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December 14, 2017

Comcast executive: Congress must protect net neutrality

Internet Net Neutrality
Comcast Center Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Comcast Center in Center City.

A controversial Federal Communications Commission vote along party lines to roll back sweeping Obama-era "net neutrality" rules on Thursday will not actually mark an end to net neutrality, a Comcast executive asserted this week.

In fact, Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen urged Congress on Thursday to pass legislation that would "permanently preserve and solidify net neutrality protections for consumers."

In a post to the company's corporate blog, Cohen called for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to put together a law that would protect the internet and consumers, as well as "provide ongoing certainty" to internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

Under the rules voted down, 3-2, service providers were classified as a Title II communication service – which essentially treated ISPs as a public utility and subjected them to a higher level of regulation – and barred from controlling what people see and do online.

Democrats, web companies and other net neutrality advocates blasted the Republican-controlled FCC's decision.

New York's attorney general said Thursday afternoon that he would lead a multistate lawsuit to block the repeal.

But Cohen criticized such a move, saying, "We should stop the litigation and legislative threats by the party not in control of the FCC."

"Now is the time for both sides of the aisle to come to the table, have a civil discussion, and produce a legislative product that enshrines durable and enforceable net neutrality rules," he added.

Cohen dismissed critics' arguments that the repeal could mean big changes in how we use the internet.

"There is a lot of misinformation that this is the 'end of the world as we know it' for the Internet," Cohen wrote in an earlier post on Wednesday, echoing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's stance that the vote would eliminate "heavy-handed government regulation."

Cohen, also the corporation's chief diversity officer, stressed that Comcast's internet service would not change and that customers would not be blocked or kept from viewing any legal content on the web.

He also stated the company has no plans to implement Internet "fast lanes," which would mean additional charges for access to higher network speeds.

"Today’s vote by the FCC to restore Internet freedom and reverse the burdensome threat of Title II regulation is a positive step toward ensuring that the Internet is governed via sensible, transparent, light-touch regulatory policies and procedures," Cohen wrote.