Verizon claims FCC is not reversing net neutrality rules two days after FCC chairman suggests it is

Craig Stillman, Verizon’s general counsel, discusses the company’s support for net neutrality.
Craig Stillman, Verizon’s general counsel, discusses the company’s support for net neutrality.
Image: YouTube/Verizon (Screenshot)
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The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, laid out his plan to reverse key provisions of current net neutrality rules in a speech at the Newseum in Washington, DC, last Wednesday (April 26). The rules, which first went into place in 2010, require internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content; Pai believes they were established based on “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom,” and that they’re bad for business.

“It’s basic economics,” Pai said. “The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.”

Two days later, Verizon published a promotional video to its YouTube channel in which Craig Stillman, the company’s general counsel, said the FCC “is not talking about killing the net neutrality rules.”

“And in fact,” Stillman added, “not we nor any other ISP are asking [the FCC] to kill the open internet rules.”

Although Verizon has publicly said it supports net neutrality rules that keep ISPs from blocking or otherwise prioritizing web content, the company has also played a significant role in impeding the regulations. It sued the FCC in 2011, insisting it overturn certain net neutrality rules in the 2010 Open Internet Order, saying the agency was overstepping its legal authority.

“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority to impose potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations on broadband networks and services and on the Internet itself,” said Verizon’s general counsel at the time, Michael Glover, in a statement. The suit was filed at the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Verizon won that case in 2014 on the basis that the FCC, in its 2010 order, didn’t classify internet service providers as “common carriers,” essentially making them exempt from the regulations. The win was widely considered a sign that net neutrality in the US was doomed, but the FCC classified internet service providers as common carriers in 2015, making them subject to the regulations under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

“There are a lot of advocacy groups out there that fundraise on this issue,” Silliman said in the video. “So how do you fundraise? You stir people up with outrageous claims. Unfortunately, we live in a time where people have discovered, it doesn’t matter what’s true.”

Verizon did not respond to a request for a comment on the video.