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Administrative/Regulatory

Dec. 26, 2017

Team Internet has paths forward

The Federal Communications Commission defied the facts, flouted the law, and ignored the will of millions of Americans when it voted to repeal net neutrality protections that keep the internet open and free from unfair data discrimination.

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Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, pauses while delivering remarks before the start of a vote on net neutrality, at the FCC headquarters in Washington, Dec. 14. (New York Times News Service)

The Federal Communications Commission defied the facts, flouted the law, and ignored the will of millions of Americans when it voted to repeal net neutrality protections that keep the internet open and free from unfair data discrimination. The internet has thrived, formally and informally, under net neutrality principles for years. The FCC saw fit to reject these principles altogether, favoring the telecommunications industry over internet users. This isn't light-touch regulation -- it's no regulation. Small wonder so many, from consumer advocates to digital rights groups to startups to the founders of the internet, opposed it.

This is bad news indeed, but the fight is far from over. Team Internet has several paths forward.

First, we will fight to overturn the FCC's misguided decision. Lawmakers have been flooded with calls opposing the order and they have a straightforward way to respond to their constituents: use Congressional Review Act to reject the FCC's radical move. It would take a simple majority vote within 60 days of publication in the official record.

Second, the fight for net neutrality is headed to court. Consumer advocacy groups, states, and members of Congress are already planning legal challenges. The FCC ignored public comment favoring net neutrality and technical evidence EFF and others presented backing up the 2015 Order, and instead embraced self-serving and bogus technology claims by ISPs and groups they support. Judges will be able to see through that arbitrary and capricious maneuver.

Third, state officials and legislators are proposing ways to protect constituents in their states from unfair ISP practices that will increasingly crop up under the FCC's new order. Even before the FCC took action, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a plan to provide net neutrality for state residents that includes fewer state benefits for ISPs that reject net neutrality and measures to boost competition in the broadband marketplace. In California, Sen. Scott Weiner plans to back a bill that would extend net neutrality protections for Californians. At the same time EFF and others will be pushing hard for state-level data privacy protections.

Finally, EFF is joining with policymakers and activists to advocate for community broadband. In San Francisco we are working with allies to come up with a neutral infrastructure and policies for competition among providers that can serve as a model for cities across the country. Investing in a strong internet infrastructure and opening access to multiple providers can give users leverage when a single provider engages in unfair conduct.

The FCC has rejected its responsibility to protect the open internet, but we won't. We will continue to fight in court, Congress, state capitols, local communities and online. Team Cable better not get too comfortable.

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Ben Armistead

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