WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai launched a proceeding designed to undermine open-internet protections and take away the online rights of internet users.
Before opening up a public docket for comments, President Trump’s FCC chairman has said he intends to dismantle the legal framework essential to maintaining Net Neutrality. Chairman Pai added that he will recommend that the agency jettison Title II protections and once again classify broadband-access providers under Title I of the Communications Act — a move that would undercut the sound and successful basis for the FCC's landmark 2015 Open Internet Order.
Prior to the FCC meeting, open-internet advocates were joined by Sen. Ed Markey, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Jared Polis at a rally outside FCC headquarters to voice their support for existing open-internet protections and to call on Pai to heed the overwhelming public support for Title II Net Neutrality rules. Net Neutrality activists have already generated more than 1 million comments and signatures opposing Chairman Pai’s scheme.
This includes comments submitted directly to the FCC, as well as comments and signatures collected by CREDO Action, #AllOfUs, American Family Voices, Battle for the Net, Climate Hawks Vote, the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Common Cause, Corporate Accountability International, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action Fund, MoveOn.org Civic Action, Mozilla, Other 98%, OpenMedia, PEN America, People's Action, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, Presente.org, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Progressive Congress Action Fund, Public Knowledge, Rainforest Action Network, RootsAction.org, The Nation and Win Without War.
The last time the FCC conducted a Net Neutrality proceeding, the agency was flooded with comments from people from across the country, the vast majority of whom supported enforceable Net Neutrality protections under Title II. This time out more than 1 million people spoke out for Net Neutrality before the proceeding even began.
“I don’t know anyone who would say, ‘Gee, I’d really like to give Comcast more control over my internet!’ And yet, that is exactly what Chairman Pai wants to do — empower Big Telecom to make even bigger profits at the expense of consumers and of the open internet, a vital public asset,” said American Family Voices Executive Director Lauren Windsor. “American Family Voices says not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no’ to yet another attempt by the Trump administration to screw over working- and middle-class Americans.”
“The internet is one of the few places communities of color and poor people can go where they won't be treated differently because of who they are,” said Center for Media Justice Organizing Director Steven Renderos. “Nondiscrimination is what Net Neutrality guarantees to people who go online. That's why some of our society's most marginalized voices are speaking up in defense of an open internet. Whether you're an activist trying to better your community or an unemployed mom looking for a job, the internet with Net Neutrality is a pipeline of opportunity and our communities can't afford to have the FCC take that away.”
“Net Neutrality is necessary for climate justice,” said Brad Johnson of Climate Hawks Vote. “Without a fair and open internet, we will never have government that represents the public interest instead of private greed.”
“The FCC has the power and responsibility to defend our right to communicate online, and to protect the public from predatory business practices from giant ISPs determined to invent new ways to charge us even more for even less,” said Color Of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “And two years ago, they did just that by reclassifying the internet as a public utility under Title II. Now Chairman Pai has joined the chorus of Republicans in Washington who have signed on to Donald Trump’s corporate attack on our freedoms. The chairman’s plan to gut the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules will devastate Black communities. Net Neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open internet, which has been crucial to today’s fights for civil rights and equality. Our ability to have our voices heard in this democracy depends on an open internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance rather than financial backing. Net Neutrality ensures that the internet is a place for innovation and opportunity for all, rather than just the wealthy few. This is an attack on 21st-century civil rights, and we are committed to defending them.”
“I've never heard such a bunch of spurious arguments, distorted history and just plain rubbish as Chairman Pai and his big industry allies have put forth to sustain their totally untenable argument against an open internet,” said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps. “The language used to discuss Chairman Pai’s plan implies the opposite of what the proposal will do, which is make the internet most free and open only to those with the deepest pockets while the industry giants rake in still more money.”
"California is a hub of innovation because of a free and open internet,” said Courage Campaign Executive Director Eddie Kurtz. “Losing Net Neutrality would be a disaster for free speech, small businesses and startups trying to compete with big corporations, and diverse content that serves the widest possible range of people and communities. Courage Campaign stands with our partners in calling for the preservation of Title II in the strongest possible terms."
“Net Neutrality is a personal issue for CREDO,” said CREDO Campaign Manager Brandy Doyle. “As a mobile-phone company that fights for progressive issues, the open internet is essential for our business, our customers, our campaigns and our values. We all depend on the internet, and the internet belongs to all of us. We won’t let Trump’s FCC hand control to a few large corporations without a fight.”
“With 1 million public comments and grassroots actions flooding in to protect Title II Net Neutrality, Pai’s plan for corporate control of the internet is not just wildly unpopular – it is driving a massive public mobilization to defend the open internet,” said Demand Progress Campaign Director Kurt Walters. “Anyone in Congress, the FCC or the White House failing to unequivocally oppose this plan to kill Net Neutrality will be grabbing the new third rail of U.S. politics with both hands. Demand Progress activists and our coalition will mobilize to ensure they are held accountable.”
“With every passing year, grassroots activism grows exponentially thanks to the internet, which empowers people to find new ways to organize,” said Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain. “This latest FCC proposal steals that freedom and allows big corporations to tax us for it. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and our members will answer the call to fight against threats like this every time.”
“The new FCC seems determined to ignore the evidence and the wishes of the vast majority of the public, in order to advance the desires of a few powerful ISPs,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “But Team Internet fought long and hard to win real Net Neutrality protections, and we will fight just as hard to keep them. The internet became an incredible engine for expression and innovation precisely because there were no gatekeepers — no single company could prevent you from reaching an audience for your message or service. The Open Internet Order was designed to preserve that fundamental principle. Rolling back that order and allowing ISPs to take advantage of their control over your internet connection to shape your internet experience would be bad for the open internet and all of us who use it to connect with the world.”
“Millions have raised their voices to defend the free and open internet, and they won’t be fooled by Ajit Pai’s flimsy arguments and fuzzy stats,” said Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron. “The undeniable fact is that the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality ruling has restored legal certainty, boosted investment and ensured that free expression and popular organizing are possible online. Pai’s proposal serves only the interests of a few phone and cable companies and the legion of lobbyists and front groups on their sizable payrolls. If the FCC continues down this path, the voices of the opposition will only grow louder at the agency, in Congress, in the courts and in the streets. Pai knows that getting rid of Net Neutrality is far easier said than done — and we’re going to stop him.”
"People love the internet, and Net Neutrality is a big reason for that,” said MoveOn.org Civic Action Director of Campaigns Justin Krebs. “Donald Trump and Ajit Pai are playing with fire by undermining what makes the internet so great, threatening to make it vulnerable to censorship and monopolies like Verizon controlling and censoring what we have access to. Fortunately, people are paying attention and we will fight for a free and open internet."
"Net Neutrality has been a central concern of The Nation for more than a decade,” said The Nation Associate Publisher Peter Rothberg. “There’s no issue that is at once more critical to the future of democracy and still so deeply obscure. It’s crucial to raise awareness of the importance of this fight and we’re grateful to our allies for galvanizing this historic battle.”
“Americans care about the open web. In just a few weeks, already more than 1 million people have come together in support of Net Neutrality and Title II,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “And it’s why in 2015 there was an unprecedented outpouring of support for strong rules that protect internet users and ensure all content online is treated equally — resulting in a huge win for the internet. Now we have a former Verizon lobbyist seeking to tilt the playing field in favor of big industry, giving only those with money and power a platform. Well, Chairman Pai better be gearing up for the fight of a lifetime — because that’s what he’s asked for.”
“Open access to all realms of the internet is vital for writers and creatives,” said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel. “The Trump administration's proposal to strip away the protections of Net Neutrality should be met with determined resistance by all those who value the digital realm as a level playing field for ideas."
“In recent months we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on the core institutions of our democracy. That’s why it’s more critical than ever that we keep the internet free and open, to allow for the vigorous flow of information and ideas necessary for a healthy democracy,” said People For the American Way Vice President for Communications and Research Drew Courtney. “At a time when the resilience of our democratic institutions is being put to the test, we need to make clear that we won’t accept policies that allow corporate interests or other entities to limit or consolidate access to information.”
"Net Neutrality provisions under Title II of the Communications Act keeps the internet a level playing field for everyone, which has allowed the internet to become an unparalleled engine for democracy,” said Presente.org Executive Director Matt Nelson. “This is a personal fight for everyone who relies on the internet for organizing, employment, information and opportunity. We refuse to let the scoundrels of Trump’s FCC destroy the open internet and auction off a critical public resource to some of the worst corporations in modern history. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his cronies seek to turn the FCC into a brokerage firm for giant telecoms, but the resistance is growing and this latest attempt to kill the internet will fail, as has been the precedent.”
“An open and democratic society demands a free and open internet. This goes beyond access to information — protecting Net Neutrality is an issue of racial and economic justice. As technology evolves, the internet has become a critically important platform for moving ideas and people,” said President of Progressive Congress Action Fund Dr. Gabriela Lemus. “Access to a free and open internet means access to the resources to adapt to and play a role in shaping our changing world — and access to vital resources to counter systemic inequality and injustice.”
"The effort to overturn Net Neutrality rules is yet another corporate giveaway — but this one will silence the voices of protest,” said Rainforest Action Network Communications Director Christopher J. Herrera. “This is the same pattern we are seeing across the Trump administration — from the EPA to the Department of Energy to the State Department — where corporate profits are being placed above people and planet at every opportunity.”
“For speech to be free, people must be able to access that speech. A corporate-controlled internet will advance corporate-approved speech, and do so in ways that are not obvious or advertised,” said RootsAction.org Campaign Coordinator David Swanson. “We will have the illusion of free speech without its reality — something far more dangerous than open government censorship. If this happens, our ability to undo it will be greatly weakened. A movement for prevention is worth a billion hours of attempted cure. Keep the internet free!”
“A free society requires a free internet and that’s why we’re proud to stand with more than 1 million Americans in defense of Net Neutrality. Restricting internet access is a classic tool of tyrants and authoritarian governments around the world,” said Win Without War Director Stephen Miles. “They try to limit our freedom because they know just how essential the internet is to the movements that truly represent the people. Americans, and people everywhere, deserve a free and open internet, and we’re going to continue to fight like hell against any effort to take the vital protections that guarantee Net Neutrality.”