FCC's Net Neutrality Vote Gets Blowback From Title II Fans

Foes of the FCC's vote to roll back the Title II classification of internet access providers were out in full force Thursday as the commission's Republican majority launched the review of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order with an eye toward reclassifying ISPs as information services not subject to common carrier regs and consider whether any of the rules are necessary in the public interest. 

Computer & Communications Industry Association president Ed Black called the vote a "sad betrayal" of the open internet.

“The FCC is wrong to abdicate its role in ensuring that no company can by default regulate the internet," said Black.

"Without oversight and enforcement authority there is no reliable means to stop powerful ISPs if they slow down or block Internet users from accessing the websites they want to see. Abandoning these rules, which just 11 months ago were validated by a Federal appeals court, means that the next start-up trying to take on a particular internet service or offer a new innovative app would be less likely to get seen." 

"I've never heard such a bunch of spurious arguments, distorted history, and just plain rubbish as Chairman Pai and his big industry allies have put forth to sustain their totally untenable argument against an open internet," said former Democratic FCC chairman Michael Copps, who spoke at a rally before the vote. "A horrid idea at any time, this proposal is particularly destructive now that so much of our democratic discourse plays out via the internet. The Trump Administration’s anything goes approach to its corporate benefactors will wreak havoc on citizens seeking truth, facts, diversity, and privacy.

Related: Title II Rollback Fans Applaud FCC Vote

"Today the Trump FCC begins its dismantling of the Internet rules that protect American consumers on behalf of the few huge companies that control their access to the Internet," said Gigi Sohn, former top aide to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. "Net Neutrality rules ensure that consumers can control what they say and do online, but Chairman Pai prefers to give that control instead to Comcast, AT&T, Charter and Verizon. That is an outcome that no American wants regardless of party or ideology… Congressional Republicans already made the grave mistake of repealing the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, which no American asked for and Americans let them know it. They and Chairman Pai would be wise to think twice before attempting to do the same to Net Neutrality." 

Sohn is currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

“The FCC vote today shirks the agency’s obligations as a consumer watchdog in ways that threaten to widen the digital divide by giving Internet Service Providers more power to restrict access to the internet," said Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "The cost of internet access is already a major reason why half of Latino households are offline and remain disconnected. The FCC needs to find ways to expand access, not give a free pass to corporations who are more motivated by increasing profit margins than providing the utility that American families need to thrive in the 21st century."

Related: Hill Divided Over FCC's Title II Vote

“This proposal willfully ignores the realities of the market for broadband service, which is dominated by a handful of giant companies," said Public Knowledge general counsel Ryan Clough. "Few Americans have real competitive choices. For example, according to the latest FCC data, only 24 percent of census blocks have more than one provider of high-speed residential service. As a result, consumers pay far more than they should for internet access, and are widely dissatisfied with their service.” 

“Trump’s FCC Chair – and former Verizon lawyer – Ajit Pai may think Big Cable’s interests are more important than the public’s, but it’s clear that few outside of boardrooms at Comcast or AT&T agree,” said Demand Progress campaign director Kurt Walters. “With 1 million public comments and grassroots actions flooding in to protect Title II net neutrality, Pai’s plan for corporate control of the internet is not just wildly unpopular it is driving a massive public mobilization to defend the open internet,” he said, adding a threat. “Anyone in Congress, the FCC, or the White House failing to unequivocally oppose this plan to kill net neutrality will be grabbing the new third rail of U.S. politics with both hands. Demand Progress activists and our coalition will mobilize to ensure they are held accountable.”

"This proposal represents an existential threat to the continued development of the internet," said Ferras Vinh, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology. "It is based on the idea that societal change and economic growth are driven by internet service providers, rather than users, coders, and engineers. The American public resoundingly supports net neutrality protections, and CDT encourages them to contact their elected officials, and speak out through the FCC comment process."

“The plan unveiled by FCC Chairman Pai demonstrates his disregard for startups and creators driving online innovation," said Vimeol General Counsel Michael Cheah. "His plan would undermine one of the core tenets of the Internet that makes innovation possible, create legal uncertainty, and ultimately reduce investment in both Internet services and broadband. Mr. Pai’s argument relies heavily upon the flawed notion that a wide range of broadband providers provide a robust competitive free marketplace for consumers. In reality, a handful of incumbent players dominate consumer broadband access and capital expenditure—which has actually increased in recent years. Repealing core net neutrality rules and reversing Title II classification of broadband will enable this small and powerful group to continue inching closer to removing free choice on the Internet.”

(Photo via Frankieleon's FlickrImage taken on Feb. 14, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

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.