Today the Trump FCC begins its dismantling of the Internet rules that protect American consumers on behalf of the few huge companies that control their access to the Internet. Net Neutrality rules ensure that consumers can control what they say and do online, but Chairman Pai prefers to give that control instead to Comcast, AT&T, Charter and Verizon. That is an outcome that no American wants regardless of party or ideology.
It is no secret that Net Neutrality is enormously popular with the American people, and the previous FCC made sure to ensure, and the courts agreed, that its rules were grounded in the strongest legal authority (Title II of the Communications Act of 1934). However, today’s action signifies more than a fight over Net Neutrality. What is now at stake is the ability of the FCC – the expert agency by law – to protect consumers on what is now one of the most critical inputs to the US economy – broadband networks. Instead, Chairman Pai is proposing to abdicate the FCC’s role and give it to the Federal Trade Commission, while an important partner, cannot make rules and lacks the technical expertise to do so. Under the FTC, consumers will have no protection whatsoever until long after the harm to them is done.
Congressional Republicans already made the grave mistake of repealing the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, which no American asked for and Americans let them know it. They and Chairman Pai would be wise to think twice before attempting to do the same to Net Neutrality.
Gigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow and a Mozilla Fellow. She was Counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from November 2013-December 2016. More on Gigi can be found at gigisohn.com