12.12.14

Leahy Responds to Internet Service Providers' Failure to Pledge Not to Engage in Internet Fast Lanes

As FCC Considers Net Neutrality Proposals,
Leahy Responds to Internet Service Providers’
Failure to Pledge Not to Engage in Internet Fast Lanes

WASHINGTON (Friday, December 12, 2014) –As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to approve updated open Internet rules, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) criticized several of the nation’s leading Internet service providers for failing to pledge not to engage in “paid prioritization” deals through which websites could be charged for priority access over the Internet.  In October, Leahy sent letters to the leaders of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Charter Communications calling on them to make such a pledge to protect their customers and promote competition online.

“We need meaningful pledges from our Nation’s broadband providers that they share the American public’s commitment to an Internet that remains open and equally accessible to all,” Leahy said. “In October, I wrote to the major Internet service providers asking them to make exactly that commitment. They all maintained that they do not currently plan to engage in paid prioritization; an assertion I welcome.  What they did not do was answer my call for a firm commitment that they will never engage in that behavior in the absence of clear rules prohibiting such deals.”

“This is disappointing,” Leahy continued. “The concern over a pay-to-play Internet that advantages the largest corporations over smaller players is very real.  I was disappointed that some Internet service providers in their responses brushed aside these concerns dismissively.  It is not ‘demagoguery,’ as Verizon suggested in its response, when small business owners like Cabot Orton of the Vermont Country Store say that they simply want to see an Internet that continues to treat all businesses equally.  It is not a ‘phantasm’ when independent content creators like actress Ruth Livier acknowledge that they would not have been able to start their websites if they had to pay for priority access to reach viewers online, or compete against players who did.  These are real concerns, shared by millions of Americans.  Their voices should not be casually and callously dismissed because they cannot afford to pay lobbyists to advocate on their behalf at the FCC.”

In his statement, Leahy also recognized Comcast for supporting legislation he introduced with Representative Doris Matsui that would require the FCC to ban paid prioritization rules.

Leahy has been one of the leading voices in the Senate on net neutrality issues.  He chaired hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee in July and September on the need to keep the Internet open to all Americans, and chaired a hearing concerning the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner in April.  In June, he introduced bicameral legislation with Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) that would ban paid prioritization arrangements. 

A copy of Senator Leahy’s letters to Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Charter Communications can be found online. The responses are also available online.  Leahy’s full remarks in the Senate follow.

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