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Net-Neutrality Activists Decry Move to Block FCC Rules

PHOTO: A coalition of more than 60 organizations sent a letter calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to remove provisions in its budget bill they claim would block the FCC from implementing net neutrality rules. Photo credit: Beau Giles/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: A coalition of more than 60 organizations sent a letter calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to remove provisions in its budget bill they claim would block the FCC from implementing net neutrality rules. Photo credit: Beau Giles/Wikimedia Commons.
June 23, 2015

DENVER – More than 60 civil rights and public-interest groups sent a letter urging Congress to protect the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) decision to keep the Internet open.

The coalition is protesting a rider, attached to a must-pass government funding package, that would take away money the FCC needs to enforce net neutrality rules. Katie Fleming Dahl, associate director of Colorado Common Cause, says the provisions are "buried" inside a spending bill 150 pages long.

"The Federal Communications Commission already heard from four million Americans, and wrote the strongest open-Internet rules ever," says Fleming Dahl. "The FCC did its job here, and Congress shouldn't use the appropriations process to subvert good policy."

Advocates claim that by eliminating the FCC's ability to protect net neutrality, the appropriations bill would have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights and the economy. The American Library Association, National Hispanic Media Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation are among the groups that signed on to the letter.

In February, the FCC decided to treat the Internet like a utility, and to protect the fundamental "openness" of the Internet – no "fast lanes" for corporations, and no "slow lanes" for average citizens.

Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy with the nonprofit Free Press, says an entrenched phone and cable lobby has worked to "punish" the FCC since the February ruling for protecting the public's interest in the courts and now in Congress.

"The public, on the issue of net neutrality, has been overwhelmingly in favor of open Internet protections," he says. "So we're seeing the backlash of that decision."

Karr adds that the funding package is inching closer to a vote before the full House, but there's still time for members to remove the provisions.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO