New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is urging the Federal Communications Commission to vote in favor of implementing strong net neutrality rules when it convenes tomorrow. In an op-ed at The Huffington Post, de Blasio writes that he views the internet as "fundamental" to solving income equality, which he calls the "greatest challenge of our time." Ensuring that the internet remains equal and open, he writes, is particularly important for those with lower incomes who could otherwise be kept back from accessing content that they need to learn, apply for jobs, or operate a business.
"More and more each day, the internet ... is turning into a basic utility."
"Major media companies shouldn't be gatekeeping our internet access — speeding up some content, blocking other — simply because they're able to pay for it," de Blasio writes. "The FCC must not allow mega firms to stifle innovation, competition, and public goods through exorbitant price points for the speeds that drive the 21st century economy."
This is not the first time that de Blasio has come out in support of net neutrality rules, but he's now delivering a strong, final push ahead of tomorrow's vote. The proposal that'll be voted on is one that de Blasio is very much in favor of. He calls it a "momentous milestone" and commends FCC chairman Tom Wheeler for putting it forward. The mayor is also clear about his view that the plan to reclassify internet services under Title II, which would treat them like utilities, is appropriate and necessary. "More and more each day, the internet — like electricity — is turning into a basic utility," he writes. "And this critical resource should be treated as such."
What's particularly interesting about the letter is a second issue that de Blasio touches on but does not strongly call out: municipal broadband. The FCC is also voting on a proposal that would allow cities to build their own broadband networks even in states that have laws preventing them from doing so. While New York City does not appear to face restrictions, de Blasio writes that he commends the steps toward allowing cities to build a network should they choose. "We must have affordable broadband," he writes at one point in the letter.
The mayor decries the lack of options for getting internet service, pointing out that Comcast and Time Warner Cable dominate wired connections and Verizon and AT&T dominate wireless connections. "Internet access is now essentially controlled by four companies," he writes. "...That's why we need the right rules safeguarding the fast and open internet. Access to it shouldn't be a luxury only available to the privileged few."
Basically, it's going to be a big day for the FCC tomorrow, and yet another major figure is pushing for it to get the job done. It looks like that's going to happen, with most expecting the proposal to pass in spite of the Republican commissioners' objections. You can read the entirety of de Blasio's op-ed over at The Huffington Post.