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Consumers Union Brief Calls for Appeals Court to Restore Net Neutrality Rules, Argues FCC used a “Revision of History” to Justify Repeal

Monday, August 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the net neutrality rules enshrined in the 2015 Open Internet Order was “a radical change in policy that  abandoned principles the FCC has promoted and enforced for fifty years,” Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, asserted in an amicus brief filed today with the D.C. Court of Appeals. Moreover, the group argues, Chairman Pai misrepresented history in his claim that the previous Commission “abandoned almost twenty years of precedent” by classifying broadband internet access service under Title II of the Communications Act, failing to mention the seven years it classified wireline broadband as a Title II telecommunications service from 1998 through 2005.

Consumers Union, a longtime advocate for net neutrality rules to keep the internet an open marketplace for all, is urging the appeals court to restore the rules. Georgetown Law School’s Institute for Public Representation, acting as counsel of record for Consumers Union, filed the brief on behalf of Consumers Union and assisted with its preparation.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said “When the FCC, under Chairman Pai’s leadership, rolled back the consumer-friendly net neutrality rules last year, he claimed the Commission was returning the internet to its ‘light touch’ regulatory roots. But the Chairman justified the repeal based upon a revision of history and a selective memory of net neutrality. Our brief sets the record straight and explains how the FCC has grappled with how to foster the internet’s growth and set in place some guardrails to ensure consumers benefited just as much as the big internet service providers for decades. To have us believe that internet service was never regulated, or even worse, suffered under burdensome regulation flies in the face of both facts and history.”

Not only did the Commission misrepresent its own history when it moved to repeal the net neutrality rules, it chose to ignore the millions of Americans that voiced their support for the critical consumer protections.  Poll after poll has also found bipartisan support for net neutrality rules. A recent nationally-representative survey by Consumer Reports found the majority of Americans support net neutrality rules to prevent internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet, while 67 percent disagree that providers should be able to choose which websites, apps or streaming services customers can access.

The full brief is available here or by visiting ConsumersUnion.org.