by Brandon Todd
Last week at City Hall, I chaired a Public Roundtable on the subject of Net Neutrality. The goal of the roundtable was to better inform District residents on what net neutrality is and what the repeal might mean for customers, students, and small businesses. We heard testimony from a number of witnesses, including members of the public, subject matter experts from a range of institutions, and government officials.
As Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Government Operations, which has oversight of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, issues regarding technology and the internet are very important to me. I know net neutrality is a top concern for many Ward 4 residents, as well.
As you may know, net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. In 2015, rules were promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required internet service providers to treat all data that runs through their virtual “pipes” equally. On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of repealing Net Neutrality.
Prior to the repeal, Mayor Bowser joined the mayors of 50 cities in submitting a letter urging the FCC to maintain the current rules protecting the free and open internet. Since the repeal, there have been a number of actions in response. The District’s Attorney General joined a lawsuit filed by the Attorneys General of 22 states seeking to block the FCC’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality regulations. PR22-691, the Sense of the Council Opposing the Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules Resolution of 2017, was introduced on December 19, 2017. Unanimously co-introduced by the entire Council and referred to Committee on Government Operations, PR22-691 declares the sense of the Council that the District strongly opposes the repeal of Net Neutrality Rules, because it would cause harm to a free and open Internet, infringe on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and equal access to information, and create an uneven playing field for small businesses.
I thank all the witnesses who testified and helped inform the ongoing debate about net neutrality in the District. I look forward to continuing the conversation and protecting the best interests of DC residents.