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Cybersecurity & Standards, Free Expression, Open Internet

Help Us Protect an Open Internet

On July 12, a diverse coalition of civil society organizations, businesses, and internet users will unite in a day of action to preserve the open internet. While the FCC approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to repeal net neutrality protections for internet users in May, this was only the first step in the repeal process. The proposal still must go through another vote before the FCC, and then survive a potential court challenge. If you support a free and open internet, you still have until July 17 to make your voice heard through the FCC comment process (proceeding: 17-108). To help you in drafting your comment, this post will highlight some of the key points of the proposed repeal, the arguments for preserving net neutrality, and the Title II framework that were discussed in our recent blog series.

First, the proposal would reclassify broadband internet service as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act. In the broadband context, Title I is reserved for services that rely on internet access to convey information, such as email, web hosting, and news aggregators, rather than internet access itself. Under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, broadband internet was properly classified as a telecommunications service under Title II, as it provides for the underlying access to websites and services. Without Title II authority, the FCC will be more constrained in its ability to protect consumers from violations of net neutrality or intrusions on their personal privacy from internet service providers (ISPs).

Second, the NPRM questions the need for bright line protections that prevent the throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization of internet access. These protections preserve the model of an open internet by ensuring that internet service providers cannot pick and choose the applications and websites that receive faster or better access to users. Without these safeguards, ISPs could limit access to competing services or applications or exclusively channel users through its own services. As a result, internet users may pay more money for slower internet service, and internet-based companies will face new artificial obstacles to innovation and growth imposed by ISPs.

Finally, the proposed rules cede the authority to protect the privacy of internet users from the FCC to the FTC. While the FTC is a capable agency staffed with dedicated public servants, it has more limited authority to protect the sensitive information of internet users compared to the FCC. For example, the FTC lacks the preventative rulemaking authority of the FCC, meaning that it can only address privacy harms after they have already occurred. Additionally, the FTC does not have the specialized expertise or the resources of the FCC to address many of the network engineering issues that may arise in its new oversight role.

CDT encourages you to make your voice heard to preserve the open internet. You can submit your thoughts through the FCC website (proceeding: 17-108) until the end of the comment period on July 17. As this process continues, CDT will be at the forefront of efforts to protect the rights of internet users. We hope that you will join us.