Broken Internet: Mignon Clyburn Steps Down From the FCC

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  • Mignon Clyburn was the FCC’s first female chair for six months in 2013
  • Net Neutrality rules were repealed in December 2017

Obama nominee Mignon Clyburn, who is one of five commissioners for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is stepping down. She has been a fierce advocate for net neutrality since joining the FCC in 2009. How will the loss of a major net neutrality advocate further diminish the FCC’s willingness to regulate internet service providers?

Why This Matters: Clyburn’s eight-year tenure focused on the needs of low-income and minority communities is coming to an end. She always weighed the human cost or benefit of a decision on things like net neutrality, broadband access and media regulation. “I’ve done all I know to do. And it’s time for me to serve in another way,” she said.

As part of the Democratic majority that approved the net neutrality rules in 2015, she has since been a vocal critic of their repeal in December 2017. The rules required internet service providers like Comcast (CMSA +1.99%) and Verizon (VZ +1.59%) to treat all web traffic equally as it passes through their networks. This is no longer the case for these ISPs going forward, and with Clyburn leaving there’s one less gladiator in the ring protecting the consumer’s experience and interests.

What is Net Neutrality? Simply stated it’s ‘Open Internet’ meaning people can always access any lawful content. Now that the Trump administration has done away with these rules all consumers are vulnerable. Powerful ISPs can favor content providers who have the money to pay for better access. Ultimately this impacts the quality of your internet connection but helps to increase telecommunication companies profits.

What’s Next: Clyburn did not say what she plans to do next but said she would depart the commission before its next scheduled meeting on May 10. After her departure the vacant position will be open until the current administration nominates someone and they are confirmed by Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) may be looking at FCC official Geoffrey Starks to replace Clyburn.

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