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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to begin a rulemaking process in order to jettison Title II protections and once again place broadband-access providers under Title I of the Communications Act — a move that would undermine the sound and successful basis for the FCC’s landmark 2015 Open Internet Order.

President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has said he intends to dismantle the legal framework essential to maintaining Net Neutrality.

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 and Net Neutrality rules. Net Neutrality activists have already generated more than 1 million comments and signatures opposing Chairman Pai’s scheme.

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.

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

“Pai pretends to care about the open internet, but his unworkable proposal takes away the rights of internet users. The federal courts rejected this kind of approach twice when the FCC tried it before. And now that Net Neutrality rests once again on the strong legal footing of Title II — which the courts upheld twice in the last two years — Pai can’t simply tear it down because he feels like it. He has to build a case on more than ideology, innuendo and cable-industry press releases.

“The chairman’s willingness to trot out alternative facts about broadband-industry investment and recycle long-debunked talking points should worry anyone who cares about the free and open internet. Pai’s intent is clear: to destroy the internet as we know it and give even more gatekeeper power to a few huge companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

“Any honest look at the facts reveals that Title II rules are working well, investment is up and the only confusion in the market is coming out of Pai’s mouth. If the FCC ever passes this plan, it will face enormous challenges in court. But it should never get that far.

“Millions have already raised their voices to defend the free and open internet, and they won’t be fooled by Ajit Pai’s hand-wringing, flimsy arguments and fuzzy stats. The undeniable fact is that the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality ruling restored legal certainty, boosted investment from the people and businesses that rely on the internet, and kept the ISPs humming along profitably.

“Just as importantly, Net Neutrality ensures that free expression and popular organizing are possible online. Pai’s proposal serves only the interests of those who want to shut down speech and control all commerce. This plan may benefit a few phone and cable companies and the legion of lobbyists and front groups on their sizable payrolls, but it will harm everyone else. 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.”

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