The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released the final text of the order spelling the death of net neutrality in the United States.
A fight to overturn it is being waged on multiple fronts: In Congress, Democrats are rallying to reverse it with a resolution of disapproval; the seats of lawmakers who don’t join the effort are being targeted by net neutrality supporters in the next election; and nearly every incumbent will face a voters who overwhelmingly did not support the FCC’s decision.
Whether there are enough Republican to pass the resolution remains to be seen; whether they believe net neutrality will haunt them enough to break with the administration is hard to say. (Things in the White House aren’t going so swell, after all.) But as was ever the case, there’s no shortage of telecom industry lobbyists whose pockets seem more persuasive than the voices of American voters.
A great legal battle is also pending, but may consume the entire year or more before it’s through. Without even knowing which court will hear the case, speculating on the result is really a fool’s errand—even if it adds some hope for net neutrality supporters.
And while the FCC order seeks to tie the hands of state lawmakers behind their backs, making it nearly impossible to pass laws contravening it, some states, including New York, Washington, and California, are considering laws that would prevent ISPs that violate net neutrality from bidding on state contracts.
In a statement last month, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai—who yesterday pulled out of an appearance at the major technology expo CES where he’s been a staple for half a decade, reportedly due to death threats—promised the order would restore the “light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.” It will help consumers and promote competition, he promised. (It won’t.)
“Returning to the legal framework that governed the internet from President Clinton’s pronouncement in 1996 until 2015 is not going to destroy the Internet,” Pai continued. “It is not going to end the internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy.”
In a tweet Thursday afternoon, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the panel’s longest-serving member, said it took almost 6,000 words for her to detail “all that is wrong with this action.” She also included a link to her dissent, in which she accuses the agency of violating its oath by “handing the keys to the internet … over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the only other Democrat on the commission currently, provided Gizmodo with the following statement:
“So many people rightfully believe Washington is not listening to their concerns, fears, and desires. It saddens me that with the release of this decision rolling back net neutrality, you can add the FCC to the list. In this document, the American public can see for themselves the damage done by this agency to internet openness. Going forward, our broadband providers will have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. This is not right. To make matters worse, the FCC’s broken and corrupted process for reaching this decision demonstrated extraordinary contempt for public input. In this decision, the FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”
Regarding the order, Rosenworcel added: “It deserves to be revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed.”
Below are links to documents published by the FCC today, including full statements from each of the commissioners, which were read at the vote last month:
- Declaratory Ruling
- Ajit Pai Statement
- Mignon Clyburn Statement
- Michael O’Reilly Statement
- Brendan Carr Statement
- Jessica Rosenworcel Statement