As the U.S. Senate debates the re-nomination of the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, it is worth reflecting on just how wildly unsupported by the public and wrong the agency is on its effort to end an open Internet.
Extremely Unpopular with Literally Everyone but Big ISPs
This is not an overstatement. If you are not a giant ISP, you are likely opposed to the FCC proposal. Here is a short but by no means inclusive list of the opposition the FCC has received in response to its plan to end Network Neutrality and privacy protections.
State Attorneys General from Illinois, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine and Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and DC support retaining the existing consumer protections.
And 1.52 million unique comments (as in people navigating the cumbersome FCC website directly to submit a statement rather than use a form letter website) were submitted in support of Title II and Network Neutrality versus only 23,000 supporting the FCC.
Wrong on the Facts
The FCC Chairman started the process of rolling back the common carrier obligations of ISPs to end network neutrality and privacy protections on the premise that keeping them will hurt investment and small ISPs needed the rollback. Yet the numbers show that ISP investment has gone up by billions and detailed analysis does not support the assertion that common carrier status has been bad for investment. In fact, dozens of ISPs across the country have said they want to keep the current rules and that they in fact do not impede their ability to compete or invest.
To compound the above factual errors, the FCC’s technical understanding of the Internet itself is fundamentally flawed according to more than 190 Internet engineers, pioneers, and technologists—including many of the folks who originally helped build the Internet.
The FCC’s Job Is to Serve the Public Interest
A recent poll has found that 77 percent of Americans support retaining the current Network Neutrality rules (the poll broke it down to 73 percent of Republican voters, 80 percent of Democratic voters, and 76 percent of independents).
The numbers are even higher when Americans are asked whether they support privacy protections, such as requiring ISPs to obtain consent from users before monetizing with third parties (85 percent Republicans, 82 percent Democrats, and 78 percent independents). While their legal right to say no to their ISPs’ ability to monetize their sensitive online activities has been injured by Congress and the Trump Administration earlier this year, the FCC’s proposal would serve as the fatal blow.
So if the public and virtually every facet of Internet culture (including ISPs) oppose the FCC’s plan, then why are we even going down this path? To put it simply, it is because the FCC is not serving the public interest, but rather is serving the interests of the very few but massive vertically integrated ISPs that support the current agency’s agenda.