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.

Submit Comments to FCC

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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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NLPC's False Report Diverts Attention from the Concerns of Real Net Neutrality Supporters

We learned this Wednesday of a report [PDF] by the National Law and Policy Center (NLPC) that claimed EFF submitted over 100,000 fake comments to the FCC’s net neutrality docket, using fake names, email addresses, and physical addresses. Since we’ve started to get questions about NLPC’s report, we wanted to set the record straight.

NLPC’s report is false. Not one name, email address, or email domain cited in the report matches to any of the comments that came through EFF’s comment tool.

NLPC’s report is false. Not one name, email address, or email domain cited in the report matches to any of the comments that came through EFF’s comment tool.

Unfortunately, NLPC didn’t reach out to us before publishing its report. If they had, we would have been able to share our evidence with them and they could have avoided publishing a flawed report.

Before we explain how we know that NLPC’s accusations are false, we want to say a few words about our DearFCC tool. The FCC proposal to toss net neutrality guidelines would open the door to ISPs creating fast lanes for some content and slow lanes for others. It would leave consumers at the mercy of throttling and rob them of the meaningful access guarantees and privacy protections we fought for and won two years ago. DearFCC was created to provide consumers like you a tool for making your voices heard. Your Internet rights are at stake, and you deserve to be heard. We take very seriously claims of fake comments, and our analysis shows that none of the supposedly fake comments in the NLPC report were submitted through DearFCC.

So how do we know NLPC’s report is wrong? For one thing, we counted the number of comments people have submitted to the FCC through our system. That number is nowhere near the 100,000 comments NLPC said we filed.

Further, just before the sunshine period—when the FCC stopped accepting comments—we started storing copies of comments submitted through our system, because we weren’t sure how the FCC would treat comments submitted during that period. This week, we searched through all of the stored comments for the names and email address domains listed in NLPC’s report, and didn’t find a single match.

Finally, the text that NLPC found in the 100,000 comments in question isn’t identical to the text our system uses. It’s close, but there’s a subtle difference.

One of the sentences our comment system generates is: 

 “As an Internet user, I’m asking the FCC to protect the net neutrality protections currently in place.”

The language in NLPC’s report is:

As an Internet user, I’m asking the FCC to protect the net neutrality protections currently in place.

 Notice the difference?

It’s subtle, but in the word “I’m” in EFF’s text, the apostrophe is actually a “right single quotation mark.” In the text from the 100,000 comments mentioned in NLPC’s report, the apostrophe is a neutral “typewriter apostrophe.” For more information on the difference, see this Wikipedia article.

Why does the difference matter? Because it shows that whoever submitted the 100,000 identical comments the NLPC report mentions copied and pasted the text to make the comments look like they came through EFF’s site, when they did not. If NLPC had looked closely at the comments they would have noticed the difference, and realized that the comments weren’t generated by EFF’s website. Apparently, they did not.

Fake Comments Shouldn’t Silence Real Voices

Throughout the FCC’s comment process, we’ve seen malicious actors attempt to discredit the process by generating obviously fake comments. Their hope is that they can drown out the voices of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support net neutrality

We can’t let that happen.

As we said last month, “Digital democracy is not easy. The FCC can’t just count comments for and against net neutrality as though they were ballots in a ballot box. But neither can Chairman Pai ignore the opinions of Internet users in the U.S., the majority of whom want to [continue] being protected against data discrimination by ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.” If the FCC and opponents of net neutrality respond to attacks on the “public comment system not by defending the system, but by discounting and ignoring public opinion expressed through that system, then the agency is answerable to no one.”

Help us hold the FCC accountable. Submit your comments to the FCC at, and we’ll work as hard as we can to make sure the FCC listens. And you can be sure that we won’t let anyone drown out your voice.

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A Bad Broadband Market Begs for Net Neutrality Protections

Anyone who has spent hours on the phone with their cable company can tell you that in the broadband market, the customer is not always right.

When it comes to Internet access wired into your home, the major ISPs like Comcast, Charter, and Verizon don’t have to play nice because they know that most customers aren’t able to switch to another provider.

Thanks to policies at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as some careful planning by the major ISPs, there is no meaningful competition in the broadband market in most parts of the country. Instead, consumers are stuck with government-backed monopolistic ISPs that can get away with anti-consumer business practices.

Luckily, the FCC has laid down some basic net neutrality protections to keep ISPs from completely controlling what you can do online. The basic idea behind those protections is that your ISP shouldn’t be able to block or slow your access to certain websites or online services. Under the bright-line rules passed by the FCC in 2015, ISPs can’t provide faster or slower access to certain websites and services based on whether those sites and services are willing to pay.

These rules keep the Internet open so that consumers can go where they want online, including to new websites and services that don’t have the deep pockets to pay for fast lanes to reach users.

But those rules are under threat after the new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai started a process earlier this month to roll back the protections approved in 2015. Write to the FCC and tell the agency not to undo the net neutrality rules currently in place.

Those advocating for Pai’s rollback often accuse the FCC of overreaching in 2015 and applying unnecessary regulation on the broadband market. But that argument ignores the unique lack of competition in the broadband market.

According to the FCC’s 2016 data, 51 percent of Americans have access to only one provider of high-speed Internet access. That means slightly more than half of the country has no other option for high-speed Internet if they don’t like something their ISP doing. Only 38 percent of Americans have access to more than one ISP. The remaining 10 percent doesn’t have access to a high-speed Internet at all. The map below shows which parts of the country have access to two or more options for broadband, based on the FCC’s data.

The areas highlighted on this map have two or more high-speed Internet providers, according to the FCC’s 2016 data

Even in places where there are multiple high-speed Internet providers, the markets are often carefully carved up so that there’s little to no overlap between competitors. Data from 2014—the year that the government stopped updating its National Broadband Map, which marked which ISPs operate where—and earlier clearly shows that ISPs have monopoly or duopoly control over wide swaths of the country.

While there are some naturally occurring reasons for the concentration in the broadband market (it’s expensive and time-consuming to lay the initial groundwork for a broadband network, so incumbents automatically have a big advantage over newcomers to a market), intervention by the federal government has made it worse.

As we wrote in a brief the last time the FCC was sued over its net neutrality rules, the large incumbent ISPs received subsidies to build their networks in the first place and those ISPs get to access phone companies infrastructure at preferential rates set by the government. “Today’s … market is inseparable from the government policies that enabled, and continue to enable, its existence,” we said.

On top of that, state governments often work to protect those incumbents. Several states have laws on the books that create barriers for local governments who want to build broadband infrastructure to give their residents more ISP options.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have more than one option for high-speed Internet providers where you live, it is usually an expensive hassle to switch ISPs. You often have to go through the time-consuming process of cancelling your account and returning equipment as well as early-termination and equipment rental feels, as then-FCC-Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out in 2014.

All of this adds up to the fact that most Americans are stuck with their ISP, meaning ISPs have no incentive to respect their customers’ wishes, including when it comes to net neutrality and treating online content equally. That’s why the FCC shouldn’t roll back its open Internet rules. Tell the FCC to keep its clear, bright-line net neutrality protections in place.

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Dear FCC: We See Through Your Plan to Roll Back Real Net Neutrality

Pretty much everyone says they are in favor of net neutrality–the idea that service providers shouldn’t engage in data discrimination, but should instead remain neutral in how they treat the content that flows over their networks. But actions speak louder than words, and today’s action by the FCC speaks volumes. After weeks of hand-waving and an aggressive misinformation campaign by major telecom companies, the FCC has taken the first concrete step toward dismantling the net neutrality protections it adopted two years ago.

Specifically, the FCC is proposing a rule that would reclassify broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that this move would protect users, but all it would really do is protect Comcast and other big ISPs by destroying the legal foundation for net neutrality rules. Once that happened, it would only be a matter of time before your ISP had more power than ever to shape the Internet.

Here’s why: Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service” that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider; or it can be an “information service,” like cable television, that curates and selects what subscribers will get. “Telecommunications services” are subject to nondiscrimination requirements–like net neutrality rules. “Information services” are not.

For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to apply net neutrality rules to broadband providers, the courts struck them down. Essentially, the D.C. Circuit court explained that the FCC can’t exempt broadband from nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: if we wanted meaningful open Internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband as a telecom service. Reclassification also just made sense: broadband networks are supposed to deliver information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an Internet uprising to persuade the FCC to reclassify. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015 the FCC reclassified broadband as a telecom service. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, its net neutrality rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

Given this history, there’s no disguising what the new FCC majority is up to. If it puts broadband back in the “info service” category and then tries to appease critics by adopting meaningful net neutrality rules, we’ll be in the same position we were three years ago: Comcast will take the FCC to court–and Comcast will win. It’s simple: you can’t reclassify and keep meaningful net neutrality rules. Reclassification means giving ISPs a free pass for data discrimination.

Chairman Pai’s claim that this move is good for users because it will spur investment in broadband infrastructure is a cynical one at best. Infrastructure investment has gone up since the 2015 Order, ISP profits are growing exponentially, and innovation and expression are flourishing.

At the same time, too many Americans have only one choice for high speed broadband. There are good reasons to worry about FCC overreach regulation in many contexts, but the fact is the U.S. broadband market is now excessively concentrated and lacks real choice, and there are few real options to prevent ISPs from abusing their power. In this environment, repealing the simple, light-touch rules of the road we just won would give ISPs free reign to use their position as Internet gatekeepers to funnel customers to their own content, thereby distorting the open playing field the Internet typically provides, or charge fees for better access to subscribers. Powerful incumbent tech companies will be able to buy their way into the fast lane, but new ones won’t.  Nor will activists, churches, libraries, hospitals, schools or local governments.

We can’t let that happen. So, Team Internet, we need you to step up once again and tell the FCC that it works for the American people, not Comcast, Verizon, or AT&T.  Go to and tell the FCC not to undermine real net neutrality protections.

Contact the FCC Now

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The FCC Needs to Cut Through The Noise and Listen to The Public’s Support for Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission’s vote tomorrow will be a step towards undermining the rules that protect Internet users from data discrimination by their ISPs. These net neutrality rules, though not perfect, have broad support from the public. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems to be preparing to dismiss and ignore the wishes of ordinary Internet users by forcing us to use a broken and discredited online comment filing system.

It’s been a sad few weeks for the FCC’s IT department. Following Last Week Tonight host John Oliver’s segment on net neutrality, in which the comedian called on viewers to defend net neutrality protections by filing comments, the FCC’s comment system was disabled. The agency’s Chief Information Officer claimed that the system had been targeted in a distributed denial-of-service attack, bombarding it with traffic and making it difficult to file comments. But despite requests from the public and members of Congress, the FCC hasn’t given any details about the supposed attack or why it concluded that the system was attacked at all, rather than simply being overwhelmed by the number of comments it received.

Following that initial problem, the FCC’s site reportedly received more than 58,000 nearly identical comments containing names and addresses that appeared to be taken from a marketing database. These comments, which seemed to be fraudulent, supported Chairman Pai’s gutting of net neutrality. To date, the FCC hasn’t said what it’s doing to safeguard its comment system and make it ready to handle the thousands, even millions, of public comments it’s likely to receive after tomorrow’s formal vote.

What’s so important about maintaining ECFS and actually hearing the opinions expressed by ordinary Internet users there? Taking comments from the public is not merely a tradition – it’s a key safeguard for democracy. Independent agencies like the FCC have vast rule-making powers. In many areas, they have more practical power over our lives than Congress does, because Congress doesn’t have the capacity or expertise to create the detailed rules that govern telecommunications and other industries.

Unlike Congress, independent agencies aren’t elected by the people—they’re run by boards that are filled by presidents and congressional leaders. They can’t be voted out of office (except indirectly as their members are replaced by future presidents). Because they’re not held accountable through the political process, agencies are required by law to accept and consider public comments before making major changes to the rules. If the FCC responds to attacks on its public comment system not by defending the system, but by discounting and ignoring public opinion expressed through that system, then the agency is answerable to no one. (In theory, Congress could step in and pass new laws concerning net neutrality, but meaningful action by Congress is unlikely this year).

Digital democracy is not easy. The FCC can’t just count comments for and against net neutrality as though they were ballots in a ballot box. But neither can Chairman Pai ignore the opinions of Internet users in the U.S., the majority of whom want to keep being protected against data discrimination by ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. Letting those users be blocked, drowned out by bots, or ignored when they express their opinions on net neutrality is no way to begin.

You can submit comments to the FCC through EFF’s commenting tool at We will work to get your comments through and make your voice heard in Washington.

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The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a plan to eliminate net neutrality and privacy for broadband subscribers. Of course, those protections are tremendously popular, so Chairman Pai and his allies have been forced to pay lip service to preserving them in “some form.”  How do we know it’s just lip service? Because the plan Pai is pushing will destroy the legal foundation for net neutrality. That’s right: if Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. And if he’s read the case law, he knows it.

Let’s break it down.

The FCC’s Proposal Makes It Impossible to Enforce Core Net Neutrality Requirements

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service,” like telephone service, that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider, or it can be an “information service,” like cable television or the old Prodigy service, that curates and selects what content channels will be available to subscribers. The 1996 law provided that “telecommunications services” are governed by “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934, which includes nondiscrimination requirements. “Information services” are not subject to Title II’s requirements.

Under current law, the FCC can put either label on broadband Internet service – but that choice has consequences. For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to impose even a weak version of net neutrality protections the courts struck them down. Essentially, the D.C. Circuit court explained [PDF] that it would be inconsistent for the FCC to exempt broadband from Title II’s nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: if it wanted meaningful open Internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband service under Title II. It was also clear to neutral observers that reclassification just made sense. Broadband looks a lot more like a “telecommunications service” than an “information service.” It entails delivering information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an Internet uprising to persuade the FCC that reclassification made practical and legal sense. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015, at the end of a lengthy rulemaking process, the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and issued net neutrality rules on that basis. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, those rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

But now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to reverse that decision and put broadband back under the regime for “information services” – the same regime that we already know won’t support real net neutrality rules. Abandoning Title II means the end of meaningful, enforceable net neutrality protections, paving the way for companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable to slice up your Internet experience into favored, disfavored, and “premium” content.

Title II Is Not Overly Burdensome, Thanks to Forbearance

While we are on the subject of the legal basis for net neutrality, let’s talk about the rest of Title II. Net neutrality opponents complain that Title II involves a host of regulations that don’t make sense for the Internet. This is a red herring. The FCC has used a process called “forbearance” – binding limits on its power to use parts of Title II – to ensure that Title II is applied narrowly and as needed to address harms to net neutrality and privacy. So when critics of the FCC’s decision to reclassify tell horror stories about the potential excesses of Title II, keep in mind that those stories are typically based on powers that the FCC has expressly disavowed, like the ability to set prices for service.

What is more, Title II offers more regulatory limits than the alternative of treating broadband as an information service, at least when it comes to net neutrality. Where Title II grants specific, clear, and bounded powers that can protect net neutrality, theories that do not rely on Title II have to infer powers that aren’t clearly granted to the FCC. As proponents of limited regulation, these theories concern us. The proper way to protect neutrality is not to expand FCC discretion by stretching the general provisions of the Telecommunications Act (an approach already rejected in court), but to use a limited subset of the clear authorities laid out in Title II.

The FTC Cannot Adequately Protect the Privacy of Internet Subscribers

Reclassifying broadband as an information service not subject to Title II also creates yet another mess for subscriber privacy. The FCC crafted good rules for Internet privacy, but Congress just rejected them. But it left in place the FCC’s underlying authority to protect privacy under Title II, which leaves privacy in limbo. Abandoning Title II for broadband altogether would mean that the FCC no longer has much of a role to play in protecting broadband privacy – and it’s not clear who will fill the gap.

Some have looked to the FTC to take up the mantle, but just last year AT&T persuaded a federal appeals court that, as a company that also owned a telephone business, the FTC had no power over any aspect of AT&T. That precedent covers the entire west coast and leaves millions of Americans without recourse for privacy violations by their Internet service provider. And there’s no doubt that AT&T and others will try to extend that precedent across the country.

Even without this precedent, the FTC’s enforcement authority here targets deceptive trade practices. The agency will only take action if a company promises one thing and delivers another.  If the legalese in a company’s privacy policy explains how it is free to use and sell your private information, and it follows that policy, the FTC can’t help you.

Tell the FCC to Keep Title II and Not Undermine Net Neutrality

The FCC is now accepting comments on its plan. Make yourself heard via

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Launching DearFCC: The Best Way to Submit Comments to the FCC about Net Neutrality

John Oliver wants you to contact the FCC about net neutrality. Our new tool makes it easy to contact the FCC and helps you craft unique comments with just a few clicks.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made a dangerous proposal to destroy the FCC’s net neutrality rules—the very same rules that keep Internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from choosing which websites you can and can’t access and how fast those websites will load. But before he can enact this terrible plan, he has to make the proposal publicly available and accept comments from regular people about how it would affect them. That’s where you come in. 

Today, we’re launching a new tool that will help you craft a unique comment to the FCC: Using custom-generated text, we help Internet users develop and submit personal comments to the official docket with just two clicks.

We launched a similar tool in 2014 to help users have a voice, and over a million people used DearFCC to speak out. Now we need your help to defend that victory. 

Net neutrality—the right to access all Internet content freely without your Internet provider slowing down or even blocking content at its whim—is fundamental to our democracy. As communities across the United States fight to speak out on contentious political issues, the citizenry needs to know that government-subsidized monopolies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon aren’t dictating which website we can access. The clear, light-touch rules enacted by the FCC in 2015 are the Internet’s best hope for ensuring we have a free and open Internet.

Let’s send Chairman Pai a message: this is our Internet and we’ll fight to protect it.

Contact the FCC Now 


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FCC Announces Plan to Abandon Net Neutrality and ISP Privacy

Today, the chairman of the FCC announced his desire to abandon the agency’s net neutrality protections – which  protect online competition, free speech, and privacy from interference by Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T – by undermining the legal authority behind those protections.

Rolling back the FCC’s Open Internet Order would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection to shape your Internet experience and the market for services and devices that rely on that Internet connection. Since most Americans have only one option for broadband service, ISPs would have unchecked power to extract tolls from you and from businesses that wish to reach you. While the big incumbents like Facebook and Netflix might be able to pay those tolls, the next Facebook or Netflix would have a very hard time competing. Investors hesitate to fund startups that can be held for ransom by someone like an ISP. And the situation is even more dire for nonprofits like schools, libraries, educational sites, and political groups.

Chairman Pai suggests these fears are unfounded, but we’ve seen ISPs use every method at their disposal to favor their own content over competitors, going up to and even over the lines drawn by the previous FCC. This is particularly concerning given that at least one major ISP, Verizon, ran a news service that banned content regarding mass surveillance and net neutrality itself as contrary to the company’s interests. In Canada, an ISP blocked access to a site being used by a labor union to organize against it. A decade of misguided FCC policymaking unfortunately helped create the dysfunctional ISP market; the Open Internet Order is our best hope for preventing ISPs from abusing their power to become private gatekeepers on speech.

Today’s announcement cleverly pretends that the current “bright-line rules,” which clearly prohibit blocking and throttling, might survive. The law says otherwise. If Chairman Pai follows through on his intention to “reclassify” broadband service, it would be legally impossible for the FCC to enforce any such rules.  How do we know this? Because the DC Circuit said so.

The same is true for privacy. Pai suggested that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce privacy requirements, but this is an empty promise for two reasons. First, the FTC can only intervene if an ISP breaks a privacy promise, and ISP lawyers are very good at avoiding enforceable promises. Second, a federal appeals court has held that a company can’t be the subject of FTC action if any part of its offerings is a “common carrier,” like telephone service. So if your ISP also offers telephone service, the FTC can’t touch it. That’s the law right now on the west coast and it’s a regime that telecoms doubtless will continue to promote elsewhere.

In short, Pai’s proposal leaves Internet users and small businesses completely at the mercy of ISPs. No one in the government would be able to step in to prevent abusive blocking and throttling of Internet content, pay-to-play fast lanes, or privacy violations by ISPs.

That in turn will be devastating for competition, innovation, and free speech. The harms of ISP discrimination and market failure were well-documented in the months-long rulemaking and millions of comments that urged the FCC to protect net neutrality in 2015. The new FCC seems determined to ignore the evidence and the wishes of the vast majority of the public, in order to advance the desires of some powerful ISPs.

The Internet has won this fight before, and we can win it again. The best way you can help now is to tell Congress to stop the FCC from throwing Internet users and innovators to the wolves. If you have a startup, you can also join a letter from over 800 small businesses from all fifty states in supporting net neutrality.

Take ActionTell Congress: Don’t Surrender the Internet.

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