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Washington, DC November 21, 2017 – Today, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to dismantle the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order which advanced Net Neutrality rules that require internet service providers to give users equal access to all content on the internet. Access Now condemns the FCC plan to repeal these rules, which will give corporations more power to dictate people’s online experiences. Repeal would have a negative impact on human rights in the U.S. and around the world.

U.S. impact

“By repealing these rules, the Trump Administration deliberately puts the U.S. last in the global race for a free, open, and competitive internet. Letting deep-pocketed corporations create a pay-for-play internet harms innovation and free expression alike, in the U.S. and everywhere else,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now. “The open internet is for everyone, not just the privileged few. Breaking it into pieces to make more money for entrenched players is a short-sighted strategy that will only backfire, creating less opportunity and innovation over time, not more,” he added.

The FCC will vote on the proposal on December 4th but the process to repeal these rules began a few months ago. A repeal would be a significant victory for telecom companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner who lobbied hard against the Net Neutrality rules in the Open Internet Order. Without these rules in place, these companies would be free to charge corporations for prioritized “fast lane” access to sites or services, disadvantaging those run by rivals, ordinary internet users, and innovators seeking to reach audiences online.

The move to repeal the Open Internet Order is only the latest item in Chairman Pai’s deregulation agenda, following repeal of the broadband privacy rules — a decision telco lobbyists fought for — and the rollback of media ownership rules. “Telcos have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season, due to their little helpers in Washington,” added White.

International impact

In addition to harming innovation in the U.S., the FCC’s pending decision on Net Neutrality risks isolating the U.S. from global norms for free expression.

In more than 40 countries, Net Neutrality is the law of the land. Chile was the first country to adopt Net Neutrality protections in 2010. Since then, 28 member states of the European Union followed suit, and in 2015 adopted binding rules to ensure the future of Net Neutrality across all member states. India’s telecom regulator — the TRAI — will soon issue its outcome on a consultation for advancing strong Network Neutrality rules. These will supplement India’s existing 2016 prohibition of harmful practices such as “zero rating,” which give users access to only some online services for free, rather than the full unfettered internet, thus resulting in unequal and discriminatory access.

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“If the FCC confirms its plan to repeal the Net Neutrality rules, the U.S. will become an outlier on an issue of critical importance to the future of the internet, both as an engine for innovation and a platform for human rights, to the detriment of users,” said Estelle Masse, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now. “The U.S. is sending a wrong message today, but we will continue to fight for an open, free, and secure internet globally, with the support of governments that stand with the users.”

“Policymakers and regulators across the world are responding to the millions of internet users who rightly demand enforceable Net Neutrality provisions. Those who refuse to take heed of this demand are putting the future of our open internet at risk,” added Raman Jit Singh Chima, Policy Director at Access Now.

Learn more about Net Neutrality and the Open Internet Order here: