House Democrats Blast FCC’s Attempt to Repeal Net Neutrality in Open Letter

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    On Friday, several house democrats published an open letter addressed to the current FCC leadership who seek to repeal rules enforcing net neutrality . The 20-page letter criticizes efforts led by Trump-appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, to repeal net neutrality rules first codified under the Obama administration in 2015. The current rules classify ISPs as “telecommunication services” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In fact, several of the congressmen involved in writing the 1996 law are amongst the authors and signatories of this open letter. They write that , “…as members of Congress who also sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, submit these comments out of deep concern that the FCC’s proposal to undo its net neutrality rules fundamentally and profoundly runs counter to the law. As participants either in the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or in decisions on whether to update the Act, we write to provide our unique insight into the meaning and intent of the law.”

    The FCC seeks to redefine ISPs as “information services,” much in the same way we define services and platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube. Telecommunication giants AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon argue that because the content created by the aforementioned internet content-creation platforms passes through their telecommunication networks, that they too should be considered an “information service.” In response, the house members contend that , “[t]he FCC’s proposal would therefore read this fundamental choice that we made out of the law. Under the proposal’s suggestion, no service could be a telecommunications service going forward.”

    In an age where the cautious treatment of intellectual property rights act as the foundation of entire industries, the argument by these ISPs suggests that they are willing to take credit for the work of content creators in order to charge them for not slowing down the internet.

    Citing overwhelming public support in favor of net neutrality, the letter argues that the agency’s “narrow focus” on “the raw dollars spent on network deployment” runs “contrary to public interest.” Being amongst the members of congress who wrote the law defining what is and is not in the public’s best interest, they state directly that , “if we had intended network investment to be the sole measure by which the FCC determines policy, we would have specifically written that into the law.”

     

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