FCC RIF Remand Draws Crowd

The FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC's official defense of its Restoring Internet Freedom net neutrality rule deregulation order Tuesday (Oct. 27) drew immediate response from stakeholders inside the Beltway.

"We commend the FCC's action to affirm its decision to return broadband internet access to the light-touch Title I framework under which the internet developed and flourished," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "The COVID pandemic has underscored how our traditional mode of light-touch regulation promotes the ongoing investment required to build innovative, robust, and resilient networks that can meet consumer needs – both expected and unanticipated. That record of performance and foresight remains critical to our nation’s security and economic competitiveness and should continue to guide policymakers in supporting the future evolution and improvement of networks.” 

"Today’s vote is an important step towards ending the litigation that has arisen out of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order," said the Internet Innovation Alliance in a statement. "Title II proponents’ predictions of anti-competitive behaviors by service providers have failed to materialize, and the Order has succeeded in driving more investment and innovation in broadband. It encourages rapid deployment of advanced broadband services, reaffirms U.S. global leadership in broadband, and brings our national goal of universal broadband closer. A light-touch regulatory framework for rapidly-evolving broadband networks is the best policy approach, both now and in the future.”

“The D.C. Circuit got it right when it affirmed what anyone who has been paying attention to Washington’s endless and exhausting net neutrality saga (not to mention the state of the internet in 2020) knows to be absolutely true," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "[T]he internet is open, thriving and delivering for consumers with the content, capacity and innovation they demand – especially since the pandemic put unprecedented demands on our networks.

“We are pleased the FCC tackled the three issues remanded to it by the court and bolstered the 2017 order and the bipartisan policy framework that has guided the internet through 20 years of openness and extraordinary growth. At the end of the day, while the internet continues to thrive under the current federal approach, it is long past time for Congress to step in and end the regulatory rinse and repeat cycle with a strong national framework that applies to all companies, maintains our dynamic and open internet, and sustains our global digital leadership for the next generation and beyond.”

But not everyone was breaking out the champagne.

INCOMPAS, whose members include computer companies as well as competitive carriers, said the decision leaves "families, first responders and markets" unprotected from blocking, throttling or extra fees. 

“Today, Americans have no guarantee that critical communications over broadband will be delivered since net neutrality was repealed, and they are already paying the price," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. "Without oversight, large ISPs have imposed data caps that have raised prices on consumers during the pandemic. Moreover, large ISPs have responded to the net neutrality changes they demanded by firing workers, cutting broadband services and accumulated record levels of debt.

"We’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic where people are more vulnerable to Big Telecom’s abuses than ever before, and the FCC is voting against Internet freedom once again," said net neutrality advocate Fight for the Future. "They’re ignoring a mountain of evidence and the voices of the overwhelming majority of people from across the political spectrum....Meanwhile, Trump’s FCC plans to move forward with a deeply silly and blatantly unconstitutional executive order to blow up Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, opening the floodgates for massive Internet censorship and deputizing Federal bureaucrats as online speech police."

FCC Democrats made that same point about Sec. 230 in their dissents from Tuesday's vote on the remand order. 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who pushed for the repeal of the FCC's net neutrality deregulation, signaled the fight was not over. 

"“The Circuit Court correctly stated that the FCC is ‘unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service’ with their harmful actions on net neutrality,” said Markey in a statement. “The FCC’s vote today to double down on repealing net neutrality and ignore its impact on public safety, universal access, and broadband competition continues to fly in the face of the reality that Americans confront today – the urgent need for access to reliable and affordable broadband free of corporate control. Without net neutrality protections, it’s just a matter of time before big broadband providers start raising prices, slowing down internet speeds, and making it harder for families, small business, and students to access the opportunities to recover and rebuild from this pandemic. I will not rest until net neutrality is back on the books. The stakes are just too high for the future of the American economy and our democracy.”

“With this decision, the FCC continues to put the interests of a handful of monopoly internet service providers over the needs of the American people," said Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps, former chairman of the FCC and a proponent of strong net neutrality rules. "Net Neutrality has always been more than just bright line rules preventing ISPs from discriminating against internet traffic. It’s about ensuring consumers have adequate protections and affordable and competitive broadband services when going online. The FCC’s failure to consider all aspects of its net neutrality repeal only highlights the need for strong rules that ensure the agency has adequate authority to act as a cop on the beat to protect consumers in an uncompetitive broadband marketplace.

“CCIA continues to support strong, clear, bright-line rules preventing blocking, throttling, and discrimination like paid prioritization by internet access providers," said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. "These rules benefit all internet users and businesses as they encourage more competition and innovation by putting the next start-up on equal ground with bigger businesses.”

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.