Washington – The Federal Communications Commission’s partisan vote on Thursday to scrap “net neutrality” regulations and stop regulating internet delivery systems like utilities prompted partisan reaction.
Most Democrats, including members of the state’s congressional delegation and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, condemned the move spearheaded by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that ended Obama-era regulations prohibiting broadband providers from blocking web sites or charging for faster service or certain content. Pai’s new rules, approved on a partisan 3-2 vote by the FCC’s commissioners, also would turn over regulation of content providers to the Federal Trade Commission, who will police them for anti-competitive practices.
“The vote today by the FCC is an all-out assault on a free and open internet,” Malloy said in a statement. “Open internet access is essential to our economic competitiveness. This move is anti-consumer, anti-competitive, flies in the face of the best interests of the people of our nation, and will have a damaging impact on the ability of Americans to utilize the internet.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the repeal of the net neutrality rules “has made a mockery of consumer protection at the expense of our economy.”
“It will disastrously disadvantage small businesses. It threatens the internet’s incredible success and persistent innovation. And it will harm consumers with higher prices and lower speeds,” Blumenthal said.
The sentiment was echoed by other Democrats.
“Imagine if the power company could decide which of your appliances got steady, reliable electricity while all other products suffered from low power and blackouts. Or if the water company could throttle back your water supply if they thought your shower was too long. The reason we regulate utilities is exactly so they can’t play those games … But that’s exactly what President Trump’s FCC just did with the internet,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said lawmakers should pass legislation putting the Obama-era regulations into law, a challenge in a GOP-controlled House and Senate.
“Congress should act quickly to ensure that net neutrality is preserved in order to provide fair and equal access to the internet for all,” Larson said.
Republicans largely backed Pai’s actions.
“Today’s vote by the FCC to reject the ‘net neutrality’ government takeover of the internet is a big win for consumers, and for internet freedom!” said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. “The so-called net neutrality rules have already harmed innovation and killed billions of dollars of private investment that should be going towards the infrastructure needed to fuel our smartphones, connect our homes, and turbocharge our economy.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the Obama-era net neutrality regulation “threatens the free and open internet” and the way to protect consumers “is to put the Federal Trade Commission back on the beat to crack down on those who would abuse open access.”
Before the commissioners voted Thursday, the FCC allowed the public to weigh in on the new rules. During the public comment period, which ran from April 27 to Aug. 30, nearly 22 million comments across the country were submitted electronically and posted online for review. About 210,000 of these came from Connecticut residents.
Most of the comments came in as form letters, for and against changing the rules.
Many were duplicates and it appears some were submitted by bots.
Blumenthal was among a group of Democratic senators who asked Pai to postpone the vote until an investigation of the public comments could be completed.
On Wednesday Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and 18 other state attorneys general wrote Pai, also asking for a delay in the vote.
“A careful review of the publicly available information revealed a pattern of fake submissions using the names of real people,” their letter said. “In fact, there may be over one million fake submissions from across the country. This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale — and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning.”
Pai, however, would not reschedule.
Immediately after the FCC vote on Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he will lead a multi-state lawsuit against the “illegal rollback” of net neutrality rules.
“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Jepsen spokeswoman Jaclyn Severance said Connecticut’s attorney general “is currently reviewing today’s actions both internally and with other states.”
“We disagree with the FCC’s decision today,” she said, “We have previously expressed in joint comments with colleagues from other states our belief that the Internet must remain open and free.”