If all goes as planned, the Federal Communications Commission will vote next Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules, giving internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast substantial power over the content they provide and the prices they charge to do so.
On Thursday, nearly five dozen U.S. mayors and other local leaders added their outrage to the chorus, making their anger known in a public letter addressed to Pai and his fellow commissioners.
The letter coincided with protests at hundreds of Verizon stores and congressional offices across the country. (HuffPost’s parent company Oath is owned by Verizon, but HuffPost’s union is represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, which supports net neutrality.)
The mayoral group, which includes leaders from the across the political spectrum and from cities big and small, made a strong case for the fundamental importance of an open internet on the local level, saying that everything from economic strength to basic government services are at risk with the repeal.
“Our economies, educational institutions, government agencies, and communities, in general, increasingly rely on broadband connectivity and the transformative power of the Internet to drive economic growth, individual and community development, and improve government service and accountability for all our citizens,” they wrote.
“Critical to our communities’ reliance on the Internet is the confidence that our use of the Internet is not subject to the whims, discretion, or economic incentives of gatekeeper service providers to control or manipulate the experience of Internet users.”
In addition to repealing net neutrality, the FCC rules will also strip state and local governments of the power to enact their own laws regulating broadband service.
The mayors highlighted a lesser-known aspect of Pai’s proposal as especially worrisome: In addition to repealing net neutrality, the FCC rules will also strip state and local governments of the power to enact their own laws regulating broadband service.
Not only does that provision prevent “local leaders such as ourselves from protecting our constituents, businesses, and economies from abusive service provider practices,” they wrote, it also “represents a stark, inexplicable, and unwarranted attack on ‘the constitutional principles that lie at the heart of our system of government.’”
“In sum, we strongly oppose the Commission’s proposal,” the letter concludes. “It offers carte blanche to powerful service providers but little more than promises to consumers. The Commission’s approach puts those few companies ahead of millions of Americans, tens of thousands of businesses which depend on a free and open Internet, and local communities solving everyday problems Americans face.”