Killing net neutrality means no one is looking out for consumers’ interest, says FCC commissioner

Killing net neutrality means no one is looking out for consumers’ interest, says FCC commissioner


JUDY WOODRUFF: This Thursday, the Federal
Communications Commission, or FCC, is expected to take a vote that could have significant
implications for Americans’ access to the Internet. The FCC is expected to roll back rules that
were imposed to protect what’s called net neutrality, regulations passed during the
Obama administration. The idea was to ensure that Internet providers,
including big companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, treat all content on the Web equally,
that they provide a kind of open highway, and are not allowed to charge more or even
block your ability to see content from other companies, like Netflix, Facebook and Google. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is pushing to
kill the Obama era rules, saying they actually aren’t helping consumers. He argues the Web needs less regulation. We interviewed Pai when he first released
the proposal. And, tonight, we hear from a Democrat on the
commission, Mignon Clyburn, who is opposed to the move. Commissioner Clyburn, thank you for being
with us. So, what is it about Chairman Pai’s move that
you object to? MIGNON CLYBURN, Commissioner, Federal Communications
Commission: It leaves the consumer in a regulatory free zone. No one is looking out for their best interest. The question is simple: Do you as a consumer
control your experiences online, or will it be that multibillion-dollar Internet service
provider? It’s very simple. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he has argued — and
you know this very well. He says, what we have got now, thanks to the
Obama administration, are heavy-handed government regulations. He says they discourage innovation, that investment
in these companies is down as a result of these regulations. MIGNON CLYBURN: There are no credible studies
that show that investment is down. The Internet rules that we have in place today,
the open Internet rules that we passed in 2015, they threw away over 700 rules and 25
provisions that we governed ourselves back in the old telecom era. So, the rules are light-touch, forward-looking,
and they take into account that the Internet today is different than it was even 10 years
ago. Internet service providers are sometimes in
the content business. Some of them own their media — own media
companies. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. MIGNON CLYBURN: So, the question is, will
they have the incentive to advantage, to promote, to give favor to them to their own content? Or will there be an even playing field? And that’s the question. And that is at risk. JUDY WOODRUFF: Again, I know you’re familiar
with Mr. Pai’s pushback. He’s saying, well, we have had is heavy regulation
and what we need to go back to is, in his words, light-touch regulatory environment
like what we had from the late ’90s through 2015, when the Obama administration imposed
these new rules. MIGNON CLYBURN: Well, my answer is this. These rules that we have today were built
on an era that started back in 2005, when there were Internet principles put in place,
because there were issues. And the FCC back in 2005 said, we need an
agreement. Internet service providers, you need to treat
applications and services and access over the Internet equal. They said that. But the voluntary posts that they created
back then because of the number of complaints that we had, it was obvious that it didn’t
work. We needed to codify or put those rules on
paper in place. And that’s what we have today. And the Internet has thrived. And our individual experiences, they have
just ballooned because of the certainty we have that we know protections are in place,
that no one can favor or block traffic when it comes to my experiences over the Internet. But that is at risk coming Thursday. JUDY WOODRUFF: Commissioner Clyburn, you have
also — you have been openly saying that you’re concerned about what this could mean for communities
of color. What are you referring to there? MIGNON CLYBURN: We would have never heard
about Ferguson, Missouri, but for the Internet. People on the ground were telling the stories. And then and only then did the rest of the
media ecosystem weigh in and cover it. So you have got communities that no one else
is listening to. They’re telling their own story. They’re promoting their own products. Their services are now part of the lexicon
of the American experience. But if we go back to the days where there
are no protections, where an Internet service provider can suppress your experience, can
favor someone else’s traffic, cannot tell your story, then so many communities of color,
poor, rural communities, we wouldn’t hear about them. They would, in essence, not be on the media
map, and that would be a shame if we go back to the days where you had gatekeepers. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, specifically, what are
you worried that, say, a Verizon or a Comcast could do? MIGNON CLYBURN: I worry that if there’s MignonClyburn.com,
and Verizon has a competing business with MignonClyburn.com, then they would favor that
experience or the trapping that would promote their company or their business interest,
and mine would be at risk. So it is about an even playing field. It is about small start-ups being able to
compete if they have a superior product. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just yesterday, in an apparent
attempt to address some of these criticisms, Chairman Pai came up with a proposal. He said, there has been this agreement between
the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission whereby, once this takes effect, the FTC is going to
be given the responsibility of going after these Internet providers if they engage in
unfair practices. MIGNON CLYBURN: The FTC is an agency that
has absolutely no experience when it comes to net neutrality protections. The FTC is an agency that doesn’t play in
this space when it comes to utility or telecommunications providers. These are the same providers that give us
Internet access. And if you don’t have any experience or if
you don’t have the authority, which the FTC doesn’t, I believe, then who is there to protect
you? And so that memorandum of understanding, that
agreement was an afterthought. JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, this vote is expected
the happen on Thursday. It’s expected the chairman is going to prevail. He’s got the majority. But once that happens, they’re going to be
court challenges. Do you expect this is going to go on for some
time? MIGNON CLYBURN: I do, which will create uncertainty
in the market. We have a system that is the envy of every
other country in the world. Why break it? Why cause disruption? Why? JUDY WOODRUFF: FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn,
thank you very much. MIGNON CLYBURN: My pleasure.

Danny Hutson

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