Lots of news in net neutrality-land over the past couple of weeks. In fact, there’s so much going on right now, that’s its kind of hard to summarize. But we’ll give it a shot.
As you may recall, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler recently revealed that the agency would bring new net neutrality rules to a vote on February 26. In a January 7 interview at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, Wheeler hinted that the rules would be crafted under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—something that FMC and our artist allies have pushed for because they offer the greatest degree of protections for musicians and other content producers, within the strongest legal framework.
That same day, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) reintroduced legislation—the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act—that would unambiguously authorize the FCC to issue net neutrality rules under whatever framework the Commission deems appropriate. (Check out the details in our legislation tracker.)
House Republicans are rumored to be crafting their own bill, which for the first time would recognize the need to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating against lawful online content. This is significant in the sense that it represents a sea change for a party that has long fought against any form of net neutrality. However, it is likely that the proposed legislation is really just a way to stall the FCC from doing what it should and must do: issue clear rules of the road under the light-touch regulatory framework that is Title II.
In other words, this bill might make ginormous ISPs like Comcast happy, but it’s not what is needed to ensure that artists and independent labels have a shot at reaching audiences on their own terms. If Congress is to write a law enshrining net neutrality—which has always been in its purview—the legislation would have to mirror what the FCC already has complete and total authority to do under Title II. So once again to quote Public Enemy: don’t believe the hype. (And tell your Congresspersons not to, either.)
Probably the biggest news this week is a letter to the FCC from mobile telecommunications provider Sprint saying that light-touch regulation under a Title II framework will not harm investment or deployment. This is huge, especially considering the misinformation that has been spread by other telcos about reclassification under Title II—including made-up stories about higher taxes that have been soundly and routinely debunked.
Sprint’s letter makes plain that the open Internet has benefited consumers and businesses alike, enhancing U.S. productivity and global competitiveness along the way. And what are musicians, songwriters and independent labels but small businesses?
We’re pleased to see a telco tell the FCC what so many of us in the music community have been saying all along: net neutrality is what lets a great song, album, idea or innovation find its footing in an evolving marketplace. It’s also essential to free speech and civic discourse—both essential to our democracy. The FCC has the tools it needs to produce strong and appropriate net neutrality rules, and we think that’s something everyone—from the smallest creator to the biggest carrier—should embrace.
[image taken by FMC outside the Federal Communications Commission]