FCC's Clyburn: Only Silence Will Kill Net Neutrality

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn told a crowd of Title II fans that network neutrality is dead unless they make themselves heard, no matter what the vote on the upcoming Title II rollback is.

Clyburn was speaking at a TechCrunch Disrupt NYC conference May 16. Her talk was billed as "Commission impossible: Keeping the internet free."

The FCC plans to vote May 18 on Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to reverse the Title II classification of ISPs that Clyburn supported in the Open Internet order she helped approve back in 2015.

Clyburn is currently the lone Democrat under the new Republican Administration, so she cannot stop the reversal of Title II but could delay it if she does not show up for the May 18 meeting and denies the chairman the necessary quorum.

That does not sound likely since she said she did not know what the FCC would be launching this week, but she would vote "in the opposite way" from the Republicans.

She said net neutrality is dead if "we are silent," no matter how the vote goes.

Moderator Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch was the moderator and asked whether the comments matter and pointed to identical pro-Title II comments that had been filed.

Clyburn said that the comments will not be officially part of the record until the FCC votes the rulemaking and said commenters should keep weighing in. She said that was the only way to defend net neutrality.

Clyburn said the FCC has the technical tools to deal with the duplicates or get rid of the comments where "there is a little something going on."

Coldewey said some tech types are already scraping the FCC site to get data on the comments and duplicates. She also said over 90% of the comments so far have been in favor of preserving an open internet.

Clyburn said she was not dragged, pushed or pulled into Title II but got a mandate from the American people. She said left unchecked, ISPs have an incentive to favor "their associates." She said larger and smaller players had been disadvantaged.

No company responsible for the on an doff ramps of the most significant access platform should dictate what the experience should be. She said that voluntary standards would only be voluntary in the boardrooms and offices of those service providers.

Clyburn's term ends in June. She can stick around until the end of the next congressional session, but she said whether she goes or stays, she will work for an open internet. She said she would be a policy influencer and try to get infrastructure where it will not "organically flow."

However, as long as she is at the FCC, she said, she would continue to speak out for an accessible, affordable and open communications ecosystem.

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.