We’re calling on all presidential candidates to commit to expanding internet access and protecting net neutrality.

Share story

NET neutrality advocates can add last week’s court decision to a recent string of victories on behalf of everyday internet users.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the latest broadband-industry bid to kill the open internet — a legal challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 “net neutrality” decision. The FCC rules protect your right to connect with everyone else online without your cable or phone provider blocking websites or carving the internet into fast and slow lanes.

The ruling last year was itself a major victory — the product of 10 years of activism involving millions of Americans who lobbied their elected representatives and urged the agency to adopt online safeguards.

Net neutrality ensures that everyone can connect with any website or service of their choosing and create and share information without worrying that their access providers will shunt it to some obscure corner of the web. On Tuesday, judges affirmed this principle, and in so doing acknowledged that the open internet is an essential part of democratic life, one that must be protected in the public interest.

The court ruling is a huge deal — but it doesn’t mean the internet is safe from threats coming from powerful companies and elsewhere. Winning net neutrality is part of a broader effort to make sure the internet continues to promote opportunity and free expression for all.

Last week, 17 public-interest organizations released an internet policy platform that outlines specific proposals to create a more inclusive, open, secure and affordable internet. The platform signers are a diverse collection of internet-rights, racial-justice and consumer-advocacy groups, including 18 Million Rising, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange, Demand Progress, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge and Free Press (my organization).

We’re calling on all presidential candidates to commit to expanding internet access and making it more affordable, protecting net neutrality, opposing government-mandated backdoors into communications technologies and promoting competition among internet service providers. We sent the platform to the chairs of both major parties and to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Right now both parties are drafting their own policy platforms in advance of next month’s conventions. The Republican Party is huddling behind closed doors with telecom and tech lobbyists and companies — including representatives from Seattle-area giants Microsoft and Amazon — to draft its technology platform. The Democratic Party is convening a series of hearings to gather public input on a general party platform.

Any discussion of tech policy that ignores the needs of millions of Americans hoping to get online is unacceptable. Those stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide cite high broadband costs and the limited availability of broadband services in their communities as major barriers to getting online. These obstacles are even more significant in low-income communities and communities of color, where the lack of access hampers efforts to find jobs, seek out educational opportunities and engage in the political process.

The policy platform offered by the internet-rights groups offers a road map for any candidate committed to a future where everyone can share in the benefits of a network free of gatekeepers, surveillance and discrimination. It calls on policymakers to expand internet access and make it more affordable, protect net neutrality, oppose government-mandated backdoors into communications technologies and promote competition among internet service providers.

Saving the internet is a battle with many fronts. But the unifying objective is to secure everyone’s rights to connect and communicate. As we get ready to vote in November, internet users should pressure every candidate on the ballot to explain their positions on key technology issues. Protecting our latest win on net neutrality is only a first step.