The unpicking of the net neutrality rules begins in the US

Written by on May 23, 2017 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

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The US Federal Communications Commission has voted to overturn the previous Obama-era FCC Net Neutrality rules. The Federal Communications Commission has officially begun to undo Obama-era regulations on Internet service providers. The FCC Net Neutrality rules, passed in 2015, had placed cable and telecom companies under the strictest-ever oversight of the agency.

In a 2-1 vote along party lines Thursday, the FCC’s Republicans voted to propose a new review of the rules, with the goal of loosening the regulations on the industry. As dozens of protesters outside urged the agency to stop the proceeding and keep the strict oversight, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that the current rules represented a “bureaucratic straitjacket” on the industry.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes eliminating the Title II classification and seeks comment on what, if anything, should replace the current net neutrality rules. But Chairman Ajit Pai is making no promises about reinstating the two-year-old net neutrality rules that forbid ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful Internet content or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. Pai’s proposal argues that throttling websites and applications might somehow help Internet users.

The FCC plans to take comments on its plan until August 16 and then make a final decision sometime after that.

The FCC net neutrality rules were approved in February 2015 when Republicans were in the commission’s minority. Today, Pai and fellow Republican Michael O’Rielly voted in favor of the plan to eliminate the rules while Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted to preserve them.

“The Internet was not broken in 2015” before the rules were imposed, Pai said today before the vote. “We were not living in a digital dystopia. Nonetheless, the FCC that year succumbed to partisan pressure from the White House and changed course.” The rules imposed new regulatory burdens on ISPs both large and small, he said. The FCC net neutrality Title II rules also raised “the possibility of broadband rate regulation,” making ISPs hesitate before building or expanding networks, he said.

The fear of rate regulation on consumer broadband services is based on hypotheticals, because the FCC has not imposed any rate regulation on home or mobile broadband.

O’Rielly today said that he dissented from the net neutrality vote in 2015 “because I was not persuaded based on the record before us that there was evidence of harm to businesses or consumers that warranted the adoption of the net neutrality rules, much less the imposition of heavy-handed Title II regulation on broadband providers.”

The FCC’s new proposal — titled “Restoring Internet Freedom” — considers not only whether to undo the legal approach that enforced those rules, but also whether the rules were warranted in the first place. As Pai puts it, the proposal would “return to the Clinton-era light-touch framework.” He has also proposed to stop treating wireless carriers the same as cable providers.

Before the vote, net neutrality supporters protested outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Joining the protest were members of advocacy groups including Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Congressional Democrats have also objected to the anti-net neutrality plan, and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) joined the protest outside FCC headquarters this morning.

“Supporters have collected more than 1 million signatures and comments calling on the FCC to retain the net neutrality rules that the agency adopted in 2015,” a Free Press announcement said.

“Today, President Trump’s FCC took the first step to dismantle net neutrality,” US Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said. “This action will undermine the free and open Internet and hand its control over to a few powerful corporate interests.”

The cable industry’s top lobby group placed a full-page ad in The Washington Post this week pledging that its members will “not block, throttle, or otherwise impair your online activity.” The ad did not include any promise to avoid charging websites for prioritized access to consumers, an activity that net neutrality supporters say would place online services into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

More on NPR and the BBC.

This article was first published on Pricing Data Plans.

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Jonathon Gordon

About the Author

About the Author: Jonathon has been lurking around the Telecoms and Internet space for the last 20 years. He is now a man on a mission – that being the reformation of the Industry Analyst business. He is working with his co-conspirators on transforming the Industry Analyst world forever as an Expert with EMI. .

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