After Being AWOL From The Fight For Years, Google & Facebook To Fund Lawsuits Over Net Neutrality

Not surprisingly, the Internet Association has stated that the organization intends to participate in the looming lawsuits against the FCC for its repeal of net neutrality. The group, which represents countless tech companies including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Etsy and more, stated that the organization will not only participate in the coming lawsuits (which should arrive shortly after the repeal hits the Federal Register), but would support a “legislative solution” to help make net neutrality permanent (though as we’ve noted, folks should be careful on that front):

“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers. This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution.”

To be clear, that’s a good thing. These upcoming lawsuits, which will focus on the FCC’s blatant disregard for objective data and public interest, are going to need all the help they can get. Said suits will focus extensively on how Ajit Pai and the FCC ignored the nation’s startups, the people who built the internet, and any and all objective data as it rushed to give a sloppy, wet kiss to the nation’s entrenched telecom monopolies.

That said, several IA member companies’ dedication to net neutrality has been anything but consistent. Google, while often touted as a “net neutrality advocate,” hasn’t truly supported the concept since 2009 or so. As the company pushed into fixed (Google Fiber) and wireless (Project Fi, Android) broadband, its interest in rules that truly protected consumers from duopoly market abuse in the sector magically disappeared. And Google worked with AT&T and Verizon to help craft FCC net neutrality protections in 2010 that were so packed with loopholes as to be largely useless (they didn’t even cover wireless networks).

Other IA members like Facebook have actively worked to undermine net neutrality overseas as they attempt to corner the ad market in developing nations. Facebook received ample criticism for its behavior in India specifically, when the company tried to trick citizens into supporting Facebook’s push for a zero-rated walled garden platform dubbed “Free Basics.” India ultimately banned such zero rating efforts under its own net neutrality rules, supporting Mozilla’s position that if Facebook is so concerned about the Indian poor, it should help fund access to the entire internet — and not just a Facebook-curated walled garden.

Even Netflix, perhaps the most vocal and deep-pocketed support of net neutrality, has softened its position on the subject as it has grown more powerful. Company CEO Reed Hastings recently proclaimed that network neutrality was SOP (somebody else’s problem) now that the company is large enough and wealthy enough to fight off anti-competitive behavior by the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast:

“The Trump FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what anybody says,” Hastings argues. He might believe that net neutrality is “important for society,” but his company, Netflix, isn’t in trouble so it’s not going to get into the fight. “We had to carry the water when we were growing up and we were small,” Hastings said. “Other companies have to be on that leading edge.”

That’s a painfully myopic read of the situation, and one Netflix has been forced to walk back from after ample criticism for its tone-deafness. Or at least, the company has been more vocal about its “support” of net neutrality on Twitter, for whatever that winds up being worth in the face of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast lobbying muscle.

All of that said, the IA has a broad roster of countless smaller members, like Etsy, who have been perfectly consistent about their support for net neutrality. That support remains completely intact, according to a statement released by the company:

“The FCC’s decision to overturn net neutrality rules was deeply disappointing for those of us who have fought so hard for the strong protections that enable millions of microbusinesses to start and grow online. Under the FCC’s new proposal, millions of small business, like Etsy’s 1.9 million sellers, could find themselves in the internet slow lane or blocked altogether.”

Again, it’s great that some of Facebook, Google and Netflix’s money will be used to help fund the fight against the repeal. But if these Silicon Valley giants hadn’t decided to take a nap during this latest fight to protect the rules, we might not be in this position in the first place.

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