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40 ISPs, VoIP And VPN Providers Tell FCC They Like Having Net Neutrality Rules

Opponents of net neutrality often claim the rules placed "onerous burdens" on small and large ISPs alike. But when push comes to shove, you'll rarely see any of these folks provide hard evidence of such "burdens." Usually, opposition is driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of what the rules do, and by a conflation of the rules with nebulous partisan worries that net neutrality somehow represents "government run amok." That confusion is, quite often, courtesy of "insight" on the subject from the likes of Ted Cruz, who has repeatedly tried to insist that killing the popular consumer protections somehow "restores freedom" (citation needed).

But in yet another example of net neutrality's broad support out here in the real world, the EFF this week accumulated a list of 40 or so ISPs, VPN and VoIP providers that would very much like it if the rules remained intact. Noting how the last FCC's decision to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under the Communications Act actually helps them compete with their larger counterparts, the companies note that net neutrality hasn't hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks in the slightest:

"We have encountered no new additional barriers to investment or deployment as a result of the 2015 decision to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and have long supported network neutrality as a core principle for the deployment of networks for the American public to access the Internet."

Among these companies is California ISP Sonic, one of the few independent ISPs from the early aughts that managed to survive the incumbent ISP gauntlet, and the slow but steady attack on competition that started under former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell (we talked with Sonic CEO Dane Jasper about this a podcast last April). Sonic and the rest of the companies proceed to note that eliminating the rules doesn't "restore freedom" for them; in fact most of them worry that the elimination of the rules will have a dramatically negative impact on competition in the market:

"Without a legal foundation to address the anticompetitive practices of the largest players in the market, the FCC’s current course threatens the viability of competitive entry and competitive viability. As direct competitors to the biggest cable and telephone companies, we have reservations about any plan at the FCC that seeks to enhance their market power without any meaningful restraints on their ability to monopolize large swaths of the Internet."

The companies also express concern about Congress' recent decision to kill broadband privacy protections at the behest of giant ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T -- most of which are not coincidentally conducting massive pivots into media and advertising:

"Lastly, we implore the FCC to examine the ramifications of the Congressional Review Act repeal of broadband privacy and provide guidance. We have long championed our customer’s privacy and believe Congress was in error to erode their legal right to privacy. However, the repeal’s detrimental impact on the reach and scope of Section 222’s ISP privacy provisions has resulted in great uncertainty in the market that the FCC could help provide clarity."

The companies' support comes on the heels of similar support for the rules from over 900 startups (you know, the people actually building the networks and technologies of tomorrow). In both instances (privacy and net neutrality), these "onerous regulations" had broad support among consumers and many smaller companies alike, highlighting again how the myopic opinion that "all regulation is automatically bad" is lazy thinking, a violent over-simplification, and incredibly detrimental when it comes to bringing competition to bear on one of the most anti-competitive and complicated segments of American industry.

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