Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) took to the Free Press website June 9 to rally the activist troops against FCC chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back the common carrier regulation of internet access and review rules against blocking, degrading and paid prioritization.
Wyden is one of the senate's fiercest critics of the proposal. "If Pai gets his way, massive cable and phone companies will have the power to control what we see and do online, creating 'fast lanes' for those who can afford to pay — and leaving the rest of us in the dust," he said.
Wyden said there have been net neutrality rules since the inception of the internet, something ISPs dispute. "Abandoning control of the internet to the handful of companies that provide broadband service would allow them to bury the speech of those they don’t agree with and kill competition from startups before they even get off the ground," he said.
ISPs argue that they don't throttle or block speech and are willing to live under commitments not to do so, preferably voluntary ones, but a common carriage regime is grafting phone-style regs on internet-style communications, which they argue depresses investment and innovation.
"Despite Pai’s claim that he supports Net Neutrality, the proceeding he opened last month attacks not only the legal authority underpinning the rules—which is absolutely vital for enforcing them—but seeks to overturn these protections altogether," Wyden wrote. "If Pai gets his way, Net Neutrality will be gone for good and people will be left with only the empty promises of big cable companies to protect them online."
Free Press and others plan a July 12 day of protest over Pai's proposal, which is still gathering comment from the public (4.97 million comments at presstime, according to the FCC website)—though how much of that comment has been driven by "bots" from both sides of the issue is a point of some contention.
The official comment period on the proposal runs through Aug. 16, though the FCC historically continues to accept input beyond those official comment dates.
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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.