Above: Net Neutrality protest in Baltimore. One of more than 700 held on December 7, 2017, the Internet day of action.
Note: The movement for Net Neutrality and creating an Internet that serves the people by giving equal access to all and a free and open Internet entered a new phase after the decision of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. That decision is discussed below and in this article, we published the day of the decision.
We knew that no matter what the court decided, that the fight for the Internet for the 21st Century would be far from over. The court decision was a partial win in our effort to protect a secure, open and accessible internet, and the movement will continue to do whatever it takes to preserve a free and open internet for all. We are particularly pleased with the court’s ruling on preemption as the court rejected the FCC’s claim that it could bar states from enacting their own net neutrality laws.
States are now free to pursue net neutrality legislation that protects millions of individuals and consumers immediately. Four states have already put in place strong and decisive net neutrality legislation, including California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. And six have signed executive orders, including Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The movement urges states, like Hawaii and New York with standing executive orders, to take full advantage of this opportunity, and step in where the FCC has failed. We will work to build a groundswell of local and state support to grow and for net neutrality protections to prevail.
The court also ruled that the FCC failed to consider how the 2018 Order would impact public safety and our access to affordable broadband. We must work to make high quality internet available to all especially in underserved rurual and low-income urban communities.
The movement for net neutrality and a free and open internet which includes hundreds of thousands of people, public interest groups, civil rights organizations, and many others will continue to fight, and reclaim a free and open internet — and ensure public safety for all. There are also members of Congress, city, county and state governments, who support the movement’s goals as well as tech companies, and public utilities. The movement will not stop until we have restored net neutrality protections — whether in Congress, the courts, the states, or a future FCC willing to read the law correctly and do its job.
There were many problems in the FCC’s rulemaking that justify the next FCC commissioners to revisit the issue. Just today, Buzz Feed News reported how right wing groups supporting the corporate interests of Internet Service Providers filed millions of fraudulent comments. This undermined the public comments and ensured the FCC did not get a true representation of public views.
The people of the United States know that net neutrality gives them the freedom to access the information and conversations that advance movements, expand opportunities and strengthen our communities. We also know that we must protect the internet from giant telecom corporations that want to pick and choose what content we can access depending on how much we pay. Simply put, internet rights are civil and human rights.
Net neutrality is the will of the people and we must organize to ensure that national consensus is reflected in government policy. There is overwhelming bipartisan support, a poll conducted by the University of Maryland in April 2018 found that 86 percent of voters opposed the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, including huge majorities of Republicans (82 percent), Independents (85 percent) and Democrats (90 percent). The movement must mobilize for net neutrality because corrupt representatives in Congress funded by corporate interests are working to put in place fake net neutrality laws.
The next president must commit to supporting strong net neutrality rules and broadband protections repealed by Trump-appointed FCC Chair Ajit Pai. It is time to end an FCC that serves the corporate interests of internet service providers and instead create an FCC that represents the interests of the people regarding the internet as well as the broadcast media. We urge all candidates for president and Congress to call for the restoration of the 2015 Open Internet Order in their first 100 days in office as a first step to creating an internet for the 21st Century. With this decision, it is important for the future of the internet and net neutrality to be included in the presidential debates so candidates can express their support for a free and open internet and net neutrality.
In the long run, Popular Resistance calls for the internet, which was created by pubic investment to be controlled democratically by the people and not by for-profit corporations serving narrow corporate interests of profit. The internet much become a public utility that serves the people’s interests. KZ
US Court of Appeals Ruling Opens the Door for State Net Neutrality Legislation
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit undermined the right to a free and open internet today by upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order. In Mozilla v. FCC, the Court ruled that while the FCC acted lawfully when it dismantled net neutrality, it cannot block states from setting their own regulations. This opens the door for states to enact their own net neutrality legislation and protect millions of individuals and consumers.
The FCC’s repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order gave internet service providers (ISPs) the ability to prioritize, throttle or block content with little to no oversight. While the FCC claimed this repeal would spark innovation and job growth, public interest groups argued that the revocation of net neutrality has stifled innovation, hurt competition, stalled growth and put the public safety at risk.
Public opinion is in favor of protecting net neutrality and the benefits it brings to consumers, businesses and public services. A 2018 study by the University of Maryland found that 86% of Americans—including 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats—actually opposed the FCC’s repeal.
While the court upheld the FCC’s 2017 order repealing net neutrality rules, it also affirmed that states are free to pursue their own net neutrality legislation to protect consumers from ISPs. Four states have already put in place strong and decisive net neutrality legislation including California, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. And six have signed executive orders, including Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Members of Congress, city, county and state governments, tech companies, public utilities, public interest groups, civil rights organizations, and many others will continue to fight, and reclaim a free and open internet for all.
Alex Nogales, President & CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition
“NHMC is deeply troubled by the Court’s decision to come out on the wrong side of history and chose to bolster corporate power over justice for American consumers–including the largest minority U.S. population, Latinos. The upholding of the Federal Communication Commission’s haste repeal of the 2015 Order is yet another wound to democracy and the rights of marginalized communities under the Trump Administration. Consumers in this country, particularly Latinx consumers, are still left unprotected and the time for action by lawmakers is now. NHMC will continue to fight alongside allies for an internet ecosystem that is fair and accessible for all people, not just those with deep pockets.”
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Counselor, Benton Institute for Broadband and Society
“It will take a while to digest 196 pages of opinions. However, even on a quick reading, it is clear that the fight over net neutrality is just beginning. The FCC can try to fix its mistakes, but the court made it clear that the Commission cannot block states from passing their own net neutrality statutes and issuing executive orders. Those will have to be reviewed case by case. The decision thus provides a roadmap to rules that can protect the promise of a vibrant internet that serves people, not the big cable and telecom companies. There is broad public support for the principle that Internet Service Providers should not be able to discriminate to benefit themselves or favored customers at the expense of other speakers and their customers. This is the fourth time in just the last few months in which the Trump appointees on the FCC have been reversed in Court. Together, these decisions reveal a pattern of rushing to judgment based on a predetermined outcome rather than reasoned consideration of the facts and the law.”
Bryan Mercer, Executive Director, Media Mobilizing Project
“Communities of color and poor and working people will never stop fighting for our right to communicate, and for an internet that protects and prioritizes our voices over that of Comcast. While this decision is a setback for our fight to protect our voices online, we are ready to fight on the state and local level to enshrine net neutrality protections for our communities.”
Gigi Sohn, Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate
“The DC Circuit Court has spoken very clearly – the states are now free to do what the FCC will not – assert authority over the broadband market and protect an open internet. Broadband providers will inevitably complain about having to comply with a so-called ‘patchwork’ of different state laws, but that is of their own making. Congress has a golden opportunity to set a federal standard and it’s called the Save the Internet Act, which the House passed in April. Upon its passage, the popular 2015 net neutrality rules will be reinstated, and just as importantly, so will the FCC’s legal authority to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market. The industry should join the American people and urge the Senate to pass the Act and for the President to sign it without delay.”
James R. Williams, Santa Clara County Counsel
“We’re gratified that the Court has recognized and understood that the law requires the FCC to consider public safety, and we will watch to make sure the Commission takes that responsibility seriously going forward. We’re also pleased that the Court has recognized the authority of California and other states to enact their own common-sense net-neutrality rules. We look forward to supporting California’s net neutrality rules.”
John Bergmayer, Legal Director, Public Knowledge
“We are gratified that the Court agreed with Public Knowledge and other petitioners on the matter of preemption. As we argued, once the Commission decided not to regulate broadband, it lost the ability to preempt states from doing so. The Commission’s choice to give up oversight of broadband means that states now have the clear authority to step in to protect consumers and promote competition where the FCC is unwilling to do so.
The Court’s decision leaves states with a clear path forward to enact state net neutrality laws to protect internet users and provide certainty for participants in the digital economy. States should move expeditiously to protect consumers where the FCC has refused to do so.
In deciding whether the FCC’s Order was permissible regarding the classification of broadband, the Court applied a highly deferential standard and found that the Commission narrowly satisfied its burden — noting at one point that the Commission ‘barely survives arbitrary and capricious review,’ and that the Commission ‘failed to provide any meaningful analysis’ regarding how existing law will protect consumers without the agency’s net neutrality protections. However, for the moment, broadband remains classified as an information service — though the Commission must reexamine the effects its choice will have on public safety, universal service, and access to utility poles, which is important for competition. This provides a further opportunity for the public to show how the Commission’s approach is incompatible with these important policies.
It is disappointing that the court’s decision leaves the American people without national rules protecting them against broadband providers blocking, throttling, or discriminating against certain types of internet traffic. While states should move quickly to enact net neutrality consumer protections, Congress should also respond to the overwhelming demand for strong net neutrality protections by passing the Save the Internet Act to provide certainty to all internet users across the country. The Save the Internet Act has already passed the House of Representatives, and in 2018 a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate approved a Congressional Review Act resolution to reinstate the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality protections.
Polling shows that the American people support this action, regardless of the party. Only in Washington do we see a few policymakers at the FCC and in Congress acting in the interest of a handful of powerful broadband providers. This decision should spark the public to demand action to pass strong net neutrality laws now.”
Katharine Trendacosta, Manager of Policy and Activism, Electronic Frontier Foundation
“The court’s decision underscores and clarifies that when the FCC abdicates its responsibility to protect net neutrality, states can fill the void. California has already taken the lead, passing a gold standard net neutrality state-level bill. Other states can and should follow suit. But Congress must also act to protect net neutrality. The House has already passed the Save the Internet Act, and the Senate needs to do the same.”
Kevin Zeese, Co-Director, From Popular Resistance
“The decision by the DC Court of Appeals shows that law has not kept up with the internet and how it is being used. It is time for the public to take back control of the internet, a technology that was created with public dollars, so it serves the people’s interests. Under President Trump, there have been backward steps for the internet and mass communication. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has always been a corporate occupied territory. The next president needs to appoint commissioners who represent the public interest, not the corporate interests of telecoms. The internet needs to serve the necessities of the people, not the oligopoly profits of corporate interests. The internet has become essential for functioning in our modern society. The first steps are for states to enact net neutrality, followed by the federal government doing so along with taking steps to making high-quality internet available to all and then upgrading the Telecommunications Act so the internet is a public good that serves the public interest.”
Additional statements can be found here:
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Common Cause
- Consumer Reports
- Free Press
- Open Technology Institute
- Public Knowledge
- Stanford Law Professor Barbara van Schewick