As web giants including Amazon and Netflix gear up for a net neutrality day of protest next week, conservative groups and the broadband industry are shoring up their own support for the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed repeal of the open internet rules.
On July 12th, popular websites like Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Twitter, and others will protest the Trump administration’s plan to scale back Obama-era net neutrality rules by displaying loading icons and encouraging visitors to send comments to the FCC opposing the plan.
Ahead of the “Battle for the Net” protest conservative groups including FreedomWorks and Broadband for America — whose members include AT&T and CenturyLink — are putting out messaging of their own, largely asserting the protest talking points are exaggerated and in some instances outright false.
“What You’re Likely to Hear on July 12: The FCC wants to end net neutrality; Title II utility regulation is the only way to keep the internet open and free; Internet providers oppose net neutrality,” a statement released Friday by Broadband for America reads.
The group supports the core net neutrality rules against letting internet providers throttle, block, or charge more to prioritize web traffic but opposes the Obama administration’s reclassification of internet providers as public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act. The designation potentially subjects companies like AT&T and Comcast to tougher regulations like price caps, though the FCC forbore from applying those when it passed the rules in 2015.
“After a $3.6 billion drop in infrastructure investment after only two years of current utility regulations, finance and market experts predict large multi-billion declines in network investment if nothing is done about Title II,” the group says.
Democrats argue Title II is necessary to give the FCC authority to enforce net neutrality rules, but Broadband for America and a large caucus of congressional Republicans disagree. They want Congress to codify the rules against throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization into law — an idea that has yet to earn the support of Democrats.
The Trump administration’s draft plan repeals Title II and questions even the need for the core rules. We won’t know if they make it into the final proposal until after the public comment period later this year.
FreedomWorks, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Competitive Enterprise Institute and others back that plan, and launched their own website, “Unlock the Net,” Thursday to counter Battle for the Net.
“This site is a resource for those who support a free and open Internet, not one strapped with needless regulations from government, a solution without a problem,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said. “Unless you want the internet to work more like the VA, the DMV, and the post office, let’s keep the Internet free from burdensome regulations.”
The site features a number of short “fact vs. fiction” videos challenging the taking points many web users are likely to see on popular websites during the July 12th day of protest.
Commenters will have a week after the protest to share their thoughts about the proposal with the FCC before the first comment deadline ends on July 17th. Afterward the FCC will receive a round of reply comments before drafting a final proposal commissioners will vote on later this year.