Austin Mayor Steve Adler has joined other mayors in signing a pledge to combat the effects of a recent U.S. Federal Communications Commission ruling by encouraging their cities to refuse to do business with internet providers that do not follow a set of net neutrality principles.
Flanked by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler at a South By Southwest Conference and Festivals Interactive panel Sunday, Adler said one of the strongest powers a mayor has is the position’s closeness to everyday citizens.
“We’re able to use the bully pulpit. It’s being able to express the will of the people and to pull people together. And you see that happening more and more because of the vacuum that exists otherwise,” Adler said.
In December, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, or directing internet service providers to enable customer access to all content online, regardless of the source.
Proponents of deregulation say that it could lead to more investment and competition among internet services providers, but others say deregulation would favor big telecom companies, which could force internet companies to pay for faster connections.
For Adler, net neutrality is a First Amendment issue. Nothing has contributed more to global democratization than the World Wide Web, he said.
“I think that the flow of information shouldn’t be something that’s subject to the market,” Adler said. “I think the flow of information needs to be as free and as open as it can possibly be, because I think that anything less than that diminishes the democratization ability of the internet, which we have seen as its greatest power.”
Mayors For Net Neutrality is made up of mayors who have signed the pledge and encourage other mayors nationwide to do the same. The only other mayor of a Texas city to be listed as a signee of the pledge is Ron Nirenburg, mayor of San Antonio.
The pledge directs mayors to encourage their cities follow a set of principles laid out in the pledge, which include cutting business ties with internet providers that would limit access to government content on the internet, as well as monitor the practices of providers so consumers can be notified in the event that a provider violates the open internet principles or commitments.
Adler still has to take the prospect of carrying through with the actions outlined in the pledge to the other members of Austin City Council, but he has consulted with city staff on the issue, he said. He believes there will be pushback on the issue of net neutrality, and said he would not be surprised if it were to be addressed at the next state legislature in 2019.
“Ultimately, you can’t let what you do depend on what the action of others is going to be,” Adler said. “There’s something right and wrong here. And to the fullest extent that we’re able to act rightly, it’s incumbent of us to do that.”
See the other mayors who have signed the pledge below.