to vote on the net neutrality rollback order Dec. 14.

Related: Net Neutrality Reg Rollback Riles Religious Groups