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Net Neutrality Rule Fans Pan June 11 Sunset

With the June 11 expiration of FCC network neturality rules, opponents of the Republican-led, ISP-cheered deregulatory Restoring Internet Freedom Order were weighing in with warnings about what they were sure ISPs would do, or at least had the clear incentive and opportunity to do.

"Amid all the back and forth, there is one thing everyone should know: without net neutrality, internet companies will be able to discriminate against speakers who don’t pay up or with whom they disagree," said vetern public interest attorney Andrew Jay Schartzman. "This will not happen right away, because everyone is watching, but it certainly will happen in the months and years to come."

Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted in 2015 to prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and last year against the Republican's elimination of all those, said June 11 would be a green light day.

Related: FCC's Carr Says Internet Won't end June 12

"Today, the FCC’s misguided repeal of net neutrality goes into effect," she said in a statement supplied to B&C/Multichannel News for release at one minute after midnight Monday morning. "This is bad news for all of us who rely on an open internet for so many facets of civic and commercial life. Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road. Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC’s roll back of net neutrality, internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability, and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read, and learn online."

Rosenworcel sounded ready to join the net neutrality activists preparing a Monday "day of action" to protest the rollback.

"If the arc of history is long, we are going to bend this toward a more just outcome. The momentum around the country—from small towns to big cities, from state houses to court houses, from governors’ executive actions to action in Congress—is proof the American people are not done fighting for an open internet," she said, echoing Dr. Martin Luther King. "I’m proud to stand with them in that fight. We won’t stop today. It’s too important and our future depends on it.”

Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, one of the groups organizing the day of action, was pledging to continue to fight for its vision of an open internet future. “Hold the obituaries. Net neutrality is not dead. Ajit Pai’s absurd repeal of basic free speech protections is the most unpopular decision in the history of the FCC, and it will not stand," she said. "The Senate already passed a historic bipartisan resolution disapproving the repeal. Now the entire Internet is laser focused on getting the House of Representatives to do the same."

"Beginning Monday, the public will be without protections against ISPs blocking sites and services, creating internet slow lanes, and favoring their own content over that of competitors," said Demand Progress director of communications Mark Stanley. "In the wake of the FCC’s move to end net neutrality, we’ve witnessed giant ISPs cynically walk back pledges to adhere to open internet principles. With the FCC’s shameful abdication of its responsibility taking full effect, the open internet the public has come to depend on in recent decades is now in critical danger."

“With the repeal of net neutrality official, internet service providers now have the green light to begin degrading our access to the internet," said Michael Copps, former FCC chairman and now special advisor to Common Cause. "Monopoly phone and cable companies will undoubtedly seek to maximize profits by favoring their own content over their competitors and creating fast lanes and slow lanes ultimately at the expense of consumers. At a time when access to a free and open internet is so vital to our democracy, the official repeal opens the door to the ‘cabelization’ of the internet – where your provider can control where you go, what you see, and what you do online.“But the fight to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules is far from over."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) a big Title II fan and net neutrality advocate who motormanned the CRA in the Senate, said the fight would go on. He helped “There will be no eulogy today for net neutrality," said Markey. "The FCC will not have the last word when it comes to net neutrality, the American people will. The fight to restore net neutrality rules has new urgency today and moving forward as we continue to work in the House of Representatives to repeal the FCC’s terrible decision. The American people know they cannot trust their internet service providers to do the right thing and protect a free and open internet unless there are strict rules in place. I urge Speaker Ryan to take an immediate vote on my CRA resolution to restore net neutrality. Until that happens, we will continue to demonstrate in the streets, write letters, make calls, sign petitions, and harness the power of social media. The fight for net neutrality is far from over.”  

While the rules will be gone, ISPs have pledged not to block or throttle--paid prioritization is a fuzzier area, though that prohibition could be on the table as well--and the Federal Trade Commission will be able to enforce such pledges, as well as to take action against conduct it concludes is anticompetitive or unfair.