Last week, Mozilla announced that they along with other petitioners have filed their reply brief on the case: Mozilla v FCC. This case challenges FCC’s elimination of net neutrality protection rules. These rules were formulated for internet providers to treat all online traffic equally.
What is net neutrality, anyway? It is a principle that asks internet service providers to treat all data on the internet equally. It treats the internet as a one-way lane allowing all data to flow at the same rate on the same path. But without net neutrality, the ISPs can create fast and slow lanes, decide to block sites, and charge companies more money to prioritize their content.
FCC repealing the Open Internet Order
A core issue to net neutrality was the confusion whether ISPs should be classified as Title I (information services) or Title II (common carrier services) services under the Communications Act of 1934. If ISPs are classified as Title II, FCC would have significant ability to regulate ISPs but would have little control over them if classified as Title I.
In 2015, ISPs were reclassified as Title II services by FCC under the Open Internet Order, which gave them the authority to enforce net neutrality. This order banned the blocking and slowing of web content by internet providers, prohibited the practice of paid prioritization, and introduced a “general conduct” standard, which gave FCC the ability to investigate unethical broadband practices.
In April 2017, Ajit Pai became the FCC chairman as part of the Trump Administration. He proposed to repeal the net neutrality policies and made ISPs as Title I services. When the draft of this repeal was published in May 2017 it got over 20 million comments to FCC. A majority of the people voted in favor of retaining the 2015 Open Internet Order, but FCC still repealed the order, which went in effect in June 2018.
Mozilla v. FCC
Mozilla alongside other companies, trade groups, states, and organizations filed a case (Mozilla v. FCC) against FCC in August this year to defend the net neutrality rules. Mozilla in its reply to this case said that rolling back the rules was totally an unethical move by FCC:
“The FCC’s removal of net neutrality rules is not only bad for consumers, it is also unlawful. The protections in place were the product of years of deliberation and careful fact-finding that proved the need to protect consumers, who often have little or no choice of internet provider. The FCC is simply not permitted to arbitrarily change its mind about those protections based on little or no evidence.”
This case advocates a consumer’s rights to access content and services online without any involvement of ISPs in blocking, throttling, or discriminating against consumers’ favorite services. Following are the arguments Mozilla is making against FCC’s decision of repealing the open internet rules:
“The FCC order fundamentally mischaracterizes how internet access works. Whether based on semantic contortions or simply an inherent lack of understanding, the FCC asserts that ISPs simply don’t need to deliver websites you request without interference.
The FCC completely renounces its enforcement ability and tries to delegate that authority to other agencies but only Congress can grant that authority, the FCC can’t decide it’s just not its job to regulate telecommunications services and promote competition.
The FCC ignored the requirement to engage in a “reasoned decision making” process, ignoring much of the public record as well as their own data showing that consumers lack competitive choices for internet access, which gives ISPs the means to harm access to content and services online.”