Public Knowledge Responds to FCC Chairman Pai’s Proposal to Gut Net Neutrality Rules

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai published the agency’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” draft Order that would roll back the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which created strong net neutrality rules that force broadband providers to treat all internet content and services equally.

The agency’s new proposal downgrades broadband from a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act, to a mere “information service.” If adopted at the FCC meeting on December 14, the draft Order will eliminate the existing network neutrality rules (“no blocking, no throttling, and no ‘fast lanes’”) that currently protect the Open Internet. Millions of Americans expressed support for these rules by submitting comments with the FCC leading up to the 2015 Open Internet Order, and millions of Americans have opposed FCC Chairman Pai’s proposal to roll back these rules since he announced it last spring.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Today's draft Order shows both an appalling disregard for the record and an astounding disregard for even the basics of administrative law. It would seem more likely, as some have suggested, that Chairman Pai and Congressional Republicans have released this Order to create a crisis atmosphere and push through legislation authored by the cable companies rather than in a serious attempt at policy.

“For almost 20 years, both Republican and Democratic Chairmen of the FCC have asserted the FCC’s ongoing responsibility and authority to protect consumers and promote competition in the broadband access market. Rather than admit that this draft Order is a radical break from a bipartisan consensus on FCC authority to protect consumers generally and net neutrality specifically, Chairman Pai prefers to surrender this power to broadband providers, enabling them to set their own ‘net neutrality’ standards.

“In an even more brazen violation of law, Chairman Pai claims to be able to simultaneously divest the FCC of authority while claiming unlimited power to preempt the states as well. Under Chairman Pai’s expansive theory of preemption, the FCC could -- in theory -- preempt every state law applicable to Google, Facebook, or any other information service. For a man claiming to correct the previous Administration’s ‘overreach,’ this is an astonishing claim to unlimited power to advance corporate interests at the expense of the public.”

Public Knowledge will host a hill briefing on Wednesday, November 29 at 1:30 p.m. EST in the Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 215, to provide a legal and policy analysis of the draft order published in the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding. The hill briefing is open to the public.

Please register for the hill briefing here. For more information on net neutrality, view this explainer from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, our issue page or net neutrality timeline highlighting key moments of this debate.

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