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October 14, 2020 – Today, Public Knowledge, Communications Workers of America, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Next Century Cities, Common Cause, and Greenlining Institute filed an ex parte warning the Federal Communications Commission that its deregulatory agenda leaves consumers vulnerable to losing broadband service during the pandemic. 

The ex parte follows AT&T’s recent decision to discontinue national DSL broadband service. By disconnecting its 469,000 DSL customers — including many without access to another AT&T wireline internet service — the company abandons consumers without any broadband alternatives. Worse, this number could grow as more providers follow AT&T’s lead. The FCC filing stressed that this is just the beginning of legacy carriers phasing out DSL, potentially leaving millions of rural customers with no reliable broadband connection.

As explained in the filing, this demonstrates the flawed reasoning in the FCC’s draft net neutrality Remand Order. The Order would affirm the 2017 decision to reclassify broadband as a Title I information service on the grounds that whatever harms this might do to public safety, or how it might impact access for rural and poor Americans, are “outweighed” by the benefits of deregulation. But as AT&T’s action shows, deregulating broadband actually reduces the availability of broadband to the poorest and most rural Americans. The Chairman should withdraw the Order and restore the FCC’s oversight authority over broadband.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“As Public Knowledge and others have repeatedly stressed, the ‘net neutrality’ proceeding is about more than paid prioritization. This proceeding goes to the very basis of FCC authority over broadband. Under the current ‘information service’ classification, the FCC cannot even tell how many broadband subscribers are losing their subscriptions daily because of the economic hardship caused by COVID-19, let alone stop these disconnections.

“The FCC’s stubborn insistence on protecting corporations from oversight — rather than protecting subscribers from harm — reaches its natural conclusion in the agency’s draft Order reaffirming its classifying broadband as a Title I ‘information service.’ Repeatedly, the draft Order affirms that whatever harms happen to the American people, this FCC considers it acceptable to keep the current broadband monopoly deregulated.”

You may view the ex parte for more information.

Public Knowledge is a Washington D.C.- based public interest group working to defend consumer rights in the emerging digital culture. More information is available at http://www.publicknowledge.org