Tomorrow, AT&T will join the “Day of Action” for preserving and advancing an open internet. This may seem like an anomaly to many people who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet. But that’s exactly the point – we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world. We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner. So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open internet and access to the internet content, applications and devices of their choosing.
For more than a decade, whether under a Democratic or Republican administration, AT&T has supported the need for clear and enforceable open internet rules. We supported the efforts of Republican FCC Chairmen to introduce the nation’s first Open Internet Principles. And we welcomed FCC Chairman Genachowski’s Open Internet Order in 2010 and testified before Congress, as a Democratic witness, in support of it.
AT&T has long embraced this bipartisan regulatory approach because it has advanced internet freedom and openness without sacrificing innovation, investment and rapid growth throughout our nation’s online ecosystem. With its 2010 Open Internet Order, the FCC tackled the core issues of blocking, throttling, and anti-competitive paid prioritization that stood at the center of the open internet debate and addressed the prominent concerns of online consumers.
Unfortunately, in 2015, then-FCC Chairman Wheeler abandoned this carefully crafted framework and instead decided to subject broadband service to an 80-year-old law designed to set rates in the rotary-dial-telephone era. Saddling modern broadband infrastructure and investment decisions with heavy-handed, outdated telephone regulations creates an environment of market uncertainty that does little to advance internet openness. Instead, it jeopardizes the prospects for continued innovation and robust growth we have witnessed since the internet’s creation.
The debate around an open internet has been going on for nearly 15 years. In the end, the issue is never really about what the rules should be or whether we should have an open internet. Rather, the debate focuses on whether open internet rules should derive from the 80-year-old Communications Act or some other theory of Congressional authority because the current law predates the internet. Instead of having this debate again, Congress should act now to provide the clear statutory authority that guarantees an open internet for all consumers.
On the eve of this “Day of Action,” AT&T reaffirms our support for an open internet based on protections that are fair and equal for everyone. We hope Congress can reach agreement on these principles and make those protections permanent.