As the FCC vote to undo net neutrality requirements looms, some of technology’s greatest minds have come together to issue a plea to congressional leadership to save the internet as we know it.
Even though millions of letters from the general public were ignored, in a last-ditch effort to preserve net neutrality, 21 high-profile technologists have penned an open letter to the FCC.
Addressed to Marsha Senators Roger Wicker and Brian Shatz, along with members of Congress Marsha Blackburn and Michael Doyle, the letter carries the blunt title, “Internet Pioneers and Leaders Tell the FCC: You Don’t Understand How the Internet Works.”Overturn Net Neutrality? The internet’s founders have a word on that…
Among the signees are Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf and Steve Wozniak, along with fellow tech pioneers and top names from Mozilla, Betaworks, Internet Archive and Tufts. The letter asks that the politicians call on Ajit Pai to cancel the planned December 14 “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” vote that looks to overturn Obama-era regulation that established net neutrality rules.
The note calls out the FCC for failing to hold open meetings and seemingly ignoring the millions of comments submitted by the public. The signees also point to a 43-page comment submitted to the commission over the summer on behalf of many of the same names.
“The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers,” the letter reads. “The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.”
Here’s the full text of the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).
This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.
It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.
The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.
Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.
Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.
Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them.
We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.
Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer
Members of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet
Members of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Federal Communications Commissioners