The fight for net neutrality is heating up. So far, more than 8.3 million comments have been filed regarding the FCC’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality regulations passed in 2015 that prohibit companies from restricting consumer internet access by blocking or slowing internet speeds and forcing consumers to pay more fast access to certain types of content.
The latest battle cry was heard Monday, when major tech advocacy group the Internet Association (IA) — which represents companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook — filed a 38-page comment urging the FCC not to go through with its proposal.
“There is no reliable evidence that the 2015 Order has reduced ISPs’ investments in broadband infrastructure,” the IA wrote in its public comment. “Cable broadband speeds have doubled from 2014 to 2016 following the adoption of the current net neutrality rules and reclassification of broadband internet access service.”
The IA’s comments also highlight telecom companies’ increasing investment in original content — which, without net neutrality rules and with impending mergers on the horizon, could limit what customers can watch and read online based on their internet service provider (ISP).
“ISPs have clear economic incentives to favor their own or affiliated content over third-party, edge provider content,” the filing states. “Whether by blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against third-party content, ISPs have the ability to negatively influence their subscribers’ experience with third-party content and use their gate-keeping power to favor their own or affiliated content, thereby limiting consumer choice and competition.”
Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his proposal to undo the 2015 net neutrality rules in April, saying they have hindered broadband companies’ ability to invest in infrastructure and cost American jobs. The FCC commissioners voted along party lines, 2–1, to move forward with Pai’s proposal to roll back the regulations, with the FCC’s lone Democrat, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, casting the only vote against the plan.
Since its release, Pai’s anti-net neutrality proposal has been imbued with opposition. The IA’s lengthy comments follow online protests held July 12 when major websites and tech organizations rallied in support of the existing net neutrality rules. Many sites posted messages urging people to file comments with the FCC denouncing its proposal. (A similar protest was held in 2014 before the rules were passed under Title II of the Communications Act, which gives the FCC regulatory authority over internet providers.) During the FCC’s first open meeting on the matter in May, protesters, advocacy groups, and a few members of Congress gathered outside of the agency’s headquarters lambasting the proposal and Pai.
Pai is set to testify in front of the U.S. Senate Wednesday regarding the White House nominations to fill vacant FCC commissioner seats. Former Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and current conservative-leaning FCC general counsel Brendan Carr are both up for appointment. If confirmed, the FCC would have three conservative and two liberal commissioners, which could all but seal net neutrality’s fate under the Trump administration.