May 18, 2017 by Paul Dughi
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a big first step in overturning net neutrality rules. In a 2-to-1 vote, the Commission began the rule-making process. That’s the first step in replacing the Open Internet Order adopted in 2015.
The net neutrality rules prevent ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from giving preferential treatment (and pricing) to certain providers, putting content creators on an even playing field. It prevented ISPs from blocking, or throttling, legal content or creating faster highways for content companies willing to pay for faster delivery.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were unnecessary and overkill.
“These utility-style regulations…were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer wielded against the flea – except that here, there was no flea.” – FCC Chariman Ajit Pai
Pai cited 150 some smaller ISPs that said they pulled back on investment because of the regulations and worries about further regulation.
In classifying ISPs under a Title II classification – establishing it in the same manner as a public utility – Pai says it has done more harm than good. “19 non-profit municipal ISPs—that is, government-owned broadband providers, often championed by Title II advocates—observe that ‘[f]or the past two years, the substantial costs of the 2015 decision have harmed our businesses.’”
The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who argued that it would “deeply damage the ability of the FCC to be a champion of consumers.”
“Undermining the ability of poor people to get broadband, knee-capping funding for rural telecommunications, declining to review an $85 billion transaction with massive public interest implications, encouraging consolidation and higher prices in business broadband, and enabling massive broadcasting conglomerates to gobble up more local voices. Each action, is a cut against the public interest, and the majority will keep it coming unless Americans stand up, make their voices heard and challenge the FCC in court, because it is glaringly obvious, with each open meeting, that the willingness and the ability of the majority to protect consumers and competition in a broadband era, has come to a screeching halt.” – FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
When the FCC adopted the rules in 2015, it said it would protect consumers “no matter how they access the Internet, whether on a desktop computer or a mobile device.”
- No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.