The Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is on a deregulatory rampage, and may repeal important rules that protect net neutrality.
Anonymous sources briefed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Reuters that this week, the chairman will reveal plans to eliminate a 2015 order by former President Obama that classified internet service providers (ISPs) as a public utility.
The classification has allowed the FCC to regulate ISPs in favor of net neutrality.
The order allows the FCC to prevent ISPs from “web traffic throttling,” wherein the ISP slows down or blocks some websites, while speeding up others. ISPs can profit from this practice by offering “paid prioritization” to some sites.
Critics say that web traffic throttling is unfair to internet users and small businesses, giving ISPs the power to make some sites more accessible than others. Advocates have fought long and hard to keep the web “neutral,” meaning that all sites are equally accessible.
A preliminary vote to withdraw the Obama order was held by the FCC in May, with commissioners voting 2-1 to repeal the rule.
Republican Chairman Pai has stated that he favors “open internet,” and that treating ISPs as a public utility has limited job growth and investments in broadband.
Internet service providers, as you might imagine, agree with Pai and say that lifting the 2015 rule will cause a surge in investment, and will eliminate the possibility that the government could one day regulate internet pricing.
The entire tech industry is not in agreement, however. In July, an advocacy group representing companies like Alphabet and Facebook urged Commissioner Pai to keep net neutrality protections in place. Over the holidays, in an effort to diminish the nation’s rejection of their plans, the FCC claimed (again) that the flood of complaints filed with their office were riddled with fake complaints.
Insiders say that Pai may be attempting to strip down other regulations as well, but we won’t know the details until he reveals his plans next week.
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A final vote on the rule will take place at the FCC’s monthly meeting on December 14.