Federal net neutrality protections officially ended on June 11, 2018, but American Oversight is going to continue to investigate and request documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about this decision. Even though Chairman Ajit Pai promised an open and transparent rulemaking process, news reports and documents we uncovered revealed that Pai and other FCC officials worked closely with telecom trade associations and large internet companies to develop the commission’s policies for the future of internet access.
Pai has declined to publicly discuss the details of those meetings, so American Oversight sought to gain insight via the Freedom of Information Act. Our investigation obtained Pai’s and other senior officials’ calendar entries of meetings concerning net neutrality. Pai’s calendars showed a number of previously unreported meetings with the telecommunications industry and corporations that benefited from the dismantling of net neutrality, including Cisco, AT&T, and Oracle.
American Oversight also uncovered emails showing the FCC pushed a phony story about a “cyber attack” on the online comment system the FCC used to solicit comments about net neutrality. Several U.S. senators have demanded that Pai explain what really happened with the comments solicitation process, and we’re still asking the FCC to provide additional details in response to our FOIA request.
Despite the termination of net neutrality at the federal level, states such as California and Maine have since implemented their own policies — policies that are increasingly under attack by the Trump administration. In February 2020, the White House released the Economic Report of the President, which claimed that the decision to end net neutrality would eventually increase incomes and “consumer welfare by almost $40 billion per year.” Vice reported that several experts had concluded that “the study is one of the most misleading government tech policy reports they’d ever seen.”
The public has a right to know the full story about the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections. The documents we’ve uncovered so far are posted below, and we’ll continue to update this investigation as we learn more.