FCC Lacks Basis To Roll Back Net Neutrality Rules, Silicon Valley Says

The Federal Communications Commission's proposed rollback of the net neutrality rules may not hold up in court, according to the Silicon Valley trade group Internet Association.

"The record provides no basis for the Commission to reverse course from its 2015 Order," the Internet Association writes in comments filed Wednesday with the Federal Communications Commission.

The organization -- which includes companies like Amazon, Google, eBay and Facebook as members -- adds that Supreme Court precedent requires the FCC to show it has good reasons to change its position.

"The 2015 Order is working -- both the cloud economy and ISPs are doing well (and claims that investment by ISPs has been hurt by the 2015 Order are unsupported by evidence), and consumers are reaping the benefits of the virtuous circle of innovation across the internet economy," the organization writes.

The FCC's 2015 net neutrality order reclassified broadband as a utility service and subjected providers to some common carrier restrictions. Among others, the rules prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading service and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. The rules also broadly ban Internet service providers from engaging in conduct that interferes with people's ability to access material online.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed that the agency reverse the portion of the order that classified broadband as a utility service. Instead, he favors classifying broadband as an "information" service.

Pai also is seeking comment on the rules that prevent broadband providers from blocking or degrading service and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. But it may not be possible to retain those rules if broadband is reclassified as an information service, given that a federal appellate court ruled three years ago that the FCC has no authority to impose common-carrier restrictions on providers of "information" services.

The Internet Association says the 2015 rules "protect a virtuous circle of innovation that benefits the fast-growing, cloud-based economy."

The group also questions whether the current net neutrality rules have spurred a decrease in network investment, as Pai argued when he unveiled his proposed rollback.

"The empirical studies relied upon by the ISP economic studies have already been examined and countered ... with numerous parties explaining that the findings are inconclusive at best and that there is no reliable evidence that the 2015 Order has reduced ISPs’ investments in broadband infrastructure," the Internet Association writes.

The FCC's proposed net neutrality reversal has drawn widespread interest. To date, the matter has garnered nearly 22 million comments -- though some of them appear to have been submitted by bots.

The last date for the public to submit comments is Aug. 30.

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