Today, during an open commissions meeting, the FCC voted to move forward with its plans to undo many rules enacted under the Obama administration meant to protect the principles of net neutrality. The most important part of this proposed rollback is changing broadband internet services from being classified as a Title II service back to a Title I services. Title I has fewer rules regarding how traffic over the networks are treated. Under Title II internet is regulated like a utility and require that all data across the network be treated equally so long as it doesn’t violate any law. Under Title I however, ISPs are free to prioritize data as they see fit and even charge more to guarantee better services. This is of growing concern as the line between service provider and content providers continue to blur.
The agency also wants responsibility for enforcing privacy rule back to the FTC. Under President Obama, responsibility for dealing with privacy complaint against ISPs shifted to the FCC, the agency already responsible for the primary regulations of the industry and the one with the technical expertise to address these new concern.
The Internet Conduct Standards is also on the chopping block. That broad rule was used by the FCC to investigate mobile provider “zero-rating” plans, which exclude certain streaming service from monthly data cap.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the FCC’s lone Democrat, voiced her serious oppositions to these moves and sounded alarm that that “no economist or technologist [was] consulted during the drafting.” Of course with only three of five seats currently filled on the commissions, Clyburn faced an uphill battle.
Republican commissioners Michael O’Rielly and republican chairman Ajit Pai, have repeatedly made clear their oppositions to using regulations to protect net neutrality. In fact O’Rielly voted against implementing the rule in the first place while serving under the administration of Chairman Wheeler.
Pai once again went back to calling for a “light touch” regulatory frame work and referenced how the internet flourished under such a systems in the ’90s. Essentially, he repeated a speech he delivered at the end of April outlining his plans.
This is only the beginning of the processes, however, and the public still has an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard. The Chairman said this marks the start of a 90 day comment periods. Though, both Pai and O’Rielly have strongly suggested that even the loudest outcry from the public wouldn’t change their mind.
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