House Approves Restoring Net Neutrality

As expected, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives April 10 voted to restore net neutrality guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 and repealed in 2017 under the direction of President Trump’s appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

The 232-190 vote (along party lines) on the Save the Internet Act would – if approved by the Senate and signed by Trump – restore guidelines prohibiting Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from throttling consumer access to online video services and enforce regulation characterizing the Internet as a utility similar to electricity and the telephone.

“With the Save the Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement last month.

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Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed (52-47) a Congressional Review Act in 2017 to overturn the FCC’s decision, approval of the House measure by the GOP-controlled Senate now seems slim.

Due to the rules of governance, passage of the CRA required a simple majority of votes. Passage of the Save the Internet Act requires 60 Senate votes (a supermajority), which the Democrats don’t have.

Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the media the House measure would be “dead on arrival” once it is sent over.

And the White House April 8 issued a statement saying that if the bill was presented to Trump, he would be advised to veto it.

Trump Administration Pledges to Veto Net Neutrality Bill

As expected, White House officials April 8 said they would recommend President Donald Trump veto House Democrats’ efforts to revive net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama.

The current FCC, under Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, reversed the guidelines, favoring so-called “light touch” regulation.

Following the 2018 midterm elections, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) introduced H.R. #1644 (Save the Internet) that would reinstate net neutrality classifying the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

The bill, which has 197 co-sponsors, seeks to stop Internet service providers from enacting speed lanes for higher-paying Web traffic and throttling third-party competitive services.

The legislation is up for possible vote in the Democrat-control House as early as April 9. If passed, it would be reconciled in the Senate and then sent to Trump for his signature or veto.

The White House (and many Republicans) argue that the current FCC last year sought to “restore Internet freedom” by adopting so-called “light-touch” regulation that it said enabled the Internet and entrepreneurs to “thrive” for nearly two decades.

In a tweet, the Office of Management and Budget said that since the FCC reversed its position on net neutrality, the United States has risen to sixth from 13th in global fixed broadband download speeds.

It said ongoing rollout of fiber technology benefited from a change in the law, underscored by an increase in capital investment by $2.3 billion.

“H.R. 1644 would undermine this success by repealing the FCC’s current rule,” the OMB tweeted. “If H.R. 1644 were presented to the President, his advisors would recommend that he veto it.”

 

 

‘Save the Internet Act’ Passes First House Test

A bill, spearheaded by Democrats in the House of Representatives to restore Obama-era net neutrality guidelines regulating the Internet as a utility, March 26 passed a panel vote, 18-11, along party lines to advance to a full committee vote.

If the “Save the Internet Act,” which would restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality guidelines mandating all Internet traffic be treated equally, passes the House, it would have to be reconciled with the Senate and then signed by President Trump – the latter not likely considering his FCC chairman pick, Ajit Pai, initiated rollback of the regulations in 2017.

Republicans argue net neutrality guidelines would give the government too much control of the Internet. Some have looped the bill with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal economic stimulus program that includes climate change and income equality, among other issues.

“I’m disappointed that we’re considering this proposal, which [is] like so many other things like the Green New Deal and all these other plans to have more government control over our everyday lives,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) countered that without net neutrality, there is “no backstop” safeguarding consumers from corporations.

Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy lawyer at Public Knowledge, said that since the Trump-era FCC repealed its Open Internet Order in 2017, broadband providers have “slowly and carefully” moved to undermine net neutrality in their business practices and their advocacy.

“We urge members of the House to support this bill and encourage every American to demand that their Representatives vote to approve it immediately,” he wrote.

Lawmakers Introduce ‘Save the Internet’ Bill

As expected, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate March 6 introduced legislation aimed at overturning the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, or net neutrality.

Dubbed “Save the Internet Act,” the bill seeks to re-classify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or creating fast lanes and slow lanes by charging extra fees to prioritize content.

“Since the FCC foolishly repealed net neutrality, we’ve seen a wild west where monopoly telephone and cable companies have been free to do what they want at the expense of consumers,” Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner, said in a statement in support of the legislation.

Copp contends there exists evidence of broadband providers throttling speeds, degrading video quality, and creating service plans that favor their own content over competitors.

“The harms will only get worse the longer net neutrality remains repealed,” he said.

Jason Pye, VP of legislative affairs with FreedomWorks, a lobby group supporting small government, lower taxes and free markets, said repeal of net neutrality guidelines was an attempt to correct government overreach.

“This Democratic proposal is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Pye. “Our Internet grew, innovated, and thrived under a light touch regulatory framework. The Democrats’ bill would inhibit future innovation and would only serve to increase big government control over the lives of everyday Americans.”

Regardless, the bill must pass Congress and then be signed by President Trump – a long shot considering Trump’s appointee to run the FCC – Ajit Pai – personally pushed for the net neutrality repeal.

 

 

House Democrats Seek to Reinstate ‘Net Neutrality’ Legislation

House Democrats in Congress reportedly plan to unveil legislation aimed at restoring net neutrality guidelines mandating Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all traffic on the Web equally.

The legislation, which would ban ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from blocking/slowing Web traffic or offering faster lanes for a fee, would be released Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reported by Reuters.

Internet giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Netflix endorse net neutrality guidelines.

The Federal Communications Commission in 2017 voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal net neutrality guidelines it established in 2015 in a similar vote under the Obama Administration. Those guidelines classified the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

The repeal enabled ISPs to enforce how its subscribers access the Internet.

Pelosi seeks to work with Senate Democrats getting “Save the Internet” legislation passed that would then require President Trump’s signature — a probable long shot considering Trump’s pick to head the FCC, Ajit Pai, orchestrated the net neutrality repeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear the appeal of the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court that twice upheld the 2015 Open Internet Rule.

Regardless, with 22 state attorneys general endorsing net neutrality, and the U.S. Senate — which is controlled by Republicans — voting in 2018 to restore guidelines, the House feels it has the political momentum.

 

 

 

 

FCC: Nearly Half of 22 Million Public Comments on Net Neutrality Fake

During the 2017 run-up to the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 during the Obama Administration, the agency solicited public comments on the proposed decision not to treat the Internet as a public utility.

The FCC on Dec. 14, 2017 voted 3-2 along party lines to nullify the Open Internet Order affirmed under previous chairman Tom Wheeler. In doing so, Internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter were no longer prohibited from charging online streaming services such as Netflix market rates for broadband access, among other issues.

In new FCC disclosures following Freedom of Information Act requests by The New York Timesand other media groups, it was revealed that nearly 11 million of the 22 million comments received online regarding net neutrality were fraudulent, including 500,000 comments received from Russian sources.

The revelation underscores the widespread influx and influence social media can have on more than national elections. Indeed, about 8 million fake comments originated from domain sites associated with FakeMailGenerator.com. Another 2 million comments used stolen identities.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement to Congress, claimed that much of the “overheated rhetoric” against his proposed net neutrality rollback originated from fraudulent sources. In fact, most of the authentic comments reportedly consisted of form-letter responses.

Regardless, the New York State Attorney General’s Office in October opened an investigation to the fake comments, including subpoenaing public action groups on both sides of the issue.

 

AT&T CEO Calls on Congress to Restore Net Neutrality

AT&T chairman/CEO Randall Stephenson apparently believes in miracles.

Speaking Nov. 12 at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech D. Live confab in Laguna Beach, Calif., Stephenson called on politically-divided Congress to enact net neutrality guidelines for the nation’s Internet service providers.

It was wishful thinking, Stephenson agreed, joking the lawmakers can’t agree on the freezing temperature of water.

“I get fatigued every time the President changes, the head of the FCC changes, and regulations swing from left to right,” he said.

Indeed, with politics driving the Obama-era net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission, a slightly revamped FCC three years later under President Trump rescinded the provisions that sought to treat the Internet as a utility, intending to safeguard content distribution against ISPs throttling, denying access, and charging higher prices for faster streaming speeds, among other issues.

To Stephenson, whose telecom is both an ISP and streaming content distributor and creator through subsidiary WarnerMedia, the lack of clear regulation will only encourage individual states to employ their own versions of net neutrality – as California lawmakers voted to do this year.

“What would be at total disaster for the innovation we see in Silicon Valley is to pick our head up and have 50 different sets of rules across the U.S.,” Stephenson said.

Current FCC chairman Ajit Pai – an Obama nominee upped to head the agency by Trump – has argued that net neutrality is regulation in search of an industry.

“It is not the job of the government to pick the winners and losers of the internet … We should have a level playing field [via market forces],” Pai said earlier this year.

Critics contend the lack of regulation hurts consumers. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – a Democrat – said reversing net neutrality put the FCC “on the wrong side of the American public.”

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month declined to hear a case brought by the telecommunications industry and the Department of Justice seeking to reverse a lower appeals court ruling upholding the subsequently rescinded Obama-era guidelines.

The Supreme Court’s lack of action does not reverse the repeal of the net neutrality guidelines, and leaves the door open to future litigation should a future FCC restore the guidelines.

The latest round of net neutrality lawsuits involves the Trump Administration, arguing the supremacy clause gives the Federal government the sole authority to regulate the Internet in the United States, suing states attempting to enact their own stricter guidelines.

 

 

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Net Neutrality Appeals Court Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 5 declined to hear a case brought by the telecommunications industry and the Department of Justice seeking to reverse a lower appeals court ruling upholding Obama-era regulations that treated the Internet as a utility.

The Federal Communications Commission under President Trump reversed the regulations in 2017. Through the Obama-era guidelines were no longer in place, the Trump Administration and telecoms were hoping the Supreme Court would remove the precedent set by the 2016 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s ruling that upheld them.

The Supreme Court’s lack of action on the case does not reverse the 2017 repeal of the net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015, and leaves the door open to future litigation for any net neutrality policy.

The FCC reversal had been seen as a win for major ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon having greater control of content distribution on the Internet. Indeed, Dish Network this month alleged AT&T-owned HBO and Cinemax wouldn’t renegotiate pay-TV carriage agreements, in part due to AT&T’s competing over-the-top video distribution platforms.

California state lawmakers this year voted to adopt the guidelines affording content providers such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video equal access to high-speed Internet distribution without being subjected to throttling, blocking or paid prioritization by Internet service providers.

Enforcement of the new legislation – set to take effect in January – has been put on hold pending a separate lawsuit by the federal government that argues states seeking their own net neutrality guidelines are violating the supremacy clause.

California Inks Net Neutrality Bill; Trump Administration Sues

California Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 30 signed legislation that returns key provisions of net neutrality law enacted by the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama.

Brown approved SB822 — dubbed the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 — prohibiting fixed and mobile Internet service providers (ISPs) from engaging in actions concerning the treatment of Internet traffic.

The law prevents ISPs (including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon) from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, impairing (i.e. throttling) or degrading lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, application, service or use of specified practices known as “zero-rating,” which enable users to consume select content without impacting their monthly data caps.

It also denies ISPs from offering or providing services other than broadband Internet access service that are delivered over the same last-mile connection into consumer homes, if those services have the purpose or effect of evading the above-described prohibitions or negatively affect the performance of broadband Internet access service.

The Trump Administration responded with the Department of Justice filing a federal lawsuit claiming the state law violates provisions of the FCC’s rolled back net neutrality guidelines enacted under new chairman Ajit Pai.

“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme and state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

Pai, who was appointed to the FCC by Obama, and promoted to chairman position by President Trump, has long argued previous net neutrality provisions represented government overreach on private enterprise and thwarted capital investment.

The revamped FCC last December voted to reclassify ISPs as “information service providers.” That action — restoring lighter regulatory oversight — overturned the prior FCC’s 2015 ruling that classified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

“Not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers,” Pai said, citing “zero rating” data plans he said enable low-income consumers to stream video and music.

“They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace,” Pai said.

Eddie Kurtz, with Courage Campaign, a civil liberties group, applauded the signing of SB822.

“Governor Jerry Brown did the right thing by choosing to institute the strongest net neutrality rules in the country, sending a clear signal to Californians that guaranteeing access to the internet for all, helping California communities — particularly low-income communities — and  boosting small businesses is a priority for our state,” said Kurtz.

 

Comcast Pledges Net Neutrality Support as Government Safeguards Expire

Comcast reiterated support for so-called net neutrality provisions the same day (June 11) the Federal Communication Commission’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” took effect, rolling back many safeguards intended to mandate a level playing field on the Internet.

In a blog post, Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said the nation’s largest cable pay-TV operator would not change how it handles third-party streaming services on its broadband network.

“We still don’t and won’t block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content,” Watson wrote. “We’re still not creating fast lanes. We still don’t have plans to enter into any so-called paid prioritization agreements.”

Yet, throttling is precisely what Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings accused Comcast and other Internet Service Providers of doing in 2014. Hastings said Netflix was forced into paying “a toll” to “some big ISPs” so its subscribers wouldn’t be subjected to buffering and pixilated images.

“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don’t restrict, influence, or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make,” said Hastings at the time. “The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient. This weak [pre- 2015] net neutrality isn’t enough to protect an open, competitive internet; a stronger form of net neutrality is required.”

Hastings’ grumblings reached President Obama, who, together with former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015 helped push through tougher safeguards for streaming services – much to the chagrin of ISPs.

Under new FCC chairman Ajit Pai – a former cable lobbyist and Obama appointee – the agency did away with what Pai considered “unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations” imposed by Wheeler that characterized the Internet as a utility and regulated under the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

Watson contends the Internet can be better safeguarded under the same regulatory-light (i.e. scant government oversight) approach that helped create it.

“We continue to believe the best way to ensure lasting net neutrality rules that protect consumers and promote investment is for Congress to enact legislation,” he wrote.