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Mozilla exec calls on Congress to restore 2015 net neutrality protections

Mozilla in Europe/Flickr

Speaking before the U.S. Congress, Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Denelle Dixon urged legislators to undo the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality protections. “We need to protect net neutrality,” Dixon said in oral testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on Thursday, February 7, noting that the internet “needs to be treated as a public resource that is open and accessible to all.”

In its decision to repeal the protections of an open internet in 2017, the FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai, argued that the agency’s new framework would lead to a more open, cheaper internet for all. However, in looking at recent examples, like Verizon’s decision to throttle internet speeds used by California firefighters’ mobile command center because of overage, Representative Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., argued that the FCC’s repeal had hurt consumers, businesses, and public safety. After being throttled while fighting what was described as one of the worst wildfires in the history of the state, California firefighters could not call FCC representatives to reinstate their internet speeds because of the rule change, and instead they had to go through the Federal Trade Commission to file their grievances. And because the terms of use were spelled out, there was nothing that the United States government could do to help in that instance.

Beyond public safety, legislators also touched on a recent study that found many internet providers throttling bandwidth-heavy streaming services, like YouTube and Netflix. Dixon argued that without net neutrality protections, small businesses would be hurt by dominant industry players and competition would be stifled.

“We need an internet where small businesses can flourish by delivering what users want, finding the gaps and opportunities not being served by the market today,” Dixon said. “I am certain that Mozilla would not be here today without net neutrality. And if you look around the tech industry, you hear the same origin story, time and time again”

Dixon’s and Mozilla’s solution is to restore the protections of the 2015 order through litigation. “We understand the value of a legislative solution to provide lasting protections, but any effort must offer, at the very least, protections that are as strong as the 2015 order, with adequate and flexible authority for the FCC to enforce it,” Dixon argued. “Anything less is a disservice to consumers.”

The subcommittee’s hearing on net neutrality comes just after Motherboard reported that mobile carriers had sold location information from customers to bounty hunters and other third parties because internet privacy regulation is essentially broken.

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