Feb 12, 2018, 10:54 AM ET

Net neutrality's end lets internet service providers 'almost direct what you see': FCC member

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A Federal Communications Commission member who opposed the panel's recent repeal of net neutrality rules for the internet said she is "absolutely worried" about the change that she said allows internet service providers to “almost direct what you see."

Mignon L. Clyburn, a Democratic commissioner on the FCC, told ABC News, “I’m worried, I’m absolutely worried,” after the agency voted in December to rescind net neutrality regulations imposed in 2015 under President Barack Obama to govern how internet service providers treat content and data.

“The world is watching everything we do ... People are watching. If they see that we’re allowing companies to do as they will, the FCC will no longer be the cop on the beat,” she said during a conversation at Nexus Global's USA Summit with ABC News’ David Kerley.

Net neutrality means ‘you are in control’

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers treat all content equally and not give preference to some digital content providers. That means the consumer can load every website, app, video or .gif equally, regardless of who hosts the content.

Under President Obama, the FCC voted in February 2015 to classify consumer broadband service as a public utility under Title II Order of the 1934 Communications Act.

PHOTO: Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission Mignon L. Clyburn appears at the 31st Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner, Sept. 17, 2014, New York.Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Walter Kaitz Foundation
Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission Mignon L. Clyburn appears at the 31st Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner, Sept. 17, 2014, New York.

Clyburn told Kerley at the summit that under the Title II framework, “You, not the government, not an internet service provider, you are in control through the most empowering tool of our time."

“No matter how much we advance, you need to be protected,” she told the audience at the event. “Internet service providers should not be your gateway or the key to the internet," and the FCC should “be the referee on the field.”

‘People are just so aware’ of the issue

The FCC’s rollback of the net neutrality rules was met with controversy, with critics saying the reversal could lead to the creation of different speed lanes for certain websites or content creators, with higher prices for faster speeds -- and consumers incurring higher costs for internet use.

Clyburn said net neutrality is crucial due to the internet’s importance to connecting the world.

“When you talk about how important connectivity and access to the world is, this is why this issue is so important," she said. "This is why people are just so aware, emotional, and expressive when it comes to net neutrality. It is a building block. It is us growing and exploring and advancing through that foundation.”

Without net neutrality, she said, internet service providers “can almost direct what you see or make sure there are certain things you don’t see that is not in their economic or political advantage.”

PHOTO: A view of the commissions hearing room before a hearing at the Federal Communications Commission, Dec. 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
A view of the commission's hearing room before a hearing at the Federal Communications Commission, Dec. 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

“No matter how much we advance, you need to be protected,” she told the audience. “Internet service providers should not be your gateway or the key to the internet," adding, that the FCC should “be the referee on the field.”

Innovation and net neutrality

Supporters of rescinding the Obama-era rules said the move will allow greater innovation.

Clyburn took issue with that argument, saying, “The most aggressive amount of innovation, of infrastructure investment happened under a Title II framework.”

“From 1993 until 2009 we have seen $271 billion worth of investment when it comes to mobile broadband,” she said. “Our framework in Title II is the strongest legal authority we have to make sure that investment flows.”

States are challenging the FCC ruling

The FCC member noted that many states are fighting the FCC decision.

PHOTO: A supporter of net neutrality protests outside a Federal Building in Los Angeles, Nov. 28, 2017. Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images
A supporter of net neutrality protests outside a Federal Building in Los Angeles, Nov. 28, 2017.

“There are 22 states that are going to challenge us,” she said. “Pay attention to what they are doing.”

“There are opportunities to talk to local lawmakers and officials,” she added. “This is about the FCC’s ability to encourage infrastructure investment and what that means to those communities that are going to be negatively impacted by us pulling away from Title II.”

“The battle is not over. The FCC does not have the final word, and I am so happy for that."

ABC News’ Jeffrey Cook contributed to this report.

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  • kdardis

    I'm 100% for Net Neutrality, but coupling the argument with "free speech" doesn't work. Nobody is impeding any person's words or program from being distributed. The only impediment is you may not be able to say what you want on a particular ISP's system. That doesn't prevent you from having your say elsewhere.

  • sjc_1

    Wait until Netflix blocks and buffers, you will have 100 million ticked off voters.

  • LewTwo

    With the current Trumped up administration, the consumer has no rights.
    They are considered a burden to the economy.

  • JDC1

    This is so vague, and most folks have no idea how any of this works. ISP’s might have the ability to throttle data, but it’s not the ISP’s that are the problem. Search engines like Google and Bing have been controlling what you see for quite some time. When you google a political issue pay attention to the AMP thumbnails. Not only do they control what you see, they control how you see it. The first 5 AMP articles will almost always push extremely left. The algorithm is supposed to be open and fair, but it is not. WaPo, NYT, and Politico will almost always be in the top 5. In most cases all three.

  • Etkin

    Interesting.. Freedom is becoming limited slowly in various ways. Your network will eventually become so limited that whatever you see on the internet will eventually become only national, then local... Considering this type of stuff can happen, you'd even have to pay for having an individual opinion about something or being critical about something. Otherwise you'd be breaking the law or become a serious threat? The only freedom there will be is for programmed bots to make opinions instead of real people. Might as well disable freedom of speech for real people and implement bots to act on behalf of the people and sway public opinion they see fit. What has Freedom come down to? Hopefully this is not the case and I'm just absolutely wrong. I hope I'm wrong about that ofcourse. I still put my trust into the goodness of individuals to allow enough freedom for the people.

    People should always have the right to express opinions and be able of individual critical thinking regardless of disagreements on certain issues. Might as well lock us up for speaking out loud. Where is the power of the people nowadays? Can we have that back please? Does the opinions of the people matter at all today? Or are we just being skipped?

  • AG99

    Net neutrality is literally "pay to play." Those with the most money will have the loudest (fastest) voices. Your opinion will be bought for you.

  • Pat Dunne

    You have to be pretty naive not to see that censorship is the underlying reason this bill was passed. Soon the internet will be devoid of any criticize of Israels illegal occupation of Palestine and all Russian sites will be blacked out in the USA.
    Welcome to the new "Fake News" world .

  • Holmes

    Why doesn't Donald just rewrite the Constitution and claim how wonderful it is for ordinary Americans while robbing us all blind?

  • James Renn

    Trump and his clowns want business to run and control it, ofcourse, it means more profit for them and censorship when they want it..I guess we really are supposed to be so stupid as not to see this.

  • Dinoboy

    Net neutrality did not exist from the creation of the internet until 2015. I think we will be ok if the government does not manage it, they will still make sure laws and regulations are followed. Funny how all of a sudden the left wants the government ruling over something.

  • Ctrygrl

    “From 1993 until 2009 we have seen $271 billion worth of investment when
    it comes to mobile broadband,” she said. “Our framework in Title II is
    the strongest legal authority we have to make sure that investment
    flows.”

    This pretty much blows the investment argument out of the water. What ISP's will invest in now is capability to block or slow down websites so they can charge people money to see popular things they want to watch, like your cable or dish company does with TV. What is more chilling is the capability to block sites from showing up on searches no one knows all the sites out there so if a site doesn't show on a search almost no one would notice. This capability to totally control what we see on the internet is the scariest part and we quite likely would never know the difference until it was too late,

  • Educated

    ....Trump and the Republicans don't want net neutrality.....This is another reason why we must turnout in November to mitigate their damage.

  • mik8888

    Like it or not, she has a very valid point...while I expect that much of what we experience on the web will not noticably change, there is a real possibility that a service provider would divert you when you are surfing...think it's small, think it's big, I don't care...removing the protection will cause problems in the furture...

  • LJ Fillmon

    WOW. I should have known this was a lib hangout. Bye bye

  • LJ Fillmon

    Another anti-Trumper. They are against anything he does, even if he tried making sure broken glass wasn't in baby food jars. No, no, we can't have that.

  • John Springer

    What she says is not true. Net neutrality is a backwards stance.

  • gbgentleman

    I pay for my internet connection. I pay for a certain amount of broadband speed. What gives an ISP the right to choose what I download within my bandwidth I'm already paying them for?

  • Emma Lou #2

    thank goodness there is a voice for righteousness on the fcc. no net neutrality means go back to expensive phone bills.

  • john hurley

    Foreign and domestic Militants claim the right to use your wireless devices including the Internet, cell phones, home phones, and email to demand money from US Citizens. They insist Americans owe debts, won a lottery, or should send funds to a charity. The term "net neutrality" simply is a deception to cover cheap scams to pilfer your cash.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    Why is this administration so keen on controlling the media and public discourse? It is the beginning of totalitarianism. Sounds innocuous now... but once the real impact is clear enough for the masses to see, it will be too late.

  • Alex Ross

    SAD. When the headline "WH abuses..." is the new lying Trump normal.

  • B. S.

    If the Dem strategists were smart they would use this as one of the focal points for 2018. People would be outraged to find out that their internet is about to be seriously screwed with so that they can be nickel and dimed by corporations.

    Unfortunately the Dem strategists are completely incompetent and can't win a single policy argument despite being on the right side the majority of the time.

  • JBump

    How this passed is beyond me. Payoffs and promises is the only explanation.

  • TheTyrannyOfTheMajority

    "Net Neutrality" was anything but neutral. It put a bunch of DC bureaucrats in charge of the internet--bureaucrats deciding who should get what and under what circumstances.

    The Internet has grown, thrived and the technology advanced amazingly for 25+ years in the free market without the heavy hand of Government.

  • Rubber Banned

    Another example of the Trump administration selling the US govt to corporate interests.

  • RichardBroderickJr

    Won't it be great when the most hated entities, the cable companies, can censor your internet?

    If this ticks you off, the send the Trump corporate party a message. In 9 months Vote Out Every Republican on the ballot.

  • Alex Ross

    More Trump the Dictator media rules. SAD president