But under the Biden administration, we have a chance to restore these essential protections. Rush an emergency donation so we can keep fighting.
The 2019 ruling wasn’t a complete loss
The court rejected the FCC’s attempt to stop states from passing their own Net Neutrality laws. Already, six states have signed executive orders to protect Net Neutrality: Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Seven have passed laws: California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. And more than 125 city mayors signed a Net Neutrality pledge promising not to do business with any ISP that violates open-internet principles.
The court also opened the door to restoration of the open-internet rules under a future FCC. But until Sept. 7, 2023, the Biden FCC was deadlocked 2–2 and didn’t have the votes to even consider reinstating the Net Neutrality protections. The unprecedented 32-month delay was the result of concerted efforts by the phone, cable and broadcast lobbies to hamstring the agency that oversees their businesses. Now that we finally have a fully functional FCC with five commissioners, Free Press is urging the agency to take swift action to protect internet users. But because of the unprecedented delay, we have a very short window to make this happen. Urge the FCC to reinstate Title II Net Neutrality ASAP.
What is Net Neutrality?
When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience.
When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.
In 2015, millions of activists pressured the Obama-era FCC to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules — allowing people to share and access information of their choosing without interference. Those rules were rooted in Title II of the Communications Act — a crucial law that gave the FCC the authority it needed to safeguard the open internet. Title II also gave the agency the authority to protect consumers from ISP abuses and ensure all people could get connected at just and reasonable rates.
But in the wake of the Trump FCC’s Net Neutrality repeal, the internet is now in peril. And we know from experience that companies like Comcast — and their armies of lobbyists — are going to do everything they can to stop the Biden FCC from restoring the rules. Tell the FCC to reinstate Title II Net Neutrality.
What will happen if we don’t win back Net Neutrality?
Without the Net Neutrality rules, companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can call all the shots and decide which websites, content and applications succeed.
These companies are now free to slow down their competitors’ content or block political opinions they disagree with. They can charge extra fees to the few content companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service.
The consequences will be particularly devastating for communities that media outlets have misrepresented or failed to serve. People of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, Indigenous peoples and religious minorities in the United States rely on the open internet to organize, access economic and educational opportunities, and fight systemic discrimination.
If ISPs engage in the worst abuses, how will activists be able to fight oppression? What will happen to social movements like the Movement for Black Lives? How will the next disruptive technology, business or company emerge if ISPs let only incumbents succeed?
Why is Title II so important?
In 2015, the Obama FCC adopted strong Net Neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, giving internet users the strongest protections possible. Title II is also the only legal basis for Net Neutrality that courts have ever upheld.
But Title II does a lot more than protect an open internet. It also gives the FCC the authority to protect our online privacy, investigate discriminatory fees and ensure that ISPs are offering just and reasonable rates for their services. Basically, Title II is the legal toolbox the FCC needs to make sure internet access is equitable, affordable and protected from all sorts of ISP abuses.
Why is Net Neutrality so crucial for communities of color?
The open internet allows people of color to tell their own stories and organize for racial justice online. When activists are able to turn out thousands of people in the streets at a moment’s notice, it’s because ISPs aren’t allowed to block their messages or websites.
The mainstream media have long misrepresented, ignored and harmed people of color. And thanks to systemic racism, economic inequality and runaway media consolidation, people of color own just a handful of broadcast stations. The lack of diverse ownership is why news outlets have gotten away with criminalizing and dehumanizing communities of color.
The open internet allows people of color and other impacted communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs can block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color are at risk of losing a vital platform.
And without Net Neutrality, millions of small businesses that people of color own won’t be able to compete against larger corporations online, which will deepen economic disparities.
Why is Net Neutrality important for businesses?
Net Neutrality is crucial for small-business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open internet to launch their enterprises, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach customers. We need the open internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation.
But without Net Neutrality, ISPs can exploit their gatekeeper position and destroy the internet’s fair and level playing field.
What can we do now?
The FCC has the power to bring back the Title II Net Neutrality rules — and now that it finally has five commissioners it can launch this crucial work. Call on the FCC to bring back Title II Net Neutrality without delay.