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Mayors of America demand net neutrality protections… again

Put the letter on the pile next to the soiled #OneMoreVote petition

By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco

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More than 75 mayors and city officials across America this week signed a letter asking that the nation's net neutrality safeguards remain in place. Again.

The open letter is addressed to the four main Congressional leaders, and calls the controversial decision by the FCC to dismantle is own rules covering access to online content a "stark and unwarranted attack on our communities and residents."

The local leaders represent 43 million constituents, the letter noted, an increasing number of whom rely on broadband connectivity for their everyday lives. While highlighting "the transformative power of the internet," the missive pointed out that concern about the FCC's action was "shared and voiced in 13,000 pages of net neutrality complaints filed by millions of citizens and hundreds of community organizations and local leaders" but which the federal regulator "willfully ignored."

As such, the signatories put their "strong support" behind a proposal in front of Congress to reverse the FCC's order.

That Congressional Review Act resolution was also the focus of a broader campaign earlier this week by net neutrality activities, built around the social media hashtag #OneMoreVote: a reference to the fact that the proposal only needs one more vote to get past the threshold for approval in the Senate, a stepping stone to overturning the net neutrality repeal.

There's only one problem. This is not the first, or even the second letter that these mayors have sent on the matter. It is, in fact, the third in just seven months.

Three strikes

The first, sent in July 2017 and with 50 mayors signing, was addressed to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, and came shortly after the US watchdog's first vote to consider scrapping its own rules. It warned that the proposal "poses a significant risk of stifling American innovation and harming local economies across the country."

The second letter was also sent to Pai in December 2017, just after the FCC's proposal was formally approved in a 3-2 vote by the regulator's commissioners. There were 68 signatories, and the letter noted that they were "deeply disturbed by the commission’s efforts to preempt our ability to protect consumers and businesses in our communities." It urged Pai to reconsider.

This third one looks just as likely to have an impact as the last two.

And, just like the two previous protests over net neutrality, the most recent #OneMoreVote campaign has failed entirely to achieve its goal. As of Thursday afternoon, there is no additional vote for the CRA resolution, which makes you wonder what the point of continued protests is.

Not only is there no sign of the FCC leadership reversing its position, the increasingly partisan nature of the issue is only serving to make it intransigent. As fury against Pai and his fellow two Republican FCC commissioners continues, they are adopting increasingly partisan and rigid stances – leading to the peculiar situation where the head of a federal regulator covering telecoms policy is being celebrated in a way normally reserved for polarizing politicians.

Pai was actually awarded a ceremonial gun by the National Rifle Association (NRA) on stage at rightwing political conference CPAC last week, despite a long-standing ban on federal employees even being seen to take a political stance.

No amount of mayors letter or hashtags is going to unravel that level of determined – and divisive – patronage. The net neutrality repeal is scheduled to trigger in April. ®

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