Free Press: Today’s FCC Ruling Will Not Stand

| Resist!

Above Photo: Flickr/ EFF Photos

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to approve the deceptively named “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” The order dismantles the agency’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules, abdicating FCC authority over internet service providers and clearing the way for blocking, throttling and discrimination by the nation’s largest phone and cable companies.

Free Press will take the FCC to court to challenge its reversal on the proper definition of broadband, the accuracy of its contentious justifications for tossing out the rules, and the many process fouls that have plagued the FCC proceeding since it began earlier this year.

Right after today’s vote, Free Press Action Fund and its allies launched an internet-wide campaign to demand that Congress use a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn today’s FCC order. In the past month, nearly a million people have called their elected officials on Capitol Hill to urge them to take action on behalf of real Net Neutrality protections.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Net Neutrality is the nondiscrimination law of the internet. It’ll be just as necessary tomorrow as it is today. That’s why open-internet advocates and millions of internet users and activists will do everything to restore it in the near term and over the long haul. We’ll work tirelessly to fix the many legal, factual and moral failings that the FCC majority used to prop up its flawed and foundering decision.

“Commissioners Pai, O’Rielly and Carr twisted the history of the Communications Act to arrive at their prejudiced conclusions. They prattle on about the 2015 order’s alleged departure from precedent but it’s a smokescreen. It’s today’s bad decision that departs from the FCC’s mandate and longstanding mission. The 2015 decision got the legal theories for Net Neutrality right, yet we’ve always had these principles for communications networks — and we always should.

“Net Neutrality protects internet users’ freedom of choice. It’s doesn’t concern itself only with fights between big companies like Comcast and Google. Competition between established players is vital, but so too are education, empowerment and expression for all.

“People use the internet today to grow both small businesses and social movements. They use it to sow not just the seeds of entrepreneurship but justice. It is this agency’s job to work toward the goal of universally affordable and open-internet service. But Pai and his enablers quit their job and abandoned their posts — while preempting states’ power to even try to fill in the gaps.

“Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel never quit their charge. They brought their brilliant minds and their passion for public service to the fore, truly listening to the people affected by this decision. They never forgot that nondiscrimination rules like Net Neutrality make it possible for communities too often ignored in the media to speak out for themselves and strike out on their own.

“That’s what is at stake here. Ajit Pai’s siren song suggests that nothing will change as a result of this decision. He’s wrong. It’s not just that your binge-watching might cost more — and make no mistake, it will, if cable companies wish. The real problem is we’ve lost fundamental rights as a result of this vote, along with our protections against ISPs’ editing whims and controlling ways. A right is still essential even when it’s not being violated, but we’ve seen violations before and will again all too soon.

“Don’t believe Ajit Pai’s simpering lies on any detail, not even for a second. His incessant smirking and scolding don’t change history or reality. They don’t alter the statute Congress wrote for broadband internet-access lines. The Pai FCC’s inarticulate technical claims on these issues, and its inaccurate understanding of communications law in general, are the rotten core of its order today.

“We’ll have plenty to say in court about the legal mistakes littered throughout this decision. It’s willfully gullible and downright deceptive to suggest that nondiscrimination rules are no longer needed — despite the massive power of the cable and phone companies that control broadband access in this country.

“This rulemaking has been full of procedural missteps too, from the agency’s failure to provide proper explanation and notice of its legal theories, or proper recognition for the complaints it received under the 2015 rules, to its widely publicized failure to accept real public input and clean up fraud in its systems for doing so.

“Fake comments aren’t the only bad data clouding this decision. Pai has no evidence for his claim that the 2015 decision’s return to the right legal framework in Title II harmed broadband providers’ deployment, speeds or financial performance. Free Press has shown definitively that all of these indicators went up in the wake of the Open Internet Order needlessly struck down today, and we’ve also shown how online investment and innovation boomed with those protections firmly in place.

“This isn’t the end of the fight for Net Neutrality, though it’s a milestone the FCC never would have reached had it paid attention to the facts. We’re confident that judges and lawmakers reviewing this decision will disapprove of its conclusions and its methods too. Until they do, we’ll be on guard for ISP violations and working to put the right remedies for them back in place.”

  • chetdude

    ‘The FCC’s mission, specified in Section One of the Communications Act of 1934 and amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (amendment to 47 U.S.C. §151) is to “make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”‘

    Verizon lawyer and corporate ideologue Pai turns that mission on its head in order to make sure that after his term at FCC he will be richly rewarded…

    Not to mention that the corporations he’s working for have “given” USAmerica a high priced, slow internet that Bulgaria would be ashamed of (sorry, Bulgaria)…

    Of course since it’s so obviously a departure from how the internet has operated since its inception and is counter to the mission of the FCC, the courts SHOULD rule against this latest break with precedent, common sense and rationality — that means a bunch of lawyers will be making a lot of money…

  • fjwhite

    “the courts SHOULD rule against this latest break with precedent, common sense and rationality” — but isn’t the US justice system highly politicized, so won’t they be inclined to follow their political masters? (I ask because I’m Canadian and don’t know any better).

    And won’t greed and political power trump (pun intended) precedent, common sense and rationality? When was the last time that Trump did anything that was rational?

  • Clash_1

    Yup, and trump was never going to get elected.

  • chetdude

    It depends upon which courts get the cases and what Justice Anthony Kennedy had for breakfast…

    You’re very correct in assuming that the Federal Judiciary in USAmerica has been severely tainted by the Federalist Society and corporate dollars and propaganda and a seriously dumbed down system of education…

  • chetdude

    Oh, and Trump has nothing to say about this…

    Even now, the courts have a tiny bit of autonomy and operate as a separate entity from the current occupant of the White House. The pResident’s main job is as mouthpiece for the dying, capitalist empire…

  • kevinzeese

    It is always difficult to get a court to rule against an administrative agency. Administrative law favors the agency. Courts view the ageny as an expert and an action must be either arbitrary and capricious without any reasonable basis or the agency must have violated the Administrative Procedures Act. There is a good chance in this case but the odds are always with the agency.

  • fjwhite

    Thanks for your 2 helpful replies. Much appreciated.

  • fjwhite

    Kevin, thanks for your helpful reply. Much appreciated. And thanks to you and Margaret for all that you do.