Sometimes after an awesome Future of Music Policy Summit, you get to take a nice nap. This is not one of those times.
This week, news broke that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working on a new proposal for net neutrality that attempts to combine a couple different approaches. While we appreciate the effort, net neutrality advocates care less about how slick the rules are, and more about whether they’ll stand up in court.
The vast majority of Americans want an Internet that works for everyone, and not just the biggest companies. And millions of us are on record supporting the reclassification of broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Title II makes use of a longstanding principle in communications policy known as “common carriage.” This is not some radical idea. It’s been around since choo-choo trains and it’s the reason why when you pick up the phone to call your bandmate, you don’t have to wait for the rich people to finish talking first.
The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in a 2005 case that the FCC has the authority to reclassify broadband, provided that their justification for doing so isn’t “arbitrary or capricious.” And there’s nothing arbitrary or capricious about making sure that giant companies like Comcast aren’t allowed to pick winners and losers online.
Thousands of musicians and independent labels have made the case for real net neutrality to the FCC going back to 2007. And many of us have been raising concerns about a pay-to-play Internet even before that. So what’s the hold up, FCC? The courts have said you have the authority, you just need to exercise it.
We’re not cynics at the Future of Music Coalition. But we do know that proposals like this are sometimes floated to divide our communities. Some might think this “hybrid” proposal is as good as we’re gonna get, so we might as well take it, lest the Chairman decide to choose even crappier rules. Well, that’s stinkin’ thinkin.’ We’ve come incredibly far as a community, with the vast majority of the nearly 4 million public comments at the FCC in support of Title II. There’s no downside to continuing to call for reclassification.
We don’t want clever net neutrality. We want real net neutrality.
Specifically, we want net neutrality rules that are going to stand up to the inevitable lawsuits from the powerful Internet Service Providers who want to squeeze content creators (like musicians and developers) while charging consumers exorbitant prices for weak-sauce Internet. So far, there hasn’t been a single proposal put forward that would stand up to ISP shenanigans besides Title II.
We don’t want to be back here in another couple of years asking for basic rules to preserve an Internet that works for everyone. By then, the ISPs will have cut their deals with the big companies and everyone else will be in the slow lane. We need Title II now, and we’re not going to stop demanding it.