By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Before she left her position earlier this year as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Mignon Clyburn vigorously fought to keep Obama-era broadband and Internet protections and net neutrality laws.
Clyburn surmised that, if left unchecked, companies would exploit consumers and siphon every dollar they could.
Last week, President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of California over its new net neutrality protections just hours after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Sunday.
According to CNN, the California law would be the strictest net neutrality protections in the country, and could serve as a blueprint for other states. Under the law, Internet service providers will not be allowed to block or slow specific types of content or applications, or charge apps or companies fees for faster access to customers.
The Department of Justice claims that the California law is illegal and that the state is “attempting to subvert the Federal Government’s deregulatory approach” to the Internet. “Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce – the federal government does,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
“Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order,” Sessions said.
The FCC voted last December to repeal Obama-era protections and the net neutrality rules, approved by the same organization two years earlier, prohibited Internet service providers – such Comcast and Verizon – from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.
Democrats, like Clyburn, argued the new FCC rules give too much power to Internet service providers, which they fear will throttle down speeds for some websites and services while ramping it up for others who pay more.
“We are supposed to be here protecting the consumer’s experience and interests when it comes to communications and other services,” Clyburn told NNPA Newswire.
“We are supposed to be enablers of opportunities, both for businesses and individuals.”
A strong advocate for enhanced accessibility in communications for disabled citizens who also works closely with representative groups for the deaf and hard of hearing, Clyburn said she’s fought to promote strong competition across all communications platforms with a belief that the more robust and competitive the marketplace, the less need there is for regulation.
The daughter of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, Clyburn began her service at the FCC in August 2009 after 11 years in the sixth district of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.
The protections she championed in 2015 prohibited broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic. The rules also banned them from charging companies such as Netflix to reach their customers faster than their competitors.
“The FCC is one of the most significant federal agencies and most people don’t think about it or never heard of it unless there’s a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl or a four-letter word used during family hour,” Clyburn said.
“We are enablers of technology. We can ensure that more Americans can be connected. What we do can both make programs like Lifeline more ubiquitous and answer today’s needs when it comes to telecommunications or we can close the books where they don’t work ideally,” she said.
Clyburn said when one thinks about telecommunications, it’s impossible to effectively communicate in the 21st century without communicating with broadband.
“I say to people that when they [ask] what does the FCC does. If you hear or see a signal transmitted over the air, the FCC had something to do with that,” she said.
Technology also counts as big business and California stands as the largest economy in the United States and the fifth largest in the world. The state has significant influence over how other states regulate businesses and even federal laws and regulations, according to CNN.
Trump is testing that power.
“It’s critically important for states to step in,” State Sen. Scott Wiener, who co-authored the bill, told CNN. “What California does definitely impacts the national conversation. I do believe that this bill … will move us in a positive direction nationally on net neutrality,” Wiener said.