FCC Chief Begins Rollback Of 'Net Neutrality' Regulations

Posted April 27, 2017

Here's what you need to know.

As Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai prepares to begin the repeal of net neutrality rules, a resistance to his efforts has already started.

As CNET's Maggie Reardon explained in April, the rules in question essentially "ensure all online traffic is treated equally and prohibit providers from selling 'fast lanes, ' which would give deep-pocketed players priority access to their customers".

"Now, some have called on the FCC to reverse Title II immediately, through what is known as a Declaratory Ruling".

"We fully support reversal of Title II classification, a 1930s statute that is outdated and harms consumers by creating a cloud over broadband investment decisions and innovation". He cited local companies in Arkansas and rural IL which, respectively, expressed their frustration of regulations hamstringing their operations and infrastructure investments. This time, the threat comes from the government institution that's supposed to uphold the rules - the Federal Communications Commission.

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But opponents of the repeal say that there is no reason to remove the classification, and that competition amongst the USA service providers has thrived since the change. "According to publicly available Securities and Exchange Commission filings, overall investment by the nation's publicly traded internet service providers is up 5 percent in the two-year period since the FCC ruling, compared to their investment over the two years prior to the vote". "Ending net neutrality would be a body blow to the open dialogue upon which successful self-government depends".

Unlike the Republicans' ability to push through a repeal of the related broadband privacy framework, the participants argued, to roll back the FCC's Open Internet order will take time, time they can use to their advantage. With light touch regulation, broadband providers spent 1.5 trillion dollars on infrastructure. But I don't believe that is the right path forward. Engine, a policy group for startups, is calling up small internet companies to keep them updated and asking them to sign a letter that urges the FCC not to dismantle the net neutrality rules. "As a result, for decades, we didn't see innovation in the network we didn't see innovation in phones and it's when you have a competitive marketplace and you let go of that impulse to regulate everything preemptively, that you finally get to see more of a competitive environment". On the broadband side, Verizon was sued by the City of NY for not following through with its contractual commitment to provide Fios access to all New Yorkers.

Asked if Pai's plan could prompt some Democrats to come to the table on a possible legislative fix to secure basic protections outside of Title II classification, Markey said there was nothing wrong that needed fixing and he was focused on stopping Pai.

"The internet was wonderful and open before (former chairman Tom) Wheeler's rules were put in place in 2015, and it will be wonderful and open if Pai succeeds in making some much-needed changes", Brake said in a statement. The rules prevent Internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.

Pai said he will offer a reversal of the 2015 order, to be voted on by the FCC next month, to return to "a light-touch regulatory framework", which he argued has "enabled the internet to grow and evolve beyond nearly anyone's expectations". "And by locking in current practices and players, it actually discourages the increased competition consumers are demanding". "And we remain committed to open internet protections that are fair and equal for everyone", said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.