NCTA Survey Shows U.S. Wants Net Neutrality As It Is Today

NCTA — The Internet & Television Association conducted a survey of 2,194 registered U.S. voters and found that, although a bipartisan group dislikes regulating the Internet, a strong majority supports current net neutrality rules. Those rules prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing online content in exchange for payment. Although most of those surveyed were against price regulation, they did support action against any ISP that has harmed consumers. That is the exact approach the FCC currently uses.

Ars Technica reports that, “about 61 percent of respondents either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ support net neutrality rules” whereas only 18 percent oppose it and the rest either don’t know what it is or had no opinion. Major cable companies say they support “core net neutrality rules” but oppose “the FCC’s use of its common carrier authority under Title II of the Communications Act to enforce them.” But the two are intertwined, since the FCC gained authority to enforce the rules when ISPs were reclassified as Title II common carriers.

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Fifty-three percent of those surveyed agreed with a statement most closely adhering to the view taken by the FCC in 2015: “The government should have a light-touch approach to the Internet that allows regulators to monitor the marketplace and take action if consumers are harmed.”

Although the FCC does in principle have the ability to set prices, it did not after the 2015 net neutrality rules took place, but used Title II to let consumers complain. NCTA spokesperson Brian Dietz defended the survey, but regardless, says Ars Technica, “cable companies are almost certainly going to get what they want.” A May 18 vote at the FCC will “start the process of undoing the Title II classification and net neutrality rules.”

Techdirt reports that the reason the FCC has shut down comments on its plan to rollback net neutrality is not due to fake comments, the site being overwhelmed by John Oliver fans or random DDoS attacks, but rather, “to give the FCC a moment of peaceful reflection.” This long-standing rule is dubbed the Sunshine Agenda period, during which the public cannot “make presentations to FCC employees who are working on the matter … if the underlying content of the communication concerns the outcome of the proceeding.”

That includes submitting comments through the FCC’s website on the net neutrality issue or “any other item to be considered at the May 18 meeting.” Techdirt, calling it a “dumb rule” that makes the FCC look out of touch, proposes that, instead, the FCC should “either just stop looking at the comments for a few days or build a system that holds the comments in transit until the ‘Sunshine’ period is up.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has set up its own page, DearFCC.org, to allow people to comment there. That site does have some pre-filled text, but it can be changed. Interested parties that want to comment now, before the FCC again opens for comments next week, should do so now.

Related:
John Oliver Skewers Critics in Latest Plea for Net Neutrality, Variety, 5/15/17
Can ISPs Simply Opt Out Of Net Neutrality?, Forbes, 5/15/17