July 18, 2017
Yesterday, OTI asked the Federal Communications Commission to rescind a dangerous proposal to repeal the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules. By filing comments in the agency’s public docket, we joined millions of Americans who have asked Chairman Ajit Pai to support internet freedom and keep the current rules intact.
The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order was a landmark achievement for the open internet and the American people. After years of debate, the order established basic “rules of the road” for online traffic that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and AT&T from blocking, throttling, or otherwise creating online “fast lanes” that are only accessible to deep-pocketed companies. The rules also apply to mobile broadband services, closing a loophole from an earlier set of rules. Additionally, the FCC reclassified ISPs under a stronger legal framework—a statute known as Title II—that treats ISPs as “common carriers” with basic nondiscrimination obligations to their customers. This core framework—bright-line rules, a flexible general conduct standard, new oversight over interconnection and mobile broadband, and Title II legal authority—provides a strong foundation to ensure that the open internet continues to thrive for decades to come. Last year, a federal court rejected an industry-led lawsuit to overturn the order, ensuring that net neutrality is the law of the land for all Americans.
Now, the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, seeks to undo all of this success. In May, he introduced a plan to repeal the Open Internet Order and reverse the Title II classification. This is an extreme proposal that would remove vital protections for consumers and small businesses, with no apparent replacement. It jeopardizes the internet’s future as an open platform. We strongly oppose this plan.
The best available evidence points to one inescapable conclusion: the 2015 rules are working. Network investment is up. Network congestion is down. The internet economy is thriving. Small businesses continue to enjoy unfettered access to customers on the internet. Chairman Pai must explain why this success should now be ignored to accommodate his radical plan. But he hasn’t made that case. Instead, his proposal rests on flawed assumptions and wild speculation.
In our comments, OTI explains how Chairman Pai’s proposal would damage the open internet and harm the American people. We detail the long history of ISP interference with their customers’ access to a free and open internet. We explain that Title II is the only legal pathway for effective FCC rules, and that the Commission’s authority over mobile broadband and interconnection is legally sound. We argue that Title II has helped the FCC protect consumer privacy and close the digital divide. And we urge Chairman Pai to abandon his poorly conceived and dangerous plan.
Next up: we’ll be reviewing what everyone else said, and drafting reply comments for the FCC’s next deadline in August. Millions of Americans have joined the fight to defend the open internet, which is just getting started.
Updated August 3: OTI filed a motion of support of the motion by INCOMPAS to modify protective orders in recent merger reviews. You can see this motion of support here.
You can find OTI's comments here. Measurement Lab, a global consortium of research, industry, and public interest partners (including OTI) dedicated to providing an ecosystem for the open, verifiable measurement of global network performance, also submitted comments. You can find their comments here.