WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Free Press urged the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify high-speed-internet access services under Title II of the Communications Act. In extensive comments submitted in the agency’s “Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet” proceeding, Free Press explained that the FCC’s Title II authority allows it to safeguard Net Neutrality and hold companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon accountable to internet users across the United States.
“Title II is not just a legal framework that protects Net Neutrality,” read Free Press’ comments. “The ability to access quality broadband service no matter where one may live, or no matter one’s racial or ethnic identity, still matters. The ability to subscribe to broadband at an affordable price still matters. The need for the network to work — keeping people connected on the daily, but also before, during, and after times of emergency — still matters. And the assurance that network operators respect their customers’ privacy still matters, arguably more so in the data era.”
Read Free Press’ full comments here.
In late September, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the agency’s intention to begin this rulemaking process. It would reverse a Trump-era decision that abdicated FCC authority over broadband networks and stripped internet users of their right to connect and communicate online without interference or discrimination by their internet service provider. Rosenworcel has said that the Trump-FCC repeal “put the agency on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the American public.”
Since the FCC took up this matter more than a decade ago, millions of people from across the political spectrum have weighed in. They have called on the FCC to protect the open internet, ensure that just and reasonable broadband services are available and reliable, and assert the agency’s authority to prevent broadband providers from harming internet users.
S. Derek Turner, Free Press senior advisor of economic and policy analysis and lead author of the comments, said:
“By restoring Title II, the FCC will follow the law Congress wrote for modern internet access service, returning to its oversight of the essential telecommunications service that connects us to each other today. The agency will center the principles of non-discrimination, affordable universal service, competition, and public safety in that oversight of broadband networks in the United States.
“Contrary to the revisionist history of big phone and cable companies and their lawyers and lobbyists, Title II is not simply a framework for monopolies offering telephone service, but a robust blueprint for protecting consumers from harms imposed by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and any other ISPs that abuse their market power — an ongoing concern in a broadband marketplace that lacks robust local competition.
“Once all of the myths and distortions about Net Neutrality and Title II are put to rest, it becomes clear that restoring common carriage is the best outcome for the public interest. Title II authority allows the FCC to re-establish the traditional distinction between connectivity and content — a distinction that has allowed speech and commerce to flourish while maintaining the integrity and stability of the nation’s most vital communications infrastructure. Restoring Title II will ensure that the agency tasked with protecting the public’s interest in communications markets actually has the legal authority to stand up to powerful ISPs, and not simply beg them to do the right thing if and when these companies so choose.
“In essence, restoring Title II authority to the FCC is about who controls the future of communications — the people who use the internet every day, or a handful of powerful phone and cable companies that provide access to this network. The right, just, and legally sustainable path available to the FCC is clear: reverse the mistakes of the Trump-era FCC by reclassifying broadband internet access services under Title II and restoring Net Neutrality protections to users in all 50 states.”