June 11, 2019

Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Net Neutrality

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. President, today I’m joining my colleague Senator Markey on the floor to continue the fight for a free and open internet - what’s known as net neutrality. Exactly one year ago, the repeal of net neutrality orchestrated by Ajit Pai and the Trump FCC went into effect.

Let me explain what this is all about. Net neutrality -- the free and open internet -- says that once you have access to the internet, you get to go where you want, when you want and how you want. That’s the basic principle Senator Markey and I have been fighting for for more than a decade. He introduced the first real net neutrality legislation as a member of the House, and I introduced the first real legislation here in the Senate.

Somebody who’s watching at home might want to know what’s changed in the last year. Opponents of net neutrality might want those people to believe the sky hasn’t fallen, so everything must be A-OK.

But here’s the reality -- these changes that hurt consumers don’t come all at once, and that’s for a reason. Big cable companies count on making them in steady, creeping ways that go unnoticed. It’s death by a thousand inconveniences.

One example you’re already seeing: big carriers are selling so-called “unlimited” data plans that totally throw away the definition of the word “unlimited.” To understand the complicated limits on internet access in these newfangled “unlimited” plans, you practically need a graduate degree in big-cable legal jargon. Consumers might be forced to swallow hard and accept it, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. 

Big cable companies and entertainment giants are also reshaping their industries through mega-mergers. As big carriers merge, there’s less competition, and consumers have fewer choices. Some of those new mega-corporations also own the content they distribute, and they want it to reach as many consumers as possible. That means the internet is fracturing. Sign up for internet service with one company, and you’ll be able to see their preferred bundle of content in high-definition at top speeds. Want to go outside their bundle of websites and streaming services? You’ll have to pay a lot more.

That’s a bad deal for consumers who ought to be able to access what they want and when they want. It’s also a nightmare for startup companies who won’t be able to afford special treatment and won’t be able to compete with the big guys.

Ajit Pai repealed net neutrality based on some awfully far-fetched promises. He said there would be new innovation without regulations in place. That hasn’t happened. He said the level of private investment in telecom infrastructure would boom. Still waiting on that, too. Mr. Pai also spun a tale about “voluntary net neutrality,” claiming that the big cable companies would do the right thing on their own. That doesn’t pass the smell test. If the companies really were just fine with net neutrality, why did he need to get rid of it at all?

Bottom line, Ajit Pai and the Trump FCC put consumers in Oregon and across the country at the mercy of Big Cable when they repealed net neutrality. The changes they make won’t come all at once, but they will steadily come. Big Cable is counting on Americans not noticing when the terms of their contracts get worse, bit by bit ... when the prices they charge rise little by little.

The fractures in the internet will be disguised as a good deal for consumers: a discount on the content within one bundle, rather than a price increase and data limits on everything else.

But those changes violate the principle Senator Markey and I are going to keep fighting for -- everybody ought to get a fair shake on the internet. Once you pay your internet bill, you get to go where you want, when you want and how you want.

That’s the idea behind the Save the Internet Act, Senator Markey’s bill that I co-sponsored. The House already passed it. It’s ready to go. We’re going to keep up the fight.