In a letter penned to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, mayors and technology officials from 50 cities and counties across the country advocated against removing net neutrality protections.
Pai announced his proposed rule change in April, arguing that the current way the FCC regulates the Internet is outdated and unnecessarily cumbersome. Under rules passed in 2015, the FCC oversaw the Internet using Title II protections of the Communications Act of 1934. Primarily used for traditional utilities, adding Internet to the list codified rules prohibiting the special treatment of certain websites or using a system of paid prioritization.
As it stands, once people pay for access to the Internet, all legal Web content has to be treated equally. The fear is that without these protections, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could slow access to competitive sites, inhibiting fair and equal market competition and economic development.
Large cities including New York, Seattle and Boston have all been ardent advocates for net neutrality rules and spoke out against the initial rule change proposal back in April. For the National Day of Action for Net Neutrality, smaller cities such as Chattanooga, Tenn.; San Antonio, Texas; and Fayetteville, Ark. have added their names to the list of signatories — among many others.
San Antonio, Texas
San Jose, Calif.
San Leandro, Calif.
Santa Cruz County, Calif.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
South Portland, Maine
Virginia Beach, Va.
West Hollywood, Calif.
Wilton Manors, Fla.
“An open Internet puts consumers in the driver’s seat, where all websites, apps and online services compete on a level playing field,” wrote Boston CIO Jascha Franklin-Hodge in a Medium post. “Without Title II or an equally strong regulatory framework, broadband companies cannot be held accountable.”
At the heart of the issue for many is the potential threat of residents being forced to pay more for Internet access, which can result in the loss of their access to city services.
“Connectivity is not only the foundation for how we participate in today’s world, it’s also the future of our cities,” New York City Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamino said in a Medium post. “It’s how cities can provide better services and be equitable to our city’s residents and visitors. For the busy parent who doesn’t have time to wait in line to register for city benefits, the Internet is a means for her to do this from home after she’s put her children to bed."
“The Internet is the utility of the 21st century,” said Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller in a blog post. “It brings access to education, economic opportunities and ultimately an improved quality of life.”
Boston helps break down the issues in this video:
Along with protesting the rule change themselves, cities are also calling on residents to make comments on the FCC website. The comment period ends July 17.