Free Press: FCC Action Will Not Protect Free Speech Online

Contact Info: 

Contact: Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced it will seek input on whether the agency has the authority to prevent phone and cable companies from blocking or otherwise discriminating against content online.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's statement is the agency’s response to a Jan. 14 federal appeals court ruling that recognized the importance of Net Neutrality protections but struck down the FCC's flawed legal theory for adopting those rules.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Chairman Wheeler's announcement talks about the need to restore our legal protections and ensure we can communicate freely online. But pretending the FCC has authority won't actually help Internet users when websites are being blocked or services are being slowed down. If the Internet is to continue to thrive, we need decisive action and clear protections under the law.

“The FCC can’t protect free speech and prevent discrimination under the so-called Section 706 authority discussed in today's announcement. Last month's court decision made that crystal clear. Section 706 doesn't work for Net Neutrality or any of the FCC's stated policy goals. If the agency really wants to stop censorship, discrimination and website blocking, it must reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.

“The FCC's reluctance to reverse its past mistakes is extremely short-sighted. More than that, it’s a political choice driven by the industry's sustained campaign to demonize the important American principle of common carriage, which protects our right to have our communications carried free from discrimination. That freedom is essential to our right to speak. 

“Reclassifying broadband as a common-carrier service would protect the Internet as a hub for innovation and the exchange of ideas. It would ensure that everyone has a voice and a choice online. Failing to reclassify would have severe consequences over the long term and prolong the uncertainty that has plagued the FCC over the past decade. The FCC has the power to reclassify. Nothing in today's announcement forecloses this better path, but the FCC's reluctance to take it is baffling and short-sighted. 

“If the FCC ultimately fails to act decisively the open Internet will be damaged for good. The American people want the FCC to stand up for them — and reclassifying broadband is the best way to protect all of us. That's the message millions of people have sent the FCC and the Obama administration. Our voices will get louder unless and until policymakers in Washington take action and protect free speech online.”

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