Network Engineers Speak Out for Net Neutrality

Today, a group of over 190 Internet engineers, pioneers, and technologists filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission explaining that the FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality protections is based on a fundamentally flawed and outdated understanding of how the Internet works.

Signers include current and former members of the Internet Engineering Task Force and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ committees, professors, CTOs, network security engineers, Internet architects, systems administrators and network engineers, and even one of the inventors of the Internet’s core communications protocol.

This isn’t the first time many of these engineers have spoken out on the need for open Internet protections. In 2015, when the EFF and ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief defending the net neutrality rules, dozens of engineers signed onto a statement supporting the technical justifications for the Open Internet Order.

The engineers’ statement filed today contains facts about the structure, history, and evolving nature of the Internet; corrects technical errors in the proposal; and gives concrete examples of the harm that will be done should the proposal be accepted.

The engineers explain that:

“Based on certain questions the FCC asks in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), we are concerned that the FCC (or at least Chairman Pai and the authors of the NPRM) appears to lack a fundamental understanding of what the Internet’s technology promises to provide, how the Internet actually works, which entities in the Internet ecosystem provide which services, and what the similarities and differences are between the Internet and other telecommunications systems the FCC regulates as telecommunications services.”

The engineers point to specific errors in the NPRM. As one example among many: the NPRM tries to argue that ISPs, not edge providers, are the main drivers for services such as streaming movies, sharing photos, posting on social media, automatic translation, and so on. The NPRM also erroneously assumes that transforming an IP packet from IPv4 to IPv6 somehow changes the form of the payload.

The engineers explain how the Internet (and in particular broadband) has changed since 2002, when the FCC first explicitly classified broadband internet access service as an information service, and why that classification is no longer appropriate in light of technical developments. Drawing on this background information, they then respond to specific questions from the NPRM in order to correct the FCC’s mistakes.

The statement provides nearly a dozen different examples of consumer harm that could have been prevented by the light-touch, bright-line rules—like when AT&T distorted the market for content by using its gatekeeping power to not charge its customers for its DIRECTV video service while charging third-parties more to similarly zero-rate data. It also gives several examples of consumer benefits that happened as a result of the 2015 Open Internet Order, like mobile service providers finally removing the prohibition that was stopping customers from tethering their personal computers to their mobile devices in order to use their mobile broadband connections.

The NPRM fundamentally misunderstands the basic technology underlying how the Internet works. If the FCC were to move forward with its NPRM as proposed, the results could be disastrous: the FCC would be making a major regulatory decision based on plainly incorrect assumptions about the underlying technology and Internet ecosystem that will have a disastrous effect on innovation in the Internet ecosystem as a whole.


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Historic Day of Action: Net Neutrality Allies Send 1.6 Million Comments to FCC

When you attack the Internet, the Internet fights back.

Today, the Internet went all out in support of net neutrality. Hundreds of popular websites featured pop-ups suggesting that those sites had been blocked or throttled by Internet service providers. Some sites got hilariously creative—Twitch replaced all of its emojis with that annoying loading icon. Netflix shared GIFs that would never finish loading. PornHub simply noted that “slow porn sucks.”

Together, we painted an alarming picture of what the Internet might look like if the FCC goes forward with its plan to roll back net neutrality protections: ISPs prioritizing their favored content sources and deprioritizing everything else. (Fight for the Future has put together a great collection of examples of how sites participated in the day of action.)

Today has been about Internet users across the country who are afraid of large ISPs getting too much say in how we use the Internet. Voices ranged from huge corporations to ordinary Internet users like you and me.

Together with Battle for the Net and other friends, we delivered 1.6 million comments to the FCC, breaking the record we set during Internet Slowdown Day in 2014. The message was clear: we all rely on the Internet. Don’t dismantle net neutrality protections.

If you haven’t added your voice yet, it’s not too late. Take a few moments to tell the FCC why net neutrality is important to you. If you already have, take a moment to encourage your friends to do the same.


Stand up for net neutrality

Here are just a few examples of what Team Internet has been saying about net neutrality today.

“We live in an uncompetitive broadband market. That market is dominated by a handful of giant corporations that are being given the keys to shape telecom policy. The big internet companies that might challenge them are doing it half-heartedly. And [FCC Chairman] Ajit Pai seems determined to offer up a massive corporate handout without listening to everyday Americans.

“Is this what you want? Does this sound like a path toward better, faster, cheaper internet access? Toward better products and services in a more competitive market? To me, it sounds like Americans need to demand that our government actually hear our concerns, look at our skyrocketing bills, and make real policy that respects us, instead of watching the staff of an unelected official laugh as he ignores us. It sounds like we need to flood the offices of the FCC and Congress with calls and paperwork, demanding to know how giving handouts to huge corporations will help us.”

Nilay Patel, The Verge

“Title II net neutrality protections are the civil rights and free speech rules for the internet. When traditional media outlets refuse to pay attention, Black, indigenous, queer and trans internet users can harness the power of the Internet to fight for lives free of police brutality and discrimination. This is why we’ll never stop fighting for enforcement of the net neutrality rules we fought for and saw passed by the FCC two years ago. There’s too much at stake to urge anything less.”

Malkia Cyril, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Center for Media Justice

“We’re still picking ourselves off the floor from all the laughing we did when AT&T issued a press release this afternoon announcing that it was joining the ‘Day of Action for preserving and advancing the open internet.’

“If only it were true. In reality, AT&T is just a company that is deliberately misleading the public. Their lobbyists are lying. They want to kill Title II — which gives the FCC the authority to actually enforce net neutrality — and are trying to sell a congressional ‘compromise’ that would be as bad or worse than what the FCC is proposing. No thanks.”

Craig Aaron and Candace Clement, Free Press

InternetIRL, presented by Color of Change

“Everyone except these ISPs benefits from an open Internet… that’s it. It’s like a handful of companies. Not only is this about business—and it is about business and innovation—it’s also about freedom of speech.”

Sen. Al Franken

“No matter what, do not get discouraged or retreat into a state of silence and inaction. There are many like me who are listening and the role each of us plays is vital. We are not alone in believing that the FCC should be a governmental agency ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’”

Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner

To everyone who has participated in today’s day of action, thank you.


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Today’s the Day: Let's Save Net Neutrality

You might have noticed something unusual when you visited the EFF website today: our site was “blocked” unless you shelled out for “premium” Internet access.

As part of the day of action to support net neutrality, we decided to imagine what might happen if FCC Chairman Ajit Pai caves to industry pressure and abandons the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted just two years ago. If you don’t want to live in that future, it’s time to take action.

Take Action

speak up for net neutrality

To make it easy for Team Internet to do just that, we’ve created a special site called where we’ll help you write your own comment to the agency. We’ll offer some suggestions to get you started, but you can say whatever you like. What’s most important is that the FCC hears from you.

The fight over net neutrality isn’t just about consumer protection: it’s about your freedom of speech.

Some large ISPs say they support net neutrality, but that they just want the FCC to go enforce it under a different legal provision, or have Congress pass a specific net neutrality law. But this is just a trick—they already know that if the FCC goes back to classifying broadband as an information service, its net neutrality rules will fail (just like they did last time). They also know that Congress isn’t likely to pass a real net neutrality statute anytime soon, if ever, given the millions that telecom giants have invested in making sure they get to write any regulation of their industry.

Make no mistake: if we want to FCC to do its part to protect a free and open Internet—where Internet service providers don’t discriminate between different types of content or communications—we can’t let the agency go forward with its plan to abandon Title II (the legal foundation for today’s net neutrality rules). Competition between ISPs won’t guarantee net neutrality, especially when most of the country has only one option for broadband Internet access.

The fight over net neutrality isn’t just about consumer protection, though: it’s about your freedom of speech. What makes the Internet great is that anyone can use it to get their voice heard. Your message, your idea, or your story can reach millions of people, just as many people as large broadcasting companies can reach. If big ISPs win this fight, the next iteration of the Internet might look something more like cable TV, where providers have a great deal of influence over which messages their members hear—and they can deprioritize or even flat-out block content they don’t like.

If you love the Internet the way it is, then speak out now.



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Internet, Activate! Stand Up for Net Neutrality on July 12

Two months ago, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plan to abandon the agency’s commitment to protecting net neutrality. On July 12, let’s give the world a preview of what the Internet will look like if the FCC goes forward with its plan to dismantle open Internet protections.

EFF is joining a huge coalition of nonprofits and companies in a day of action standing up for net neutrality.

One simple way that organizations, companies, and even individuals can participate is to install our widget. If you’ve installed the widget on your website, then on July 12, visitors will be greeted with an alarming message:

This widget will send a clear message to your site’s visitors: giving up protections for net neutrality will give ISPs a frightening amount of control over your Internet experience.

All of the instructions for installing our widget are available on GitHub. For more information on the day of action, visit the Battle for the Net website.

If you’re worried about large ISPs deciding how you use the Internet, tell the FCC.

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Don’t Trust in Antitrust Law to Protect Net Neutrality

Back in 2014, we considered many possible ways of protecting net neutrality that would not rely on the FCC, including antitrust law. Unfortunately, U.S. antitrust law is not up to the challenge.

Antitrust law is an economic doctrine that gives little if any weight to freedom of expression and other noneconomic values secured by net neutrality. Antitrust law defines harm in terms of higher prices and diminished product quality. If antitrust law deems that a practice is not harmful to competition, it does not matter how much it represses speech, distorts access to knowledge, or intrudes on privacy. Antitrust law has no concept of the “gatekeeper” problem posed by an ISP’s control over your conduit to information.

There are other reasons why antitrust isn’t an effective tool for net neutrality problems. Antitrust law is fundamentally about protecting competition, but the market for broadband is very different than the theoretical ideal contemplated by antitrust law.

First, there is very little broadband competition to protect. More than 9 out of 10 Americans live in monopoly or duopoly markets for broadband according to the FCC. Even lower-speed wireless service is available from only a handful of carriers in most places, all of which oppose net neutrality and have pushed the boundaries of the existing Open Internet Order with throttling or pay-to-play zero-rating schemes.

Second, broadband service naturally tends towards monopoly. A large incumbent provider that can amass government permissions to use rights-of-way under public streets, on poles and antenna sites, and on the radio spectrum will always be able to offer cheaper service than a new entrant who has to pay to build the infrastructure and obtain new rights-of-way. Combine that with customers’ notoriously unreliable access to information about service quality and broadband speeds and the high costs of switching providers, and you have a market that will not be competitive without intervention.

We got a competitive market for dial-up Internet in the 1990s because phone companies were required to allow other service providers to operate using their infrastructure. We could have that kind of competition again if broadband providers were required to grant similar access. But unless that happens, we will not see meaningful competition of the type that antitrust law is designed to protect.

Further, antitrust law has been eviscerated over the past century. Under the new “single entity doctrine,” a company can’t be accused of illegal collusion with its subsidiary or parent companies, so for example Comcast could make an arrangement to favor NBC-Universal content it owns out much fear from antitrust law. And a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2004 and 2007 made it much harder to bring antitrust cases against companies in regulated industries, even if the regulations themselves are minimal. The dismal state of competition in broadband should make it obvious that current antitrust law isn’t adequate even to protect competition, let alone protecting customers against data discrimination.

There are a few types of non-neutral practices that could also rise to the level of antitrust violations, such as an ISP’s accepting payments to block competing websites, (but accepting payments from businesses to block websites that criticize them would likely get a pass).

Title II, the current legal basis for net neutrality protections, is the legal tool that is specifically and narrowly tailored to prevent discrimination by carriers of information. In the past, the FCC has tried to stretch its other authorities to impose net neutrality rules—which alarmed us, since stretching those authorities to achieve something they weren’t meant to do would be bad government and accrue too much power to the FCC. Those approaches were defeated in court, while Title II has been upheld. Now, opponents of net neutrality urge a return to those dangerous and ineffective approaches, or to antitrust—another legal doctrine designed to do something entirely different from protecting against data discrimination. It’s not the right tool for the job. That tool is Title II, and those who care about net neutrality need to defend it.

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More than 40 ISPs Across the Country Tell Chairman Pai to Not Repeal Network Neutrality and Maintain Title II Enforcement

Many Small ISPs Support Real Net Neutrality

One excuse FCC Chairman Ajit Pai regularly offers to explain his effort to gut net neutrality protections is the claim that open Internet rules have harmed ISPs, especially small ones. During a speech earlier this year, he stressed that 22 small ISPs told him that the 2015 Open Internet Order hurt their ability to invest and deploy.

In reality, though, many more ISPs feel very differently. Today, more than 40 ISPs told the FCC that they have had no problem with the Open Internet Order and that it hasn’t hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks. What is more, that they want the FCC to do its job and address the problem Congress created when it repealed the broadband privacy rules in March.

Why These ISPs Like Title II

The 2015 Order famously outlined clear net neutrality rules.  But those rules only passed muster because the Order also explicitly classified broadband service as a “common carrier” service, regulated by Title II of the Communications Act, rather than an “information service” regulated by Title I of the same Act. And that classification has several corollary effects, because Title II isn’t just about net neutrality. It is also meant to curtail the anti-competitive conduct from incumbent monopolists like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. In essence, as common carriers, they are not able to use their power to control the Internet experience, and they are not able to directly harm their competitors in the broadband market.

That’s why these small ISPs are worried. Chairman Pai wants to reverse the 2015 decision to reclassify broadband as a “common carrier” service, thereby eliminating the protections Title II offers. If he succeeds, not only are Section 201 and Section 202 — the core provisions that support network neutrality — on the chopping block, but also a whole host of other active provisions that protect competition in the broadband market. Small wonder the big cable and telephone lobbies are happy to pay lip service to net neutrality — so long as the actual rules aren’t based on Title II.

To start, Section 251 of the Communications Act requires broadband providers to “interconnect” with other broadband providers and related market players in order to prevent the possibility of a large player (back in the day that was AT&T) from denying access to the network by simply denying physical connectivity. While more clarity is needed from the FCC on how it intends to manage interconnection disputes, it was clear that the FCC had to play a role as problems began to arise. We saw this play out most notably with Netflix traffic, whether it is Comcast disputing the delivery of Comcast customer requested traffic to their homes, to the direct dispute between Comcast and Netflix before the 2015 FCC Order. Under the current rules, the FCC can intervene to prevent a major ISP with a vast network from leveraging its massive network size in an anti-competitive way to harm other networks. That oversight vanishes if Chairman Pai reclassifies broadband as an “information service,” which undoubtedly Comcast would appreciate.

Another example of how Title II of the Communications Act promotes competition in broadband access is the relatively unknown issue of pole attachment rights under Section 224 of the Communications Act. Today, that section ensures that every broadband provider has the legal right to gain access to many of the poles that run along our roads. These poles, and other rights of way infrastructure, are the route that any broadband company must travel in order to get to your home or business. Google Fiber’s deployment ran into snags in Austin, Texas when those poles were owned by AT&T, because the surest way to prevent competition is to just physically prevent their entry into your market. If a company the size of Google could be stifled without the law supporting them, what hope does a smaller ISP have in entering into a market where the incumbent broadband provider owns the poles that are a necessary component to deploying the network? The FCC Chairman’s plan fundamentally ignores this problem and offers no clear solution to competitors. An incumbent broadband provider that owns a lot of the poles is going to have no federal legal obligation to share that access at fair market rates if broadband is no longer a common carrier service.

Lastly, Section 222 ensures that broadband users have a legal right to privacy when we use broadband communications. It has already taken a beating, thanks to  Congress’ misguided decision to repeal the FCC’s rules that had been based on Section 222, but the section itself is still the law today. The problem now is that ISPs do not know their legal obligations with consumer data and how they are supposed to operate without more FCC guidance. Undoubtedly, the large cable and telephone companies that spent millions to lobby Congress to repeal the rules intend to profit from the vast treasure trove of personal data that runs over their networks. But ISPs opposed to Chairman Pai’s plan are not looking to make more money off of their customers by selling their personal data without permission. Almost all of them were strongly opposed to Congress repealing the privacy rules. None of them got into the business of providing access to the Internet so they could snoop on the activities of their customers. However, Chairman Pai’s plan would outright remove the Section 222 privacy obligations for all broadband companies and as a result there would be absolutely no way to have broadband privacy rules absent a new law. In essence, Chairman Pai’s plan would be the nail in the coffin for broadband privacy that Congress started with its privacy repeal earlier this year.

What is the FCC Plan for Smaller Competitors In the Broadband Market?

There is no plan. We have no alternative body of law beyond the Communications Act and the provisions of Title II to address the competition issues listed above. Antitrust is generally not a viable option as well. That is why Pai’s plan is not about improving the investment opportunities for all broadband providers (a claim that has been thoroughly debunked twice now and now outright refuted by more than 40 ISPs themselves). Instead, it is a plan to radically enhance the market power of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon in a way that no previous FCC Chair (both Republican and Democrat) ever entertained.

These ISPs are taking a stand for network neutrality because they know Chairman Pai’s plan will hurt them as well as their subscribers. Contact the FCC and Congress today to tell them to oppose Chairman Pai’s plan to empower major cable and telephone companies.

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An Attack on Net Neutrality Is an Attack on Free Speech

Several US senators spoke out this week on the importance of net neutrality to innovation and free speech. They are right. The Internet has become our public square, our newspaper, our megaphone. The Federal Communications Commission is trying to turn it in something more akin to commercial cable TV, and we all have to work together to stop it.

What makes the Internet revolutionary is the ability of every user to create news and culture and participate in conversations with people all across the globe. Mass consumption of entertainment products may be big business and may even help drive adoption, but it’s not new and empowering like the opportunity to participate in speech on an infinite variety of topics. As the Supreme Court recently observed, Internet platforms “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanism available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Seven in ten American adults regularly use at least one Internet social networking service. Facebook alone has more than 1.79 billion monthly active users around the world. Twitter has over 310 million monthly active users who publish more than 500 million tweets each day. Instagram has over 600 million monthly users who upload over 95 million photos every day. Snapchat has over 100 million daily users who send and watch over 10 billion videos per day. And that’s just a small sampling of the commercial Internet platforms many of us use everyday. Millions more log into sites like Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, news outlets, government services and local libraries to access a wealth of information and culture.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is threatening to eliminate net neutrality protections altogether by dismantling the legal structure on which they depend

Most importantly, the Internet has played an increasingly vital role in political expression and organizing. Conservative activists from around the country coalesced over various social networking platforms to form the Tea Party movement. The Black Lives Matter movement used Twitter to help spark a national conversation on racial inequality. The Standing Rock Sioux used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to galvanize national support for their protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and its threat to their drinking water. Earlier this year organizers used Facebook and Twitter to share information, plan events, and motivate participation in the Women’s March.

What does this have to do with net neutrality? Simple: all of these services depend the existence of open communications protocols that let us innovate without having to ask permission from any company or government.

The Internet was built on the simple but powerful idea that while you may need to pay a service provider for Internet access, that provider doesn’t get to shape what you access – or who has access to you. Anyone who wants to offer a new Internet service can, without paying extra fees to any provider. Users, in turn, can make their own choices about which services they want to use – including the next Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat that’s being created in someone’s basement right now.

In 2014, that powerful idea motivated millions of Internet users to band together and demand that the FCC enact clear, legally sound rules to prevent broadband providers from taking advantage of their power as gatekeepers to engage in unfair practices like paid prioritization, blocking, and other forms of data discrimination. We know that such practices could transform this extraordinary engine for civic discourse into something more like cable TV, where providers and content owners bargain over what content will be available at full speed and what will be throttled.

In 2015, the FCC answered our call and adopted the Open Internet Order to protect net neutrality. In 2016, the DC Circuit Court of Appeal upheld it – in contrast to the efforts of prior FCCs that operated on shaky legal theories. But the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to reverse course. He’s calling on the public to comment on whether we even need open Internet rules in the first place, and threatening to eliminate net neutrality protections altogether by dismantling the legal structure on which they depend, despite widespread public support for those protections and despite the fact that net neutrality has been the rule of the Internet from its inception, backed by a combination of legal requirements and cultural norms that are now in danger of being eliminated.

We can’t let that happen. We still have an open Internet that lets us make ourselves heard, so Let’s Make. Ourselves. Heard. The millions of Internet users who fought for Net Neutrality in 2014, and the millions more who have been mobilized in the intervening years, need to send a simple message to Chairman Pai and his backers in Congress and the Trump Administration: Don’t let big cable mess with our Internet.

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Fighting for the Internet: Two Big Thank Yous

Two major grassroots campaigns show not only the depth of public concern about protecting the Internet from the FCC under Ajit Pai, they’ve reaffirmed EFF’s ongoing work to push back and make sure the Internet remains free.

In March, Congress sparked widespread outrage by voting to repeal the broadband privacy protections set in place with the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which established net neutrality. Abolishing those privacy safeguards opened the door for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner to monetize Internet users’ data and expose private communications while restricting options for recourse. The resulting frustration led to several widely-reported calls to turn the tables on lawmakers and expose their data.

Let’s turn that attention to defending the open web while we still can.
Two large campaigns launched on GoFundMe to crowdfund the purchase of Congress’ web histories. Activist Adam McElhaney’s Purchase Private Internet Histories campaign sought to obtain information on “legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and make them easily searchable” raising over $200,000 from concerned supporters. Actor Misha Collins, known for his role on the television series Supernatural, raised over $85,000 with his Buy Congress’ Internet Data campaign in response to lawmakers granting ISPs permission to share and commodify private information. While EFF does not condone doxxing individuals, the sentiment was clear: if Congress members casually strip away rights, Internet users are eager to take them to task.

Though Mr. McElhaney’s efforts continue, he directed the proceeds of that campaign to EFF’s work fighting for net neutrality and innovation. Similarly, Mr. Collins divided the proceeds from Buy Congress’ Internet Data between EFF and the ACLU to help support our digital privacy work. We are grateful to both of the organizers and all of the participants for helping to ensure that EFF can continue fighting for online civil liberties utilizing our legal work, activism and technology expertise.

Our fundamental ability to explore ideas and communicate with one another is shaped by the future of the Internet, and we are in the midst of a major battle to protect it. Shortly after the repeal of the broadband privacy rules, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made the first moves to dismantle net neutrality itself. The response to the broadband privacy vote proves that we as a community are motivated to protect rights online, so let’s turn that attention to defending the open web while we still can. Submit comments to the FCC through EFF’s tool at Talk to your peers about the open web and why it’s so important; perhaps John Oliver can help. And of course, consider donating to support organizations working on the front lines!

EFF has already begun efforts to rebuild ISP broadband privacy protections at the U.S. state level; we’re working on more than a dozen state bills right now including significant moves in California, we’ve submitted a letter to Hawaii’s lawmakers, and we’ve testified before the Oregon state legislature. This is just the beginning and we need your help. It took a major online uprising to win net neutrality and the privacy protections that came with it in 2015, but we did it once and we can do it again.

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EFF and Broad Coalition Call for Day of Action to Defend Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is under assault once again, with the Federal Communications Commission looking to reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order by stripping away its legal foundations. That’s right: less than two years after the FCC finally adopted a legally viable Open Internet Order, and less than one year after the courts finally upheld real net neutrality protections, the new FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, has put those protections on the chopping block. If he succeeds, broadband service providers will be free to create Internet fast lanes for those who can afford them – meaning slow lanes for anyone who can’t pay to play, like startups offering innovative services, not to mention libraries, schools, and nonprofits. They will also be free to steer you to the content they choose – often without you knowing it.

We’re not going to let that happen. It’s our Internet, and we will defend it. If you remember the censor bar of the online protests opposing SOPA in 2012 or the spinning wheel of Internet Slowdown Day in 2014, you know that the Internet can rise up and force regulators to listen in times of great need.

Now is such a time.

On July 12, 2017, EFF and hundreds of organizations – including nonprofits, artists, tech companies large and small, libraries, and even ISPs – will be joining together to take action to defend the open Internet. Details to follow, but the goal is simple. Let’s send a strong message to the FCC and Congress: Don’t Mess With the Internet.

The Internet was built on net neutrality principles, and we can’t abandon them now by allowing broadband service providers to become Internet gatekeepers. When you pay for access to the Internet, that’s what you should get: the whole Internet, not just the version your service provider wants to give you.

Get ready to take action with EFF and Team Internet to defend net neutrality on July 12.

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Don't Be Fooled by the Comcast PR Machine: It Has Always Opposed Internet Freedom

Years of lobbying and litigation has made it clear Comcast wants to turn the Internet into a toll road and run the booth

If you have signed onto Twitter and have been following the network neutrality debate, you’ve probably seen Comcast’s campaign to rewrite its history of opposition to the Open Internet. But the company’s own statements to Congress, the FCC, and to the courts make Comcast’s true goal abundantly clear: free rein to use its market power to become an Internet gatekeeper.

Converting the Internet into a Pay to Win System

In the early legal battles over network neutrality, Comcast challenged a Republican FCC’s ability to enforce open Internet principles. In repeated legal filings, the company made clear that it did not believe the FCC could prevent providers from data discrimination unless it reclassified them as common carriers. After all, Comcast itself said in court that “nondiscrimination obligations are the hallmark of common carrier regulation (page 12).” In other words, Comcast was saying that the FCC couldn’t impose nondiscrimination rules unless it reclassified Comcast as a common carrier – which is exactly what the FCC did in 2015 and exactly what Comcast is fighting now. “Common carrier regulation” is code for Title II of the Communications Act. “nondiscrimination obligations are the hallmark of common carrier regulation” -Comcast’s 2009 court filing in Comcast vs FCC

The Comcast Plan If Network Neutrality Is Repealed

At the FCC, Comcast doubled down. In 2010, Comcast told the agency that one of the “benefits” that would be lost under an Open Internet Order would be the ability for cable and telephone to strike exclusive deals with Internet companies – in other words, paid prioritization, or “fast lanes” for those who can afford them.

“The proposed rule could prohibit Internet content, application, and service providers from improving their existing offerings with the assistance of a broadband ISP, regardless of whether doing so would be pro-competitive and beneficial to consumers.” –Comcast FCC filing, Jan 14, 2010 (page 40).

While Comcast attempted to make paid prioritization sound like something that would be good for online service competition, it is pretty obvious how these types of exclusives and priority access deals will play out in reality. In practice, what we will see is the biggest Internet companies getting premium access to bandwidth while every mom-and-pop business and tech startup will get relegated to inferior infrastructure because they do not have the excess capital to pay for access. For example, even as the FCC was actively pushing a new Open Internet Order in 2014, Comcast started rerouting and degrading Netflix traffic despite the demand coming from Comcast’s customers. Today, Netflix says it can pay for fast lanes – but the next Netflix won’t be able to survive in that world.

Setting up the FCC to Fail

In its PR campaign, Comcast claims that its decision not to challenge the 2010 Open Internet Order is evidence of its support for network neutrality. In reality, it’s likely the company stayed quiet because shortly after the Open Internet Order was approved Comcast was required to operate neutrally as a condition of its merger with NBC Universal. It had little to gain from publicly opposing the 2010 Order because they could not lift network neutrality obligations over their network even if they won in court due to merger conditions. Those Comcast NBCU merger conditions will expire in 2018. Here is what they said following the merger during consideration of the FCC’s second defeat under Verizon vs. Comcast as they were asking for approval of yet another merger (this time with Time Warner Cable).

“Comcast agreed to be bound by the FCC’s Open Internet rules until 2018. These protections will now extend to the acquired TWC systems, giving the FCC ample time to adopt (and, if necessary, to defend) legally enforcement Open Internet rules applicable to the entire industry.” -Joint statement by David L. Cohen (Comcast) and Arthur T. Minson (Time Warner Cable) to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger

Translation: Don’t worry about our merger because we are bound to respect the Open Internet Rules for now, and by the time the agreement expires, the FCC will have found a legally enforceable basis for net neutrality protections. As Comcast indicated way back in 2009, that path required the FCC to do exactly what it did in 2015: reclassify broadband as a common carrier service. So Comcast’s record is pretty clear: the cable behemoth has known for years what the FCC had to go to get legally sound neutrality rules. Now the FCC has done it, Comcast is fighting tooth and nail to reverse it.

If we want to stop the Comcast plan to repeal network neutrality and convert the Internet into a pay-to-win system where only the largest players can compete for access to subscribers, squeezing out innovative and competing services (not to mention libraries, hospitals, schools, and political organizations), then we must act now.

Tell the FCC your story and contact your two Senators and House Representative today.

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