The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been deregulating non-stop since 2017, abandoning many aspects of its consumer protection and public interest mandate. As a result, many important policy fights have moved to the states, most notably those around broadband privacy and net neutrality. This week, two Open Technology Institute (OTI) attorneys testified before the Massachusetts state legislature and D.C. City Council.
On Tuesday, OTI Director of Open Internet Policy Sarah Morris testified before the Massachusetts Senate Special Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection to detail the history of net neutrality regulation and how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have harmed consumers through blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and interconnection disputes. Morris recounted the numerous attempts by ISPs to discriminate based on traffic and to favor their own affiliated content. Many of these violations occurred even with net neutrality rules in place. She emphasized that some of the most egregious network discrimination has occurred between ISPs and transit providers, content delivery networks, and the edge services with whom they interconnect. In some cases, these interconnection disputes have resulted in millions of people not receiving the broadband service they paid for, in some cases experiencing internet speeds that fall to nearly unusable levels for months on end. OTI conducted some of the landmark research in revealing these interconnection disputes and their harmful impacts on consumers in the 2014 report Beyond Frustrated.
On Wednesday, OTI Policy Counsel Eric Null submitted testimony to the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Government Operations, that similarly focused on the history of net neutrality and the harms caused by ISP discrimination. Null also included suggestions for the D.C. City Council to consider in any future attempts to protect net neutrality. Null noted that of the 18 states that have so far either proposed legislation or issued executive orders, the bill in Vermont is the strongest proposal yet. Null deemed Vermont’s legislation the strongest because it includes an extensive legislative findings section, points to several areas where the state has authority to impose net neutrality requirements, and includes a severability clause in the bill.
As the fight for net neutrality rules to protect Americans across the country continues, OTI will work with the Massachusetts state government, the D.C. City Council, and other states and localities to reinstate protections wherever possible.