Cerf, Berners-Lee, Woz Seek Hill Help in Blocking FCC Vote

Says Pai 'net reg rollback proposal misses tech mark, ignores commenters, FOIAs
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Net neutrality activists are pulling out the big guns in their effort to shoot down FCC chairman Ajit Pai's effort to roll back net neutrality rules, calling on Congress to call on the FCC to cancel the Dec. 14 vote.

'Net and computer pioneers Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Wozniak have signed on to a letter to Congress (reprinted below)--along with more than 20 signatories. The letter says the FCC is preparing to "abolish" net neutrality protections, a move that is an "imminent threat" to the 'net and one that Congress must try to prevent. The Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to heed that call, though many Dems can be counted on echo such calls in the next few days, as they have in the past few weeks.

"It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology," they wrote to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Communications Subcommittees. "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.

The letter comes a day before net neutrality activists are planning a "Break the Internet" protest in which various sites are using creative ways to illustrate what they think will happen to 'net access in the absence of the rules.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai, with a strong second from ISPS, has signaled he thinks the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department, in concert with network management/business model transparency about what they are doing, is sufficient to protect the open internet from anticompetitive conduct. He and his fellow Republicans are on course to vote Dec. 14 to roll back Title II-based regs, including blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

Pai also says such threatening rhetoric about killing the 'net is off base and a political effort to preserve Obama-era regs that discourage investment and innovation.

Related: Democratic Sens Push FCC Net Neutrality Vote Delay

The letter reads:

"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."

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