Reactions to AT&T's Call for Net Neutrality Law

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AT&T called on Congress to enact a national network neutrality law. Here's the reaction.

Gigi Sohn, who served as an adviser to former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, said, "AT&T’s call for an “Internet Bill of Rights” is the ultimate in hypocrisy.  Among other things, the company has led the charge to repeal the Wheeler FCC’s strong broadband privacy rules and rules protecting Americans with landline phones, promoted state laws that ban communities from building their own broadband networks, and of course, has been a central player in the FCC’s recent repeal of its network neutrality rules and the agency’s abdication of its role protecting consumers and competition. Make no mistake about it, any “Internet Bill of Rights” supported by AT&T will leave the FCC powerless, net neutrality and privacy protections weak and consumers and competition left out in the cold."

“It would be a lot easier to take AT&T at their word if they hadn't spent more than $16 million last year alone lobbying to kill net neutrality and privacy protections for Internet users,” said Evan Greer, an activist with the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future. “Internet activists have been warning for months that the big ISPs plan has always been to gut the rules at the FCC and then use the 'crisis' they created to ram through bad legislation in the name of 'saving' net neutrality.”

Public Knowldge Vice President Chris Lewis said, “Public Knowledge is glad when AT&T, or any company, commits to supporting net neutrality and strong consumer protections online. Unfortunately, their approach isn’t enough and fails to support the most immediate solution -- reinstating the 2015 net neutrality rules. Congress can accomplish this by using the Congressional Review Act to overturn the recent FCC net neutrality repeal. The 2015 rules were working, popular, and were upheld in court twice. Burger King’s new video demonstrates how the American public is likely to be ripped off now that we’ve lost these rules. In the long run, a permanent law must do much more than what AT&T calls for. It must not only protect net neutrality, but also empower the FCC to protect other critical consumer protections that many Americans expect and take for granted, until they are gone. Already, the FCC has removed some of these protections, from clear privacy rules for broadband providers, to sufficient notice when your only local provider discontinues service, to strong subsidies for low-income Americans so they can afford essential internet access. Broadband is the essential communications network of the 21st century and so we must protect Americans on it as we have with other networks. This includes accessibility for the disabled and protections from price gouging. This means providing universal service and preventing redlining that discriminates against rural or low-income communities. In the past, crafting such a comprehensive update of communications law has taken several years. Although advocates like Public Knowledge are ready to work with legislators on this difficult task, first things first. Congress should take the simple step of overturning the FCC net neutrality repeal so Americans have this basic protection while they wait for Congress to tackle the many-year challenge of crafting comprehensive legislation.”

“AT&T’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. Its phony bill-of-rights proposal makes no sense based on the law, the policies or the politics in play," said Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood. "Internet users’ rights with respect to their ISPs are already firmly established in the law. They’re guaranteed by Title II of the Communications Act, the commonsense framework for broadband that companies like AT&T and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have wasted so much time attacking. Title II works perfectly as the foundation for Net Neutrality rules — no matter how much money AT&T spends on lies in its ads, or how many of those lies Ajit Pai cuts and pastes into FCC decisions. Title II doesn’t impact broadband investment, deployment or speeds. The numbers, and the ISPs’ own statements to their investors, leave no room for dispute on this. That’s why we need Congress to pass the resolution of disapproval and restore the 2015 rules. Internet users won’t be fooled by AT&T’s marketing and lobbying. People understand the importance of an open internet, and they know to distrust the empty promises of cable and phone companies. AT&T’s head fake toward one-size-fits-all rules for all websites and content providers should fool no one. Plain and simple, it’s a bad idea. Online platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon wield tremendous power. We need answers to questions about their impact on our economy, our elections, our privacy and our news and information. But no matter how much it wants to pretend otherwise, when a company like AT&T connects you to the internet, that’s not the same thing as the information and content you find online. ISPs aren’t like newspapers, movie studios or even social-media platforms that produce and curate information for their users. ISPs are common carriers, and should be treated as such, subject to reasonable nondiscrimination rules like the ones in the 2015 Open Internet Order. As soon as AT&T wants to stop lobbying against Net Neutrality, broadband privacy and the other rights it’s worked to kill via the Trump FCC and this Congress, maybe people will stop laughing at desperate tactics like this. For now, all we can do is point out the company’s audacity in pretending that this hyper-partisan Congress can step in to fill the void of the Net Neutrality repeal by writing a new law tailor-made for AT&T.”

Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, said: “Tech Knowledge supports a legislative approach to net neutrality that embraces broader principles of internet governance based on traditional consumer protections, including online privacy, that apply equally to all similarly-situated internet companies. Unfortunately, those in Congress who continue to insist on strict regulation of ISPs that exempt so-called edge providers are ignoring serious consumer concerns about privacy and the growing monopoly power of tech giants in Silicon Valley to control online content. An approach to internet regulation grounded in traditional consumer protection and constitutional limits would transcend today’s artificially restrictive and anticompetitive version of the net neutrality debate while remaining true to free market principles that drive innovation and investment.”

“We have long advocated for Congressional legislation that would make permanent the core principles of an open Internet," said the Internet Innovation Alliance. "Only Congress can craft a unified regulatory framework that would apply to all entities in the Internet ecosystem and provide the nation’s consumers and businesses with the online protections they deserve. Consumers should have one expectation of fair rules on the Internet rather than a confusing patchwork depending on what sites they visit or how they access the Internet."

Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, the largest broadband provider, said that the company also supports congressional action. “We’ve said that we support a free and open internet and we have been committed to enforceable open internet protections,” he said. “We just thought Title II was unneccesary to guarantee consumers that open internet. We believe Congress will hopefully now act to put some enduring set of enforceable internet protections that can no longer get revisited and reversed with different administrations.”

Reactions to AT&T's Call for Net Neutrality Law AT&T wants Congress to draft a net neutrality law. Here’s why that’s a big deal. (Washington Post) AT&T's Stephenson: Consumers Need Internet Bill of Rights (Broadcasting&Cable) AT&T urges Congress to pass 'internet bill of rights' (The Hill) AT&T CEO Calls for Congress to Pass ‘Internet Bill of Rights’ (Variety) Public Knowledge Responds to AT&T’s Call for “Internet Bill of Rights” Free Press Action Fund: AT&T's Net Neutrality Ad Isn't Fooling Anyone Gigi Sohn Statement on AT&T’s Call for an “Internet Bill of Rights”