With the partisan fight over net neutrality raging in Washington, we thought it would be interesting to see what others – people who use and depend on the internet – thought. We commissioned a poll, and the results are very interesting, but not surprising! Americans support net neutrality and the protections that the FCC’s Title II reclassification in 2015 provide. But the FCC is trying to remove those protections.
Title II classification for Internet Service Providers is the only consistent and legally viable way to protect net neutrality with enforceable rules under the Communications Act. Pai’s optimism that Title I classification would protect internet users runs counter to three D.C. Circuit Court decisions – and counter to the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion on the Brand X Supreme Court case that described Title I classification as “an implausible reading of the statute.” There’s no reason to believe that the courts will change course now.
One of the most interesting questions in our poll asked respondents who they thought net neutrality was good for. For example, the Republican respondents said it was good for everyone: big business (53%), small business (75%), ISPs (60%), innovators (64%), and people like them (70%). Democrats pretty much agreed – and so do we! Small businesses and innovators shouldn’t have to choose whether to pay for “fast lanes” to compete with bigger players – and users should be able to choose what they do, see, and make online. And bigger players should welcome regulatory certainty of clear rules that are set out ahead of time – which a D.C. Circuit opinion said the FCC couldn’t do under Title I.
Your ISP shouldn’t be picking winners and losers online, and you should always have access to the entire internet. As our Manifesto says: The internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible. That’s definitely good for you! Net neutrality is key to ensuring that the internet is a global public resource that belongs to all users, not a few corporations. We already have cable television – the internet is, by design, different.
It was also notable to see strong bipartisan support of net neutrality – 76% of respondents support it. But people aren’t sure whether the U.S. government will protect their access to the internet. When it comes to protecting internet access, 70% don’t trust the Administration, 58% don’t trust the FCC, and a whopping 78% don’t trust Congress. It’s sad to see that the debate in Washington isn’t reflective of that support across party lines – but not surprising. There’s a reason that respondents don’t trust government institutions to protect their internet access: The discussion in Washington doesn’t reflect the public sentiment nationally. This poll makes it clear that the public wants a government that protects, rather than guts, net neutrality. Access and openness should be an issue we all agree on, instead of a political experiment.
The more data we have available about what Americans outside the beltway really think, the clearer it becomes that they want the FCC to protect net neutrality – not punt. We’ll keep fighting to keep your internet access neutral – here and globally. That’s why we’re encouraging all internet users to file a comment with the FCC to explain why THEY think net neutrality matters and must be protected. And it’s why we’ll be joining a massive, internet-wide Day of Action next month to support net neutrality and to push back on the FCC’s proposed rules. And we’ll keep working for net neutrality – stay tuned for more on that front.