Why Common Cause fights for Net Neutrality
In a 21st century democracy, everyone needs access to a free and open internet. The free flow of information is indispensable to a functioning democracy. Today, the internet is the primary communications platform, a virtual public square where this vital exchange of ideas occurs. Its ubiquity, accessibility, and openness have enabled a level of connection and innovation unparalleled in scope. Americans not only rely on the internet to access news and information, but also to pursue education, gain employment, and receive healthcare, among a variety of other uses. This is why protecting an open internet – or net neutrality – is of paramount importance.
Simply put, net neutrality is the principle of open access to the internet.
It enables users to access the services they want without interferences from their internet service provider (ISP).
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) comprehensively codified net neutrality protections by using its authority under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to classify ISPs – like Comcast and AT&T – as common carriers. Under this approach, the FCC articulated three bright line rules that ISPs must adhere to: (1) no blocking content; (2) no speeding or slowing content; and (3) no engaging in paid prioritization schemes where customers could be charged special fees for improved access.
Everyone benefits from the open exchange of information that net neutrality affords, but these protections are particularly important for individuals and groups whose voices have historically been silenced or suppressed. The internet has been a powerful organizing tool of our time, allowing social justice movements to gain momentum and widespread support. Without net neutrality, ISPs will have the ability to censor or limit political speech online, threatening to stop movements like these in their tracks.
“There can be no truly open internet without net neutrality. To believe otherwise is to be captive to special interest power brokers or to an old and discredited ideology that thinks monopoly and not government oversight best serves the nation.
Michael Copps, Former FCC Chairman & Special Advisor to Common Cause
Net neutrality was repealed, but the fight has just begun.
Despite wide-ranging objections, the FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, voted in 2017 to repeal existing net neutrality rules— which stopped big cable and telecommunications companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from controlling the flow of ideas and information online. The FCC’s repeal went into effect on June 11, 2018. ISPs now have the ability and economic incentive to block, throttle, or prioritize content of their choosing. As a result ISPs, can now undermine free expression, competition, innovation, and consumer choice in favor of their own bottom lines.
This doesn’t mean it’s over. Read on to learn more about how we are fighting to restore Net Neutrality and how you can help protect your free and open internet.
Despite the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, Common Cause is actively engaged on all fronts to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules.
While the FCC is an independent agency, it nonetheless remains accountable to Congress. Congress has the Congressional Review Act (CRA) at its disposal to undo any agency action. Under the CRA, Congress can undo the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality and restore the agency’s 2015 rules.
Thankfully, the Senate has already acted, passing a CRA that would do just that with bipartisan support. However, the CRA still faces its greatest challenge: getting to the floor of the House for a vote where Leadership refuses to bring it to the floor for a vote. Representatives can bypass House leadership if a majority of members sign onto a discharge petition, which would force a vote on the CRA. Already 177 of the needed 218 signatures have been secured. And, like in the Senate, there is a bipartisan support to move towards net neutrality protections. In July, Mike Coffman (R-CO) signed onto the discharge petition becoming the first Republican to do so.
Now is the time to take action, contact your member of Congress and urge them to sign the discharge petition to bring the CRA to vote in the House. Join Common Cause and millions of Americans fighting to restore net neutrality. The discharge petition is close to reaching its goal, and the pressure of looming midterm elections filled with passionate voters is exactly the energy needed to convince congressional members to sign on.