Marking the one-year anniversary of the official implementation of FCC chair Ajit Pai's deeply unpopular net neutrality repeal plan, a diverse coalition of more than 100 progressive advocacy groups on Tuesday demanded that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stop thwarting the will of the public and immediately allow a vote on the Save the Internet Act.
"Americans want and deserve enforceable protections that preserve net neutrality, ensure stronger broadband competition, and improve access," the coalition wrote in a letter (pdf) dated Tuesday. "They don't want big cable and phone companies controlling what they see, say, and do online. They want more choices and more affordable internet access service."
"It's not going to happen overnight, but every day that passes without Congress acting to restore net neutrality, the things people love about the internet are slowly fading away."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future
The Save the Internet Act—which passed the Democrat-controlled House in April—represents "the best chance to restore real net neutrality and an open and accessible internet for everyone," the groups wrote, urging McConnell to "listen to the American public" and immediately bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.
"In the year since the FCC took away the 2015 Open Internet Order, we have seen some very troubling and dangerous activities by big cable and telephone companies," the letter reads. "While advocates seek redress in court to overturn the FCC's disastrous repeal, Senate passage of the Save the Internet Act will reaffirm Congress's intent and support for broadband users' rights."
Despite polling data showing that 77 percent of Republicans—and 80 percent of Americans overall—support net neutrality, a spokesperson for McConnell signaled Monday that the Senate Majority Leader has no intention of changing his position that the Save the Internet Act is "dead on arrival."
As the advocacy groups deliver their letter to McConnell on Tuesday, digital rights organization Fight for the Future—one of the letter's signatories—plans to host an all-day "epic livestream" during which policy experts, web company representatives, and others will read comments in support of net neutrality from thousands of internet users.
"It's not going to happen overnight, but every day that passes without Congress acting to restore net neutrality, the things people love about the internet are slowly fading away," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement ahead of Tuesday's livestream. "It's becoming more centralized, exploitative, and controlled by corporate interests."
"But internet users are refusing to give up," said Greer. "On June 11th we'll come together once again and channel outrage into political power. With voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly united in support of an open internet, it's only a matter of time before net neutrality is restored."
As Common Dreams reported in March, Fight for the Future successfully used livestreams of key committee hearings to prevent House members from weakening the Save the Internet Act with telecom-friendly amendments.
Now the group is turning its attention to the Senate, where just one member of the Democratic caucus—Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—has yet to sign on to the Save the Internet Act.
Read net neutrality campaigners' full letter to McConnell:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
In April, the House of Representatives passed the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644) with bipartisan support. This critical bill restores net neutrality and broadband competition protections for all Americans, ensuring that rural and underserved communities gain access to the internet and that big cable companies are not able to control what people do, see, and say online.
We the undersigned 103 organizations urge you to listen to the American public and to immediately bring the Save the Internet Act (S.682) to a vote in the Senate.
Today marks one year since the FCC made the unpopular decision to officially kill net neutrality and broadband protections for the American people. On the one-year anniversary of the end of the Open Internet Order, we encourage the Senate to join your House colleagues in implementing the will of your constituents—4 in 5 of whom support net neutrality, including 77% of Republicans, according to recent polling.
Since the repeal of the Open Internet Order by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), millions of Americans have been fighting to protect an open and accessible internet and calling on Congress to restore vital protections for universal communications rights, small business innovation, and free speech online.
In the year since the FCC took away the 2015 Open Internet Order, we have seen some very troubling and dangerous activities by big cable and telephone companies:
- Verizon slowed down the Santa Clara fire department's data in the midst of one of the worst wildfires in California history;
- The largest U.S. telecom companies were caught slowing streaming speeds to popular applications like YouTube and Netflix;
- Centurylink blocked internet access to force customers to view specific ads;
- AT&T gave preference to its own video services by not having its video data count against customers' monthly data caps; and
- Sprint has been accused of interfering with Skype, which provides an alternative to wireless carriers’ voice, video, or messaging services.
Despite empty rhetoric by open internet opponents, the 2015 Open Internet Order did not harm broadband investment from 2015-2017, nor is broadband investment, deployment, or speed increasing since the FCC's repeal.
While advocates seek redress in court to overturn the FCC's disastrous repeal, Senate passage of the Save the Internet Act will reaffirm Congress's intent and support for broadband users' rights. Passing this bill would help reestablish important net neutrality protections while the court case challenging the FCC's net neutrality repeal proceeds through months, or even years, of additional appeals. Like the House, the Senate should pass this bill without any harmful amendments designed to water down, weaken, or fatally wound it.
Senator McConnell, we call on you to enact the will of hundreds of millions of people who support open internet protections and broadband competition, and the millions who have taken action demanding them, by allowing Senators to vote on the Save the Internet Act.
Americans want and deserve enforceable protections that preserve net neutrality, ensure stronger broadband competition, and improve access. They don't want big cable and phone companies controlling what they see, say, and do online. They want more choices and more affordable internet access service.
The Save the Internet Act is the best chance to restore real net neutrality and an open and accessible internet for everyone in America. We urge the Senate to move forward on this important bill that will restore strong open internet protections.