Fight for Net Neutrality

The world responds to the U.S. FCC vote against Net Neutrality

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission today voted to dismantle the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order which required internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally. Access Now condemns the FCC’s actions to repeal these rules, which are necessary to keep the internet an open, neutral platform for free expression and innovation. Repeal is an attack on human rights in the U.S. and around the world. And the world is responding.

Below find statements from more than a dozen open internet advocates and rights organizations outside the U.S. that provide insight on the global impact of the FCC’s decision to end Net Neutrality protections.

This order brazenly prioritizes the profits of internet middlemen over the health of the internet ecosystem and the freedom of internet users. We’re very disappointed to see this abdication by the U.S. of its leadership in internet governance. We hope that other, more professionally governed countries see this not as an example to follow but as a cautionary tale about corruption, revolving doors and regulatory capture.”

Aravind Ravi-Sulekha, Internet Freedom Foundation (India)

Net Neutrality as a principle ensures freedom of speech and expression online. Tampering with the principle of Net Neutrality therefore is an unacceptable interference in basic human rights and freedoms that governments should be protecting — not only for their own citizens, but to stand up for human rights on the internet worldwide.”

Nadim Nashif, Director, 7amleh (Palestine/Israel)

Stop the rent-seeking of network operators. Stop gentrification of the internet. Without Net Neutrality, the internet’s social significance and equalizing of people’s power to access and disseminate information will be lost; network operators will be quick to nip in the bud the startups and power users as soon as the telcos notice their popularity, traffic increase, and profits that the telcos try to levy on. Despite all their talk of free-riding, every node on the Net is already paying for its connection, from individuals to giant platforms. It is the telcos that have done free-riding by charging both sides when connecting them to each other.”   

Kyung Sin Park, Director, Open Net Korea (South Korea)

Violations of Net Neutrality in Iran are part of the government’s efforts at censorship. While the government often cannot prevent Iranians from acquiring circumvention tools to access censored platforms such as YouTube, they apply zero-rating policies for access to local YouTube alternatives such as Aparat, paying half as much, accessing a platform that actively implements government censorship of content. When confronted by Iranian internet users on this new affront to net freedom, Iran’s Minister of ICT simply shared a link to AT&T’s ‘sponsored data program.’ This is what American violations of Net Neutrality have become — a reference point for repressive governments.”

Mahsa Alimardani, ARTICLE19 (Iran Division)

“The internet must be free, open, and preserve the rights of all the users, without any kind of discrimination or repression or censorship of their rights. It was never intended as a tool to give power to IAPs or ISPs to be a ‘gatekeeper,’ privileging certain users or blocking others based on business or governmental interests.  Let’s safeguard Net Neutrality!

Houssem Kaabi, President, International Institute of Debate (Tunisia)

“Once again the U.S. is about to serve as a bad model. After pulling out from the climate agreement, the U.S. is about to remove Net Neutrality protections, and this is despite opposition from rights groups, tech companies, and users. However, over the past year we have seen some progress with more governments adopting policies that support Net Neutrality. Only few weeks ago, India’s telecom regulator endorsed Net Neutrality. In Tunisia, where until early 2011 the government heavily censored the internet, the telecom regulator endorsed Net Neutrality on more than one occasion. Whether the FCC removes Net Neutrality protections or not, the fight for an open and free internet will continue worldwide.”

Afef Abrougi, MENA Advocacy Editor, Global Voices (Tunisia/the Netherlands)

“Today the country with the largest share of the global internet economy has entered into a dangerous experiment. By abolishing the rules that protect the innovation of its startups and the free speech of its citizens, the benefits of mankind’s greatest invention — the internet — are put in jeopardy in exchange for short-term gains for a few telecoms companies. We hope this historic mistake will be corrected and eventually pave the way for real legislative protection of Net Neutrality in the United States.

Thomas Lohninger, Executive Director, (Austria)

“I understand that for those who have never experienced difficulties accessing the internet, who do not comprehend what communicating freely online means, who have never had to deal with blocked access or a slow internet, and have not fought discrimination, Net Neutrality does not mean much. I understand that for those who have never experienced internet slowdowns, or seen the internet as an important tool for communication, organizing, and discussion, Net Neutrality does not mean much. But for all of us out there, who do care about access, who often deal with the slow internet, and blocked online content, Net Neutrality is not just another bill. For many of us, we already rely on companies and pay exorbitant fees to have better speed, or better services — and this should not and cannot be the case. Everyone should and must have access to the internet they want to use and no one — especially not the cable and phone companies — should be calling the shots or closing down the network that is a pathway to innovation, a platform of voice for the voiceless, for marginalized communities, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, for religious minorities, and for so many others who have found a voice online.”

Arzu Geybulla, freelance journalist (Azerbaijan/Turkey)

“Today’s decision shows how fragile Net Neutrality protections can be. Even in the E.U. where we have binding rules, we continue hearing largely unsubstantiated claims from certain parts of the telecoms industry that Net Neutrality will undermine investments or the development of 5G. However, Net Neutrality is key in protecting users’ right to free expression online as well as promoting competition in the online environment. In this way, Net Neutrality is crucial for the success of the E.U. digital single market which is why Europe must continue protecting this principle and ensuring a robust and harmonized enforcement of the rules.”

Estelle Masse, Senior Policy Analyst,  Access Now

“As a Dutch digital civil rights organization, we are extremely worried about the rollback of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules in the United States. This will have a negative impact on the freedom of expression of internet users in the United States, but also on the innovative character of the internet world wide. It’s for similar reasons that Bits of Freedom is fighting hard to ensure an effective enforcement of European Net Neutrality rules in the Netherlands.”

Rejo Zenger, Policy Advisor, Bits of Freedom (the Netherlands)

“The internet is a public infrastructure, however private the ownership of its constituent parts may be. Therefore freedom of expression, privacy, and innovation die when network operators and not the marketplace of ideas get to decide what speech has value, what innovations should thrive, all while such judgment calls can only be made by network operators if they monitor every packet of information exchanged through the internet.”

Vrijschrift (the Netherlands)

“Internet – neutrality = Intranet (a partial Internet)”

Leandro Navarro, Pangea (Spain)

“The ending of Net Neutrality in the U.S. could be the beginning of the end of the open, interoperable, free internet. It is now a question of how much, not if, freedom of expression online will be undermined around the world as a result of this short-sighted decision to enrich the entrenched near-monopolies who control internet access in the United States.”

Quinn McKew, Deputy Executive Director, ARTICLE 19 (The United Kingdom)

“The internet doesn’t have borders — this ruling hurts people everywhere. Though it applies to ISPs inside the United States, all internet users and business will be affected. If you’re a small business selling to U.S. customers, or you spend a lot of time watching shows or visiting U.S. websites, prepare for much worse connectivity unless someone coughs up ransom money to Comcast or Verizon.”

Katy Anderson, Digital Rights Advocate, OpenMedia (Canada)

“Americans aren’t the only ones who would be harmed by a U.S. decision to repeal Net Neutrality rules. Should Washington decide to introduce anti-internet freedom policies at home, it would be giving the green light to repressive countries like Iran to continue applying the same policies. No country holds the moral authority to tell other countries what to do, including the U.S. But as the most economically advanced country in the world, what the U.S. does produces a ripple effect through the rest of the world. The internet is the most valuable invention of the 20th century, and we should all be fighting to keep it free. As the birthplace of the internet, the U.S. should be carrying the torch on Net Neutrality, not following in the footsteps of autocrats.”

— Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights in Iran (Iran)