Tech companies led by Mozilla are urging the Federal Communications Commission to swiftly reinstate net neutrality rules stripped away under the Trump administration.
In a letter to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Friday, ADT, Dropbox, Eventbrite, Reddit, Vimeo and Wikimedia joined Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser, in calling net neutrality “critical for preserving the internet as a free and open medium that promotes innovation and spurs economic growth.”
Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers should not be allowed to favor or throttle service for websites that rely on it. Net neutrality was instated under the Obama administration by reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, making them “common carriers” subject to greater regulation. The Trump FCC led by then-Chairman Ajit Pai moved to undo the rule and was ultimately successful in spite of a court challenge led by Mozilla.
While ISPs have made few changes in the absence of net neutrality rules, advocates have raised flags over a handful of actions. One example is AT&T’s practice of excluding its own HBO Max streaming from counting against wireless customers’ data caps.
AT&T announced Wednesday it would do away with such an arrangement after a federal court upheld California’s net neutrality law that bans “sponsored data.” AT&T said the change would apply beyond California, noting, “a state-by-state approach to ‘net neutrality’ is unworkable.” The California law was created after the rule was rolled back on the federal level.
In a blog post Friday, Mozilla Chief Legal Officer Amy Keating said the Covid pandemic has made the need for net neutrality rules even more clear.
“In a moment where classrooms and offices have moved online by necessity, it is critically important to have rules paired with strong government oversight and enforcement to protect families and businesses from predatory practices,” Keating said. “In California, residents will have the benefit of these fundamental safeguards as a result of a recent court decision that will allow the state to enforce its state net neutrality law. However, we believe that users nationwide deserve the same ability to control their own online experiences.”