On the eve of the Senate Commerce Committee's oversight hearing with the three FCC commissioners March 8, more than 170 groups have joined in a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai and the committee's leadership -- a Republican chair and ranking member -- calling on them to protect net neutrality.
By protecting net neutrality -- which both sides favor as a concept under their own definitions -- the groups mean specifically the FCC's reclassification of ISPs as Title II common carriers subject to some of those rules and regs.
The groups run the gamut from 18 to Y (the A-Z list actually starts with “18MillionRising.org” and ends with “Young Women United”) and includes such wide ranging groups as the Writers Guild of America West, the Benton Foundation, MoveOn.org, Public Knowledge and the official-sounding U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, which is actually a "grassroots action network inciting creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging."
“The FCC's reclassification of broadband under Title II has empowered the Latino community and allowed us to foster entrepreneurship, authentic storytelling, and participate in politics," said Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs for one of the signatories, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, "all without being beholden to the traditional internet gatekeepers."
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said reclassifying ISPs was necessary both so that the rules would pass muster with a federal court that threw out its initial attempt at such rules, but also because ISPs were gatekeepers with the opportunity and incentive to discriminate against their competitors.
The letter-writers urged Pai and Congress "to oppose legislation and regulatory actions that would threaten net neutrality and roll back the important protections put in place by the FCC in 2015, and to continue to enforce the Open Internet Order as it stands."
If the principal choir is two out of three FCC commissioners, including the chairman, and the Republicans in control of the committee, those groups are not preaching to it.
Republicans in Congress may try to roll back Title II-based net neutrality rules via the Congressional Review Act or legislation, if Pai does not beat them to the punch by coming up with his own legal argument for returning ISPs to Title I status. Pai has already said he thinks the FCC's authority over broadband privacy should be returned to the Federal Trade Commission, which would require reversing the Title II classification since the FTC is prohibited from regulating common carrier privacy.