Twenty-seven Senate Democrats have written a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reinstate Title II common carrier regulations on internet service providers, a regulatory move marketed to the public as “net neutrality,” little more than two weeks after the Biden White House appointed a new commissioner to the agency.
The FCC has had an extended 2-2 deadlock between Republican and Democrat commissioners until this month, due to the White House’s repeated failed attempts to confirm a partisan progressive, Gigi Sohn, to the agency. The administration eventually relented, withdrawing Sohn’s nomination and submitting a new candidate, Anna Gomez, who was confirmed by a Senate vote earlier this month.
Democrats in the Senate are now urging the FCC, with its new Democrat majority, to revive an old hobby-horse of the party: Title II regulations on internet service providers, a measure progressives call “net neutrality.” The letter’s signatories include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Brooker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) among others.
The regulations were in place for one year under President Obama, before being undone under President Trump early in his administration.
Despite the fact that regulating service providers does nothing to address the pervasive issue of social media censorship, which they themselves relentlessly encouraged over the past half-decade, progressives and Democrats insist net neutrality is necessary to preserve a “free and open internet.”
The letter follows in full below:
Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel:
We write regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) rightful authority over broadband internet access. Now that the FCC has a full slate of commissioners, we urge you to expeditiously reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. Doing so will enable you to effectively protect consumers from harmful practices online, promote affordable access to the internet, enhance public safety, increase marketplace competition, and take other important steps to benefit our nation’s digital future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left no doubt that, now more than ever, broadband is essential. Over the past three years, Americans have come to rely on the internet for everything from education and healthcare to commerce and connection to loved ones. Three-fourths of Americans say that internet access is as important as water or electricity, and broadband usage during the pandemic grew at the highest rate of increase in nearly a decade. With the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress made historic investments to ensure every American can access what has become the country’s primary communications network. By passing that historic law, we recognized the necessity of affordable, reliable, high-quality broadband internet connections. Now, the FCC’s regulatory classifications should reflect what Americans and Congress know to be true: broadband internet access service is an indispensable part of American life.
Despite the essential nature of broadband, the previous Administration’s FCC voted to repeal net neutrality protections, and with it threw out most of the Commission’s ability to enforce the consumer protection, competition, public safety, and universal service principles at the heart of the Communications Act. Net neutrality is a set of guidelines necessary to keep the internet open to all and free of discriminatory practices by providers. It forbids Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down customers’ access to sites or apps; charging websites to reach users at quicker speeds; and instituting other unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory practices. Net neutrality creates an internet ecosystem that is free and open to all, and it benefits consumers, small businesses and rural residents alike. Critically, repeated court rulings have made clear that reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service is the only way the FCC can use its legal authority to reinstate net neutrality, which will protect online expression, catalyze competition, and increase innovation.
Reinstating the Commission’s rightful Title II authority over broadband will also benefit the public in areas beyond net neutrality. Since the previous Administration erroneously classified broadband as an information service, we have heard from constituents, companies, and entrepreneurs about the need for the FCC to reassert its authority so it can prevent broadband providers from engaging in practices that harm online users as well as potential new entrants into the broadband marketplace. Only with Title II classification can the FCC prohibit unreasonable and unjust practices of broadband providers, effectively protect network resiliency and national security, ensure service quality, expand internet access, and combat anti-competitive practices. The FCC is the agency with expertise in broadband policy, and reclassifying broadband as a Title II service is a requisite step in the FCC’s efforts to serve the American people and conduct proper oversight of broadband internet.
You have unequivocally condemned the FCC’s past actions to roll back net neutrality policies and relinquish FCC authority over broadband. Now that the FCC has a full complement of commissioners, we urge you to act to protect the free and open internet for all Americans. We commend you for your leadership and appreciate your attention to this important topic.
By preventing internet service providers from “blocking or slowing down customers’ access to sites or apps; charging websites to reach users at quicker speeds,” net neutrality will foster an “internet ecosystem that is free and open to all,” write the Democrat senators in their letter.
The law of common carriage, mandated by the Title II regulations demanded by Democrats, is one of the solutions recommended by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas to address tech censorship. Yet Democrats want the rule applied to service providers, which are not in the habit of kicking off internet users for their political viewpoints, while not recommending similar regulations on the companies and platforms that are actually responsible for suppressing online discourse over the past five years — companies like Google, YouTube, Twitter/X, and Facebook.
Progressives and Democrats lost their minds when the FCC repealed Net Neutrality under Trump, predicting the end of the internet as we know it, and a variety of other disasters. As Breitbart News predicted at the time, none of these doom-laden predictions came true, and in fact broadband speeds across the country improved.
It’s unsurprising the Democrats, who have been at the forefront of calls for online platforms to censor so-called “misinformation,” would exempt those platforms from their demands for “Net Neutrality.” But it will be harder to persuade the public that the measures are necessary to preserve a “free and open internet.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election. Follow him on Twitter @AllumBokhari.