FCC Proposal Would Protect, Strengthen Internet

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause today cheered the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to craft Open Internet (“net neutrality”) rules that will ensure the free flow of ideas and information online.

“The Internet is the Town Hall of the 21st century; if we want our democracy to flourish, we must see that it remains open to everyone,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “That’s why today’s signal that the FCC will reclassify Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act is so important.”

Rapoport added that the Title II vote, now expected at the FCC’s Feb 26 meeting, must have airtight “language blocking Internet providers from slowing down or speeding up online services in exchange for payment. We’ve not yet seen the actual rules,” he cautioned.

“This is a banner day as years of grassroots organizing is paying historic public interest dividends. Congratulations to Chairman Wheeler and his supportive colleagues for hearing what millions have said: only the strongest Open Internet rules will protect competition and free expression online,” said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps.

Rapoport and Copps said they were particularly gratified that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler apparently intends to extend net neutrality protections to mobile as well as wired connections, a major enhancement. Copps cautioned that the rules must also protect against any effort by Internet providers to interfere with consumer access to the sites and services they desire.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the plan at their February 26 meeting. Reclassification is the only legally-sure way for the agency to draft rules that prevent Internet Service Providers from prioritizing or blocking consumer access to websites and applications.

“The millions of Americans who’ve contacted the commission, members of Congress and the White House to demand net neutrality have won an important battle,” Rapoport added. “But let’s not kid ourselves; there’s plenty more to do.” He and Copps predicted that the FCC’s announcement will trigger what Copps called “a tidal wave of Big Telecom and Big Cable lobbying. We are closely tracking developments to ensure the forces of consolidation and gatekeeping do not undermine strong rules,” Copps said.

The January 2014 Verizon v FCC court decision vacated the FCC’s previous Open Internet rules as improperly written, and left the agency with two options: further weaken net neutrality or restore it with strong Title II protections.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now a special adviser to Common Cause, and Todd O’Boyle, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative will be available for interviews this afternoon. Contact Dale Eisman, 202-736-5788, or Todd O’Boyle, 202-736-5797.