Net neutrality headed to the courts, says former FCC Chair

The FCC under the current administration, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, seems determined to reverse net neutrality. Net neutrality and its underlying provisions in the Open Internet Order of 2015 ensure that a handful of companies cannot influence what you search for and see online.

Recently, the former FCC Chair, Tom Wheeler, former FCC general counsel, Jon Sallet, and members of Congress met at a forum outside of DC to listen to voters’ concerns about net neutrality and encourage them to use the FCC comments site to express their views on net neutrality.

Former Chair Wheeler reminded the audience that net neutrality used Title II to enact the net neutrality rule, which reclassified ISPs as common carriers under the Communications Act of 1934, while the Open Internet Order of 2015 created the three bright line rules: no blocking, throttling, or discrimination.

Wheeler reminded the audience that the good news is that the open internet rules have been the law of the land for the last two years. The number of companies fighting to reverse neutrality are few, and utilize the Title II classification to try to maneuver legally while still claiming to embrace net neutrality.

Wheeler said “…repeal is being championed by a handful of companies; you basically know who those companies are. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Charter—they’re the people that dominate access to the internet today.” He continued that he hoped the audience remembers that these companies claiming to be big proponents of net neutrality but not Title II, is just “a smokescreen” for not addressing the bright line rules.

Both Wheeler and Sallet said they believed that Pai would succeed in reversing the open internet rule but that it didn’t mean they would ultimately succeed in fully reversing net neutrality. All the experts at the forum agreed it would ultimately go to the courts. Many other businesses, organizations, and individuals have expressed their disappointment in reversing net neutrality and most believe the FCC will be sued over the repeal. They also agreed that public comments are incredibly helpful and can shape a lawsuit if the reversal ends up moving to the courts.

Wheeler encouraged voters to continue to log their comments on the FCC site. He said “the current political situation is not going to produce a law in Congress that is as strong as the regulations that now exist. That’s step one. Nothing is over until the court says it’s over, and that’s why your comments are so crucial. Because building that record that will be cited is crucial. The law is in place today. The law has been affirmed by the courts. And we’ve got to fight to make sure that it stays in place.” It will be an interesting process repealing net neutrality.