In the latest developments in the battle to maintain net neutrality, multiple calls to delay the December 14 vote have been made. Between a critical court case that threatens to leave broadband consumers completely exposed and an ongoing investigation into anomalies in the public commentary of the FCC’s plans, there is clear evidence to delay the vote.
New York, EFF Call On FCC To Delay Vote Until Critical FTC Court Case Concludes
A letter from Public Knowledge that was signed by the City of New York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others called on the FCC to delay the vote to repeal net neutrality regulations The basis of the argument to delay the vote is an ongoing court case between the FTC and AT&T. The outcome of the case could undermine one of the FCC’s main rationales for repealing--handing broadband regulation enforcement to the FTC.
The story of the court case begins in 2014, when the FTC filed a complaint against AT&T for throttling data speeds of unlimited-data plans. The FTC later sued AT&T and won, but the decision was reversed when AT&T won the appeal in 2016 (opens in new tab). The battle depended on the interpretation of whether or not the FTC had jurisdiction over telecom companies that provided both phone and broadband service. Phone service is classified as a “common carrier” service, over which the FTC has no jurisdiction. Broadband, on the other hand, wasn’t classified as such.
The FTC managed to win the initial court battle because judges agreed that it had jurisdiction over the broadband portions of mixed-service telecom companies. AT&T won the appeal when the court decided that the entire company had “common carrier” status due to its phone service, thus the FTC shouldn’t have jurisdiction over it.
In 2015, the net neutrality regulations we are fighting for now reclassified broadband services to “common carrier.” This did not affect the 2014 FTC vs. AT&T case, but it did bring all broadband service into FCC rule. Had the reclassification not happened, AT&T would have been off the hook after winning the appeal in 2016, but AT&T ultimately dialed back on throttling under threat of action by the FCC.
As support for its plan to repeal the Obama-era FCC’s regulations, the Trump-era FCC brought the 2014 FTC vs AT&T case back into the court. The FCC intends for the FTC’s jurisdiction over broadband to be restored so broadband won’t fall into a “regulatory gap” once it leaves the FCC’s jurisdiction as a result of the repeal of the 2015 reclassification.
The problem is that we won’t know the outcome of the FTC vs. AT&T case rehearing until after the December 14 vote to repeal net neutrality. If the court decides in favor of AT&T again, after the vote has already removed it from FCC jurisdiction, broadband might very well fall into that “regulatory gap.”
28 Senators, New York Attorney General Call FCC To Delay Vote To Investigate Fake Comments
In an entirely unrelated letter, 28 senators also called on the FCC to delay the December 14 vote while the New York Attorney General’s office continues its investigation into fake comments on the FCC website. The Attorney General previously accused the FCC of stonewalling his investigation, but his office said that the FCC has reversed course.
The following statement was released on the Attorney General’s website:
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel today called on the FCC to fully cooperate with Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation, after the FCC Inspector General’s office reversed course and signaled its intent today to assist with Attorney General’s inquiry into one million fake comments submitted during the net neutrality comment process. Attorney General Schneiderman and Commissioner Rosenworcel also called for the FCC’s planned December 14thvote on net neutrality to be halted while these fake comments are investigated.
With this, clear and rational evidence has been placed before the FCC. Given the FCC’s actions and communications so far, however, it seems unlikely to be persuaded. As we have before, we urge you to continue to the fight for net neutrality.