Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House in support of net neutrality in November. (Photo: Joseph Gruber/cc/flickr)

Telecoms, GOP Launch 'Last Ditch Effort' to Undermine Net Neutrality

Ahead of 'most important victory for the public interest' in FCC's history, corporate interests entertain Republican-controlled House committee with industry talking points

Nadia Prupis

A U.S. House subcommittee is meeting Wednesday to make a final attempt to derail net neutrality ahead of the Federal Communications Commission's vote scheduled for later this week.

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee will discuss what they say are "legal, economic and policy uncertainties" of the sweeping reforms the FCC is expected to approve at its meeting Thursday—but what consumer rights advocates are calling a "last-ditch effort" to undermine crucial internet protections.

"Some of the most outrageous lies about net neutrality will be repeated at today's hearing," said Matt Wood, policy director at media reform group Free Press.

At the top of the subcommittee's agenda is the issue of reclassification. Earlier this month, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intention to regulate the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act, both for broadband and mobile networks, making it free of paid prioritization and other forms of discrimination—one of the strongest protections possible for preserving an open internet.

However, while that announcement was met with praise from grassroots organizers and supporters of net neutrality, it was derided by cable industry giants and lobbyists, as well as the two Republican members of the FCC, who claim that the proposed regulations would stifle innovation and allow the government too much power over the internet.

One of the subcommittee members, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), has increasingly politicized the issue over recent months by suggesting that Wheeler was capitulating to President Barack Obama, who made his support for strong net neutrality protections public in November.

"The closer we get to the FCC rubber stamping President Obama's Internet grab, the more disturbing it becomes," Walden said Tuesday. "Consumers, innovators and job creators all stand to lose from this misguided approach."

Those arguments are little more than hyperbole, activists say.

"This overheated rhetoric can’t withstand scrutiny, and bears no resemblance to the law and the facts," Wood stated on Wednesday. "Big cable and telecom companies have paid their lobbyists and public relations firms to deceive the public with these claims... net neutrality rules don’t regulate what’s on the Internet, just as the FCC’s rules for phone networks don’t regulate what people say on phone calls.

"This wasn’t a partisan issue then, and it shouldn’t be one today," Wood continued. "Support for real net neutrality is present across the political spectrum, and more than 80 percent of self-identified conservatives want strong rules."

The meeting will hear testimony from industry representatives like Robert Atkinson, founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank, as well as internet business analyst Larry Downes and others. Yet those voices only serve to repeat claims that are "false and are based on shoddy analysis," Wood says.

Despite this and other recent attempts to halt or weaken net neutrality reform, the FCC is still expected to vote for reclassification and other internet protections on Thursday. The proposed regulations represent a near-complete policy turnaround by Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, who previously recommended lax pro-industry initiatives.

In a press call on Tuesday, Free Press president Craig Aaron said "maybe for the first time" he will be able to "stand up and applaud what the FCC is doing" on Thursday.

"That’s no small thing. The FCC’s vote on Thursday may be the most important victory for the public interest in the agency’s history," Aaron said.

Grassroots advocates are prepared for the industry pushback to continue even if the FCC passes the net neutrality reforms, but say those same protections will prepare organizers for the fight.

"After this vote, I am certain that internet service providers will attempt legal action and members of Congress will put forward legislation, and that legislation will be in the interests of ISPs," Malkia Cyril, executive director for the Center for Media Justice, told Common Dreams on Tuesday. "We are still going to have a battle on our hands, but this vote gives us a tool to fight for our rights and voices."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'A No-Brainer': Lawmakers Urge Pelosi to Hold Vote on Stock Trading Ban

"Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities," said House members in a bipartisan letter. "We don't care."

Jessica Corbett ·

Virginia Schools Sue Youngkin Mandate Making Masks Optional

The Republican governor wants to allow parents to decide whether their children should wear masks to school to mitigate Covid-19 transmission—guidance at least 58 school districts have no plans to follow.

Julia Conley ·

US Puts Troops on Standby as War Tensions Over Ukraine Mount

The U.K. threatens "lightning war" as military forces mobilize in eastern Europe.

Andrea Germanos ·

Advocacy Group Urges Pfizer to Combat Paxlovid Inequality

"Help end the pandemic this year around the world," one advocate told Pfizer. "Not just in a handful of rich countries."

Kenny Stancil ·

260+ Companies Demand 'Big, Bold Action' on Clean Energy

"The time to act is now," the firms wrote in a letter to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo