FCC ordered to pay journalist US$43 000 for refusing to comply with net neutrality records request

22 Mar 2019

A settlement agreement filed in court says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to pay journalist Jason Prechtel US$43 000 to cover his attorney fees and court costs after unlawfully withholding records from a reporter under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Prechtel made a FOIA request on June 2017 to FCC. In the request, Prechtel asked for data that would identify who made bulk comments on the proceeding to repeal net neutrality, which may contain comments falsely attributed to people without their consent. The journalist sued the commission on September 2017 following the FCC's refusal to respond to FOIA request in the timeframe provided under the statute. A year later, a US District Court judge ordered the FCC to release at least some of the records requested by Prechtel. Though FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not admit to doing anything wrong, the settlement resulted in the case being closed.

 

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The Internet’s success lies in its design, which is based on the principle of net neutrality. From the outset, the flow of all the content on the Internet was treated without discrimination. New entrepreneurs did not need permission or market power to innovate on the Internet. With the development of new digital services, especially the ones consuming high bandwidth such as high-quality video streaming, some Internet operators (telecom companies and ISPs) started prioritising certain traffic – such as their own services or the services of their business partners – based on business needs and plans, justifying such an approach with a need to raise funds to further invest in the network. Net neutrality proponents strongly fight back such plans arguing this could limit open access to information and online freedoms, and stifle online innovation.

 

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