June 13, 2016–Free speech, universal access, competitive provider choice, privacy, transparency, and openness, or net neutrality, are the planks of the 2016 Internet policy platform released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and 13 other public interest organizations. “The internet has extraordinary potential to help drive social change and improve the lives of so many so quickly. But the internet’s benefits haven’t been evenly distributed. To ensure that the internet serves all of our communities—and doesn’t further inequality or discrimination—communications policies must be rooted in the principles of free speech, access, choice, privacy, transparency and openness,” the platform says.
The platform includes an appeal for “all candidates to support the policy goals outlined below, and to appoint people who will advance these principles and stand up for internet users and those still struggling to get online.” The groups sent the platform “to the chairs of both parties and to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.” They noted that the Democratic and Republican parties are currently in the process of drafting their own policy priorities.
Among the specific issues the platform urges support for under the rubric of free speech are “[s]upport treating internet access providers as common carriers so they can’t block, throttle or discriminate against the communications of internet users” and “[p]ursue balanced copyright law with the strongest possible protections for freedom of expression and the platforms where that expression happens; oppose efforts to force internet intermediaries to monitor or police their users.”
Under the principle of universal access, the platform lists the following priorities: “Open up more spectrum for uses like next generation Wi-Fi so that growth in wireless broadband continues and affordable public Wi-Fi becomes widely accessible”; “[p]romote and safeguard community-based and municipal broadband networks, which promise low-cost options in communities where few or no other choices exist”; [c]hallenge state legislation that either prohibits or hinders communities’ ability to build their own networks”; “[c]ontinue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Universal Service Fund, including the Lifeline and E-Rate programs”; “[e]mphasize expanding broadband access and boosting affordability and adoption under these programs”; “[i]n addition to FCC and state universal service programs, explore other federal, state and local programs as well as market-based initiatives to lower users’ costs and expand the choices they have.”
To further the principle of competitive choice of providers, the platform says the FCC should “[o]ppose further consolidation of the few massive phone and cable companies that control access for the vast majority of Americans, both through FCC fulfillment of its public interest mandate and effective antitrust enforcement”; “[r]evisit policies that facilitate a wholesale market in ‘last mile’ broadband networks—with multiple access options available via a single pipe into homes and businesses”; “[r]emove other barriers to competition, often imposed by broadband incumbents, at both the middle and last mile of networks”; “[p]romote mobile broadband competition by taking a serious look at spectrum concentration; [and] act to reduce the stranglehold that the two largest carriers have over the most valuable spectrum—both in upcoming license auctions and in terms of what these companies already control today.”
To further the principle of privacy, the platform calls for Congress to “[r]escind provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act that fail to protect our rights and promote transparency and accountability”; “prioritize ending the FISA Amendments Act’s Section 702 collection of user data”; “[h]elp rein in Executive Order 12333, which is being used to indiscriminately collect masses of Internet data outside the U.S.—even when that data includes some communications by people inside the U.S.”; [o]ppose so-called cybersecurity legislation that indemnifies telecom providers, internet companies and social networks that turn over sensitive personal data to authorities”; “[o]ppose legal limits to encryption systems that make them vulnerable to backdoor hacks and other incursions by government authorities”; “[s]upport measures to ensure that companies that are not subject to existing federal data privacy laws are held to account for the ways they collect, use and share sensitive user information”; “[a]dvocate for changes to the federal government’s guidance for law enforcement agencies to eliminate discriminatory profiling from policing and surveillance”; and “[p]rotect the right of internet users to remain anonymous online so they can freely express their beliefs without fear of repression or discrimination.”
Under the transparency principle, the platform calls for the provision of information about government requests and orders for information from intermediaries about users and the enforcement of content-restriction policies. As for openness, the platform calls for defending “the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules and the agency’s decision to classify broadband internet access as a ‘telecommunications service’ under Title II of the Communications Act” and opposing “unreasonable practices, such as the use of punitive and unnecessary data caps and zero-rating schemes that favor the content and services of ISPs and their affiliates.”
The other organizations supporting the platform are 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, the Center for Rural Strategies, ColorOfChange, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, the Institute for Self-Reliance, the Media Mobilizing Project, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Native Public Media, Open Media and Information Companies Initiative (Open MIC), and United Church of Christ, OC, Inc. –Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org