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Background: We learned this afternoon that Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps will vote to approve a Net Neutrality order tomorrow at the monthly FCC meeting. The statement below is based on what we have been able to learn about that order so far.
The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
The actions by the Federal Communications Commission fall far short of what they could have been. Instead of a rule that would protect everyone, from consumers to applications developers from predatory practices of telephone and cable companies, the Commission settled for much less. Instead of strong, firm rules providing clear protections, the Commission created a vague and shifting landscape open to interpretation. Consumers deserved better. The FCC should have fought for consumers, not put the burden on them to fight for their rights.
Chairman Julius Genachowski was right when he said last year that there is one Internet, and it doesn't matter whether someone connects via a cord or through the air. His actions fell far short of his rhetoric. Under the rules the Chairman will bring to a vote tomorrow, those who go online with a wireless device will be at the mercy of the big telephone companies to practice whatever mischief they wish to get around the bare-bone approach the Commission took. Cell phones and smart phones are the fastest growing, and a major Internet onramp for poor Americans and people of color. We hope the Commission returns, as promised, to the wireless issue sooner rather than later, and will see the merit in offering equal protections for all users.
The Commission protections for wired access to the Internet are stronger, but still suspect. While we believe the order has been somewhat strengthened from the Chairman's original proposal, significant loopholes remain. That the FCC has left the door open for paid prioritization is distressing, and is contrary to everything that Chairman Genachowski has said about an open Internet.
The notion that a deep-pocketed company, through paid prioritization, could pay to have its service moved ahead in the queue or transmitted faster than another is deeply troubling in a medium founded on the idea that everyone has a chance to reach someone else without interference from the carrier in the middle.
There are other shortcomings in the FCC's attempt to frame exactly with what service it is attempting to deal. In-the-weeds definitions of terms like “broadband Internet access” could lead to loopholes larger than the protections, and could nullify what the Commission said it wants to do.
We thank Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn for their dedicated and diligent efforts to protect consumers and to keep the Internet open through their work on this order.
We look forward to working with the FCC, our public-interest colleagues, and others in correcting the flaws in this order to make it provide the strong protections that everyone deserves.