Net Neutrality Reversal Will Harm Free Speech, International Groups Argue

Reversing the net neutrality rules will allow broadband providers to "rip the soul out of the Internet," a broad consortium of international groups says in a new letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.

"We are deeply concerned that the proposed regulatory changes to net neutrality will undermine free speech and competition on the Internet," more than 200 companies and organizations say in the letter.

"Despite assurances to the contrary, the changes proposed by the FCC would remove the only existing legal foundation strong enough to ensure the United States will continue to honor the principle of net neutrality." Signatories include the organizations Access Now, European Digital Rights and the search engine

The groups' letter comes as the FCC considers a proposal to gut the net neutrality rules, which were passed in 2015 by a 3-2 vote. Those rules reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier regulations on broadband providers, including bans on blocking or throttling service and charging content companies higher fees for faster delivery.



The regulations are supported by consumer advocates and many Silicon Valley companies, who argue that Internet service providers shouldn't be able to serve as gatekeepers to the web. But Internet service providers argue that they shouldn't be subject to utility-style regulations.

Pai, who opposed the rules in 2015, recently proposed rolling them back by reclassifying broadband as an "information" service. If the FCC does so, it may also lose the authority to enforce the other regulations, including the bans on blocking or throttling service and paid fast lanes.

The international organizations warn that reversing the rules would give broadband providers "new powers to control the Internet."

"These changes will allow US Internet access providers to demand payment from online services for the right to have privileged access to that provider’s customer base," the letter states. "This will fragment the market, destroy economies of scale, reduce incentives for innovation, undermine social movements and rip the soul out of the Internet."

The FCC hasn't yet announced when it will vote on the possible rollback.

2 comments about "Net Neutrality Reversal Will Harm Free Speech, International Groups Argue".
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  1. Barry Dennis from Netwebomni, September 28, 2017 at 12:13 a.m.

     In the 70's the FCC mandated that TV networks unbundle their control over both show production (aka Content in today's context) and distribution (aka Broadband in today's context).This led to the explosive growth of Content producers, consumer choice, outstanding competition and the growth of cable and telco.
     It is more evident today than ever that allowing cable and telco to control the Content and Broadband is a recipe for today's geo and market share monopoly disaster.
    The FCC MUST forcefully separate Content distribution (Broadband) and Content production, either through it's own regulatory process (too politically influenced, I believe) or by working with Congress to achieve a legislated solution which follows the FCC (and FTC) mandate to "manage in the public interest." which will force reasonable competition at competitive pricing into the marketplace, lowering costs for consumers and business, increasing choice and technical innovation.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 28, 2017 at 9:07 a.m.

    Barry, the FCC's Primtime Access Rule, to which you refer, merely mandated that stations in the 50 largest markets could take no more than three as opposed to three and a half hours of primetime fare supplied by a network nightly. This had the effect of freeing 30 minutes of primetime --it turned out to be the least attractive 7:30-8PM slot on most evenings-----for programs produced by independent organizations. As it turned out most of the shows offered by advertiser "sponsors" were low budget nature, variety and  dramas co-produced with networks from other countries,  and few survived very long due to low ratings. Quickly the syndicators filled this void with game shows and a few magazine entries and all hopes for "better" content evaporated. The FCC placed no sanctions of any kind on the kinds of shows the networks could air nor how they obtained their content---much of the non-prime fare such as the early AM and late night shows being self-produced. The networks were also prohibited from "partnership" deals with their primetime program suppliers, which netted the networks sales fees of 35-50% for reruns sold mainly to independent stations----a limitation that was removed many years ago----- but this was small potatoes in terms of actual revenues. In today's marketplace, however, these deals are very beneficial to the networks, by the way.

    The explosive growth of content suppliers came about almost completely because of the advent and growth of pay and basic cable, not any FCC initiative, starting roughly a decade after the Primetime Access Rule.

    Regarding your contention that the FCC should separate content distribution from content production, the only way that it could do so in TV would be through some sort of edict to the stations whose fate it controls, not the nertworks, which are not under the FCC's control. This would be a very difficult thing to attempt and would probably fail due to legal issues as well as the uproar it would cause. Also, how would the FCC, which has no jurisdiction---as far as I know---over digital content suppliers or distributors---handle that side of the equation?

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