On Feb. 7, 2019, Brookings Visiting Fellow Tom Wheeler testified before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. In his testimony, Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), argued in support of net neutrality. The Trump FCC has eliminated the net neutrality rules that were previously in place.
In his testimony, Wheeler made the following key points:
- Net neutrality is not a new concept, dating back to English common law, and has been the organizing policy principle to protect against the abuse of gateway services.
- The 2015 Open Internet Order extended those principles to the most important network of the 21st century with the flexibility necessary to assure continued relevance as technology evolves.
- The Trump FCC not only repudiated those principles, but also washed its hands of oversight of this essential network, transferring such responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), despite its much more limited powers.
Wheeler told the committee, “The public interest that is inherent in open and non-discriminatory networks has been well established for over half a millennium. The Congress of the United States has historically protected the public interest over the self-interest of the powerful. The 2015 Open internet Order attempted to carry forward that mandate, based on existing statutory authority. To walk away from that responsibility, regardless of the rationale concocted as justification, is to walk away from what is not only a basic responsibility to the consumers of America and the function of a competitive and innovative marketplace, but also to turn your back on the lessons of history.”