Maintaining an open and accessible Internet is one of the most important free speech issues of our time. An open Internet is one that allows users to explore the web, find and respond to information, and share their opinions without discrimination or censorship by the Internet Service Providers who carry their speech. The only clear way to ensure a truly open Internet is through “Net Neutrality” rules that prevent ISPs from acting as gatekeepers to the digital world.
Fortunately, in February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted to maintain the rules that keep Internet access open and free by issuing the “Open Internet Order” (also known as the Net Neutrality decision). The Order voted to reclassify ISPs as “common carriers” under the Communications Act of 1934. That means that ISPs are now designated as common carriers, just like companies that provide phone lines, cable service, and other utilities that we believe everyone has a right to enjoy. In the modern age, it’s a no-brainer that these protections should extend to the Internet — our 21st Century soapbox.
Following the FCC’s Order, several ISPs filed a lawsuit challenging the Net Neutrality rules, arguing that the rules unconstitutionally limit their ability to interfere with the online content that their users seek and create. But we at the ACLU believe that the real First Amendment rights here belong to the people — the countless online users who have the right to access and share digital speech regardless of whether their ISP approves of it. That’s why, along with our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the ACLU filed an amicus brief in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC defending the Open Internet Order as a victory for free speech.
For years, we at the ACLU have been advocating for an open Internet in Congress and the courts. Net Neutrality is a crucial part of our fight to ensure that our First Amendment rights are consistently protected – on and offline.