Press: In Light of FCC Vote, CCDBR and Allies Will Step Up the Fight for Free and Open Internet

Posted on December 14, 2017

CHICAGO — On Sunday, December 10, 2017, the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, in partnership with the Electronic Frontier Alliance, held an open forum to discuss the impact of the impending Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote to gut net neutrality—rules that are in place to ensure all internet traffic and content is treated equally—scheduled for today.

While participants ranged from diverse age, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, they all expressed concern over the rollback’s implications for free speech, free press, privacy and entrepreneurship.

CCDBR knows that without net neutrality protections in place, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be empowered to impose new fees on customers and content providers, arbitrarily slow or halt internet traffic, give preferential treatment to their business partners and potentially even silence political dissidents. While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai contends that dissatisfied customers can always take their business elsewhere, average Americans know this is not a realistic option for most people. Not only do studies show that most Americans live in areas plagued by broadband monopolies, but in cities like Chicago, many citizens live in apartment buildings that are “wired” for only one ISP, giving them no choice but to do business with a particular ISP for internet services that are necessary for everyday life.

“Net neutrality is the idea that the company you pay every month for internet does not have the right to block or slow down your access to the websites you want to visit, the videos you want to watch or the companies you want to do business with,” local privacy attorney Kelly Singleton said. “Getting rid of net neutrality rules will incentivize internet service providers like Verizon or Comcast to pursue their own financial interests at the expense of consumers’ autonomy and free expression.”

Further, because ISPs analyze their customers’ internet connections to engage in the traffic discrimination the FCC vote now authorizes, and encryption technology thwarts their ability to conduct such analysis, ISPs will also be incentivized to downgrade the encrypted connections many people depend on, such as investigative journalists, human rights advocates and victims of domestic abuse. Combine this with the the fact that ISPs can now sell personal information to third-parties, as authorized by Congress and enacted by President Trump earlier this year, and there is little reason to expect ISPs will refrain from performing such downgrades.

CCDBR and our allies recognize this FCC policy for the threat to free and secure digital expression that it is, and we intend to marshal our allies to combat it for the good of Chicagoans, Illinoisans, and Americans across the country.

Our coalition calls on members of Congress, Chicago representatives, and the general public to express their support for net neutrality. With the rules repealed, CCDBR will now fight for a legislative solution that codifies net neutrality protections into law, and support any lawsuit challenging the basis for the FCC’s decision.

The fight for a free and open internet, one that embodies the values of our democratic society, may be a long one, but it is one that we intend to win.