Efforts to support the open Internet

Chris Riley

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Two weeks ago, I posted an analysis of the D.C. Circuit decision and its impact on net neutrality in the United States. Most of the pressure is on the Federal Communications Commission and Chairman Wheeler, but the rest of the political space is hardly staying silent.

Recently, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate introduced legislation to restore (temporarily) the minimal protections for user choice and permissionless innovation struck down by the court. The bill would help by providing some enforceable safeguards against bad actors and acts, although it’s not a long-term solution – think of it as a tourniquet, and the open Internet needs stitches. By most accounts, the effects of the legislation if adopted would be quite modest; for example, the CEO of AT&T has stated publicly that the D.C. Circuit decision would not change his company’s practices. Yet, inexplicably, the legislation is already being viewed as a long shot in D.C. political circles and press.

Internet Defense League Cat Signal

Meanwhile, over one million people joined a coalition of civil society organizations pushing for immediate change from the FCC. Chairman Wheeler has not responded, but President Obama reinforced yet again his continued support for net neutrality, and the FCC’s authority and ability to act in this space, even if Congress is unable to act.

The Internet is global, and preserving the open Internet is a global challenge. The European Parliament is actively weighing a net neutrality proposal on issues including reasonable network management, complaint filing and enforcement, and distinguishing specialized services so that they do not undermine the open Internet. Meanwhile, in South America, Brazil’s civil rights bill for the Internet, Marco Civil, continues to be discussed and fine-tuned.

On the road to protecting the open Internet, the United States once led, but has fallen behind due to legal technicalities and political fights. The rest of the world is making progress and stands poised to take the reins. But threats from blocking or balkanization in one country are threats to the benefits of the open Internet in all – and Internet users, developers, innovators, and entrepreneurs everywhere will pay the price.

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