Verizon Wireless and AT&T joined today's “Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality” organized by nonprofit Fight for the Future, surprising a number of industry watchers after spending significant resources to oppose a major element of the rules adopted by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the former Obama administration. While the second largest mobile service provider in the country previously announced its intentions to participate in the massive online protest, a number of advocacy groups remain skeptical about its motivations for doing so. AT&T Senior Vice President Bob Quinn recently argued that the firm supports legislation that would prevent online discrimination in the form of data throttling and blocking specific sources, with Verizon SVP Will Johnson mostly reiterating that sentiment earlier today, calling for true net neutrality legislation that should be enacted by the U.S. Congress.
The latter point is where telecom giants and other organizations and individuals participating in today's protest disagree, with Internet service providers (ISPs) arguing that the current net neutrality rules are ineffective and need to be replaced. The existing framework essentially depends on the FCC's interpretation of the Title II regulations from the Communications Act, allowing the federal agency to classify ISPs as utility providers under the 1934 law and prevent them from offering paid prioritization to their customers. Quinn claims that such practices are already prevented by the FCC's Open Internet Order from 2010, though proponents of the current rules argue that they aren't detrimental to the spirit of the open Internet and shouldn't make a difference to ISPs even if Quinn's argument is legitimate.
ISPs and the current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai disagree with that sentiment, claiming that the existing legislation discourages innovation and consequently hurts job growth in the country. Pai already formally proposed the repeal of the current rules in April and is expected to continue pursuing his agenda in the coming months, with some industry watchers predicting that the polarizing legal framework could be eliminated by the end of the year if the Trump-appointed Commissioner is successful in his endeavor. An update on the situation is expected to follow shortly.