Verizon killed Net Neutrality. But the FCC can save it.
Verizon killed Net Neutrality when a federal appeals court ruled in its favor and struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order.1
Net Neutrality is a principle that says that Internet users, not Internet service providers (ISPs), should be in control. It ensures that Internet service providers can’t speed up, slow down, or block web content based on its source, ownership, or destination.
And now Net Neutrality is dead – at least until the FCC stands up to Verizon and AT&T and passes strong rules that will pass the legal test for ensuring Americans have access to a free and open Internet.
Tell new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler: Save Net Neutrality.
The verdict was a disappointment but came as no surprise. Back in 2010, the FCC, led by Obama-appointee Julius Genachowski, voted to adopt rules that enshrined in federal regulations for the first time the ability of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other ISPs to discriminate between sources and types of content.
Now even those meager protections have been struck down. But the new chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, can save Net Neutrality by doing what former FCC chair Genachowski failed to do. He can stand up to Verizon and AT&T, and undo the Bush-era decision to deregulate broadband Internet providers and allow them to operate outside of the legal framework that has traditionally applied to companies that offer two-way communication services.
Tell FCC Tom Wheeler: Reclassify broadband as a telecom service, and enact strong Net Neutrality protections.
Back in 2010, this latest court decision was utterly predictable. A federal court had already ruled that unless the FCC reversed the Bush-era decision to deregulate broadband, the FCC couldn’t enforce Net Neutrality rules. Then FCC Chair Genachowski tested the waters with a proposal to reregulate (or in the jargon of the FCC “reclassify”) broadband. Genachowski himself said that, according to the FCC General Counsel, pushing ahead with policies without reregulating broadband would be unwise given the tenuous legal footing the FCC would find itself in.
But Obama administration’s support for Net Neutrality was so weak that his FCC declined to reclassify broadband as a prerequisite to passing Net Neutrality rules. Without providing this legal framework, the Open Internet Order was never anything more than a cynical ploy by Democrats to claim a victory on Net Neutrality while actually caving on real protections for consumers.
New FCC chair Tom Wheeler has a chance to change this. He recently made a strong statement in support of Net Neutrality and the necessary legal framework to defend it, saying that “it is essential that the FCC continue to maintain an open Internet and maintain the legal ability to intervene promptly and effectively in the event of aggravated circumstances."
But it’s unclear if he’ll simply kick the can down the road by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court (a body that, with the outrageous Citizens United decision, has already proved itself more loyal to corporate control than to protecting our democracy). We need him to muster the political will to take action immediately and save Net Neutrality by reversing the deregulation of broadband and giving teeth to the FCC’s ability to enforce Net Neutrality rules and force Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally.
Tell FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: Stop the corporate takeover of the internet and save Net Neutrality.
- Leticia Miranda, "Verizon, the FCC and What You Need to Know About Net Neutrality," The Nation, December 6, 2013.