Fighting for Fast, Fair and Open Networks

February 26, 2015 was the proudest day of my professional career. On that day, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the strongest ever network neutrality rules grounded in the strongest legal authority. The rules prohibit broadband Internet Service Providers like Comcast and AT&T from blocking, throttling, or otherwise favoring or discriminating against certain Internet traffic. As a member of then-Chairman Tom Wheeler’s senior staff, I played a significant role in making that outcome a reality.

That was not all that the Wheeler FCC would accomplish in three short years. During that time, among other things, we adopted broadband privacy rules, modernized the universal service programs that provide broadband subsidies for schools and libraries and poor people, improved access to communications and technology for the hearing and visually disabled, strengthened public safety communications, conducted the first ever two-sided auction of broadcast spectrum, levied record fines on companies that defrauded consumers and violated their privacy, strengthened the media ownership rules, and took actions that resulted in the demise of the proposed Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger.

Then the 2016 election happened, and now nearly every one of those accomplishments is at risk of being reversed. Indeed, Congress repealed the broadband privacy rules in February, and in May FCC Chairman Ajit Pai started a proceeding to repeal the net neutrality rules and rid the agency of the legal authority to oversee the consolidated and expensive broadband market.

In just a few months, I went from helping to shape, adopt, and expand some of the most progressive communications policies in history to having to defend them.

And that’s why the Mozilla Technology Policy Fellowship is so important. My job, with the help of Mozilla, is to raise the profile of these communications policy issues so that all Americans understand what’s at stake. (I also have fellowships from the Open Society Foundations and Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy.)

I’m working to be the Public Voice of these issues. To that end, I’ve been writing blog posts for various online platforms, giving interviews to the mainstream and tech press, appearing on TV, radio, and podcasts, speaking at and planning public forums, and spending endless hours educating the press and the public on broadband policy issues. My dream is that one day communications and technology policy issues will be part of the national conversation as much as the environment, education, health care, and social justice are today.

But that’s only part of my work. I’m engaging in Coalition Building, mostly with industry, to preserve policies that promote openness, accessibility, affordability and competition. I meet regularly with companies large and small, with tech, telecom and main street, to share information and strategies. And I’m providing Support for the Field, mentoring and providing strategic guidance for other advocates in communications and technology policy advocacy, advising foundations and donors and seeking new sources of funding for key projects. As the only public interest advocate to have worked at the highest levels of the FCC, I can provide a perspective that is unique to the field.

That’s a lot of work for one person, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without Mozilla’s assistance. In addition to financial and logistical support, the Mozilla Fellowship has allowed me to plug into the larger Mozilla community, including with folks working squarely on my issues. These synergies will help me shape and amplify my advocacy.

I’ve been a public interest advocate for open, accessible and affordable communications networks for nearly 30 years. For the most of that time, I had to play defense — stopping bad policies from being adopted and good policies from being repealed. So, I know how to play defense. But doing so feels very different when the policies you are defending are those you and your colleagues put into place just a short time ago.