During the Obama Administration, prior chairman Tom Wheeler opted for Title II regulation upon a federal appellate court’s decision that the FCC had exceeded its authority in issuing rules meant to require broadband providers like ATT and Verizon to treat internet traffic equally.
Commissioners at the agency voted two-to-one to end a “net neutrality” order enacted in 2015.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeks to return classification of broadband service to that of a Title I information service, calls for the elimination of the “internet conduct standard” included in the 2015 Title II order, and seeks comment on the existing rules governing ISPs’ practices.
To enforce the rules, the FCC classified broadband as a more highly regulated utility-like service under Title 2 of federal telecommunications law.
Today’s vote also opens up a broad inquiry into what, if any, protections the FCC should add to replace the outgoing net neutrality rules.
Clyburn’s concerns about the impact of broadband reclassification on the USF program likely are based on the possibility that parties opposed to the program might argue that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to expand the program to include broadband. For the past few weeks, both supporters and critics of Pai’s repeal plan have produced research making the economic case both for and against strict net neutrality rules.
This will be a helluva fight, waged vigorously for the next 90 days during which the FCC will take public comment and will draft the proposed new rules. Following the protests, the FCC will vote on a replacement sometime later this year.
Pai and commissioner Michael O’Rielly voted to move the proposal forward; commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted against it. Parenthetically, some pro net-neutrality demonstrators outside the FCC headquarters in Washington today who apparently also favor a free and open Internet also demanded through their signs the censorship of Infowars, Breitbart, and the Drudge Report websites, the Washington Free Beacon noted.
Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, said the rules demanding an open internet harmed jobs and discouraged investment. The release about the proposal said, “Today, modern communications enable stations and community members to interact more directly, without the presence of a local broadcast studio”.
“It is baffling that the agency charged with protecting consumer internet access would instead kowtow to company threats not to invest in broadband buildout”, Black said in a statement.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, said “it will take millions of people standing up, just like they did before, to say that the internet needs to stay free and open”.
The whole net neutrality debate came about because telecoms players felt aggrieved that they were not sharing in the massive revenue gains being made online by players such as Facebook, Netflix and Google.