Archive for the ‘Net Neutrality’ Category

FCC has to pay journalist $43,000 after hiding net neutrality records

March 22nd, 2019
Shredded documents with a magnifying glass and the words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Nicholas Rigg)

The Federal Communications Commission has settled a case over its refusal to comply with a public records request, agreeing to pay $43,000 to a journalist who sued the commission.

Freelance writer Jason Prechtel filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC in mid-2017, asking for data that would identify who made bulk comment uploads in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Prechtel was trying to research comments that were falsely attributed to people without their knowledge.

The FCC didn't comply with the request and allegedly didn't even approve or deny the FOIA request within the legally allotted timeframe, so Prechtel sued the commission in September 2017. One year later, a US District Court judge presiding over the case ordered the FCC to stop withholding certain records sought by Prechtel, although the ruling didn't give Prechtel everything he asked for.

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ISPs strike deal with Vermont to suspend state net neutrality law

March 15th, 2019
Illustration of a judge's gavel in front of Vermont's state flag.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Baris-Ozer)

The state of Vermont has agreed to suspend enforcement of its net neutrality law pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.

In October, the nation's largest broadband industry lobby groups sued Vermont in a US District Court to stop a state law that requires ISPs to follow net neutrality principles in order to qualify for government contracts. But the lobby groups and state agreed to delay litigation and enforcement of the Vermont law in a deal that they detailed in a joint court filing yesterday. The lawsuit against Vermont was filed by mobile industry lobby CTIA, cable industry lobby NCTA, telco lobby USTelecom, the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the American Cable Association (ACA).

The delay will remain in place until after a final decision in the lawsuit seeking to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal and the FCC's preemption of state net neutrality laws. Vermont is one of 22 states that sued the FCC in that case in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Tech companies and consumer advocacy groups are also opposing the FCC in the same case. Oral arguments were held last month, and DC Circuit judges will likely issue a decision in the coming months.

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Democrats’ net neutrality bill would fully restore Obama-era FCC rules

March 6th, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looking on, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol Building on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted and passed a Resolution of Disapproval to undo President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looking on, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol Building on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted and passed a Resolution of Disapproval to undo President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules. (credit: Mark Wilson | Getty Images)

Democrats in Congress today introduced a net neutrality bill that would fully restore the Obama-era rules that were repealed by the FCC's current Republican majority.

The "Save the Internet Act" is just three pages long. Instead of writing a new set of net neutrality rules, the bill would nullify FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's December 2017 repeal of the FCC order passed in February 2015 and forbid the FCC from repealing the rules in the future.

"A full 86 percent of Americans opposed the Trump assault on net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans. That's hopeful," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference announcing the bill today. "With the Save the Internet Act, the Democrats are honoring the will of the people."

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Ajit Pai says broadband access is soaring—and that he’s the one to thank

February 20th, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seen from the side as he listens during a Senate committee hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai listens during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Ajit Pai says the Federal Communications Commission's annual broadband assessment will show that his deregulatory policies have substantially improved access in the United States. The annual report will also conclude that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely basis.

The FCC hasn't released the full Broadband Deployment Report yet and won't do so until the commission votes on whether to approve the draft version sometime in the next few weeks. For now, the FCC has only issued a one-page press release with a few data points and some quotes from Chairman Pai in which he claims that his policy changes caused the improvements.

But Pai offered no proof of any connection between his policy decisions and the increased deployment. Moreover, broadband deployment improved at similar rates during the Obama administration, despite Pai's claims that the FCC's net neutrality rules harmed deployment during that period.

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Cable lobby asks for net neutrality law allowing paid prioritization

February 7th, 2019
The words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | nevarpp)

Cable industry chief lobbyist Michael Powell today asked Congress for a net neutrality law that would ban blocking and throttling but allow Internet providers to charge for prioritization under certain circumstances.

Powell—a Republican who was FCC chairman from 2001 to 2005 and is now CEO of cable lobby group NCTA—spoke to lawmakers today at a Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing on net neutrality (see a transcript of Powell's prepared testimony).

Powell said there is "common ground around the basic tenets of net neutrality rules: There should be no blocking or throttling of lawful content. There should be no paid prioritization that creates fast lanes and slow lanes, absent public benefit. And, there should be transparency to consumers over network practices."

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FCC struggles to convince judge that broadband isn’t “telecommunications”

February 1st, 2019
A protestor holds a sign with a picture of a bullhorn and the words,

Enlarge / A protester holds a sign outside FCC headquarters on Dec. 14, 2017 before the vote to repeal net neutrality rules. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

A Federal Communications Commission lawyer faced a skeptical panel of judges today as the FCC defended its repeal of net neutrality rules and deregulation of the broadband industry.

FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson struggled to explain why broadband shouldn't be considered a telecommunications service, and struggled to explain the FCC's failure to protect public safety agencies from Internet providers blocking or slowing down content.

Oral arguments were held today in the case, which is being decided by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Audio of the four-hour-plus oral arguments is available here.) Throttling of firefighters' data plans played a major role in today's oral arguments.

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Net neutrality court case preview: Did FCC mess up by redefining broadband?

January 31st, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Oral arguments in the case against Ajit Pai's net neutrality repeal are scheduled for Friday morning, and net neutrality advocates are confident that they will be victorious.

The groups that sued the Federal Communications Commission to reverse the repeal argue that Pai offered insufficient legal justification for deregulating the broadband industry.

The Obama-era net neutrality rules, which were upheld in court in 2016, relied on the FCC's Title II authority over telecommunications services. When it eliminated the net neutrality rules, Pai's FCC argued that broadband is not a telecommunications service and that it should be treated instead as a lightly regulated information service.

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FCC asks court for delay in case that could restore net neutrality rules

January 16th, 2019
The Federal Communications Commission meeting room, with an empty chair in front of the FCC seal and two United States flags.

Enlarge / The Federal Communications Commission seal hangs inside a meeting room at the headquarters ahead of an open commission meeting in Washington, DC, on Thursday, December 14, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday asked judges to delay oral arguments in a court case that could restore Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Oral arguments are scheduled for February 1 at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will rule on a challenge to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules. The court confirmed this week on its website that its schedule "will not be affected, at least initially, by the partial shutdown of the federal government" that began on December 22, 2018. The court has enough funding to operate for now and said that "[o]ral arguments on the calendar for the month of January and February will go on as scheduled."

But the FCC, which is partially shut down, filed a motion yesterday asking the court to postpone oral arguments in the net neutrality case.

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Ajit Pai thanks Congress for helping him kill net neutrality rules

January 2nd, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai smiling and shaking someone's hand at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Enlarge / Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for his confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee on July 19, 2017, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

Ajit Pai today celebrated a victory in his ongoing quest to prevent the US government from enforcing net neutrality rules.

The Pai-led Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules, but the repeal could have been reversed by Congress if it acted before the end of its session. Democrats won a vote to reverse the repeal in the Senate but weren't able to get enough votes in the House of Representatives before time ran out.

"I'm pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation," Pai said in a statement marking the deadline passage today. Pai claimed that broadband speed improvements and new fiber deployments in 2018 occurred because of his net neutrality repeal—although speeds and fiber deployment also went in the right direction while net neutrality rules were in place.

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CenturyLink blocked its customers’ Internet access in order to show an ad

December 17th, 2018
A CenturyLink worker's van.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | RiverNorthPhotography)

CenturyLink briefly disabled the Internet connections of customers in Utah last week and allowed them back online only after they acknowledged an offer to purchase filtering software.

CenturyLink falsely claimed that it was required to do so by a Utah state law that says ISPs must notify customers "of the ability to block material harmful to minors." In fact, the new law requires only that ISPs notify customers of their filtering software options "in a conspicuous manner"; it does not say that the ISPs must disable Internet access until consumers acknowledge the notification. The law even says that ISPs may make the notification "with a consumer's bill," which shouldn't disable anyone's Internet access.

Coincidentally, CenturyLink's blocking of customer Internet access occurred days before the one-year anniversary of the Federal Communications Commission repeal of net neutrality rules, which prohibited blocking and throttling of Internet access.

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