FCC Expected to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules in a Few Weeks

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to end net neutrality, which was put in place by the Obama administration. With the repeal of net neutrality, Internet service providers would be able to block access, slow down or speed up access to websites as well as charge more for high quality streaming. Pai’s intent to repeal net neutrality is seen as a victory for telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon and a loss for Internet titans such as Amazon and Google. The FCC also aims to prevent states from imposing their own net neutrality laws.

The New York Times reports that, “the telecom companies say that the existing rules prevent them from offering customers a wider selection of services at higher and lower price points,” whereas “the Internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment.”

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Pai states that, with his proposal, “the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet.” “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them,” he said.

Pai’s proposal will likely be approved at a December 14 meeting since Republicans have a majority on the FCC. The opposing camps will continue their lobbying; the Internet Association, which began a legal effort in 2015, has received 20 million public comments, “many of them in opposition of changing the rules.”

AT&T vice president Joan Marsh hails the action that “will return broadband in the U.S. to a regulatory regime that emphasizes private investment and innovation over lumbering government intervention,” but Internet companies say “the repeal proposal would allow telecom companies to play favorites by charging customers for accessing some sites or by slowing speeds to others.”

Smaller online companies say they will be particularly impacted since “only the largest companies … would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment.” Etsy and Pinterest, for example, “credit their start to the promise of free and open access on the Internet.”

Ars Technica reports that the FCC also “plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service,” since “state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the U.S. government’s policy of deregulating broadband Internet service.” Such “preemption” will “clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections.”

The FCC avers that “states and other localities do not have jurisdiction over broadband because it is an interstate service and that it would subvert federal policy for states and localities to impose their own rules.” Its position echoes the one taken by telecom trade association CTIA, which said that, as an interstate service, the Internet is “within the sole jurisdiction of the FCC.”

The FCC will “almost certainly face lawsuits challenging the net neutrality repeal order, and the preemption of state laws could play a big role in litigation.”

Related:
The U.S. Net Neutrality Fight Affects the Whole World, The Verge, 11/23/17
What the Repeal of Net Neutrality Will Mean for Hollywood, Variety, 11/22/17
FCC Net Neutrality Process ‘Corrupted’ by Fake Comments and Vanishing Consumer Complaints, Officials Say, The Washington Post, 11/24/17
FCC Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality Worries Small Businesses, The New York Times, 11/22/17