Grab the pitchforks
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced his plan, called Title II, to to limit the agency’s regulation of Internet service providers (ISPs), spelling bad news for net neutrality.
This announcement is causing quite an uproar in the tech community, and understandably so.
So much for the land of the free
The FCC approved the net neutrality rules in 2015, preventing ISPs from selectively speeding up or slowing down traffic from certain websites and apps. With this motion, the FCC also voted to increase regulatory control over ISPs by reclassifying them as common carriers like telephone services.
The rules were put into effect to keep the Internet open and fair.
Pai claims that the rules governing cable and broadcasting companies are harmful to businesses, but it seems TItle II would be even moreso.
A dirtier, darker internet
Revoking the reclassification would all but obliterate the rules protecting the Internet. These rules protect consumers from ISPs trying to act as gatekeepers and favor their own content over competitors’ content. This would limit online competition and give companies like AT&T and Comcast a virtual monopoly over internet browsing. The internet would potentially become an abyss of sponsored data, limited to whatever ISPs are willing to let consumers access.
Consumer groups also claim that publicly traded broadband companies have upped investment by 5% since the current rules were enacted.
Pai hasn’t said much about how the FCC will govern net neutrality after Title II, claiming only that his plan would only include voluntary commitment from broadband services — which would likely only incite sketchy business practices and further reduce competition.
Internet Association President and Ceo Michael Beckerman outlined major issues with Title II, stating that rolling back the restrictions would hinder innovation and make the internet a much worse place for consumers.
Indeed, repealing the 2015 legislation makes little sense. As Beckerman explains, “Robust net neutrality rules benefit all players in the ecosystem by attracting more people to the web and increasing demand for internet connections.”
Beckerman is not alone in his fervent disapproval.
Among net neutrality proponents are heavy hitters like Google and Netflix. In addition, more than 800 startups signed a letter to Pai requesting him to protect net neutrality. A press conference was held hours before Pai’s announcement where Democrats gathered to discuss how best to fight Title II.
At the conference, Senator Richard Blumenthal said opposition of the plan must form a strategy “that mobilizes public opinion, that reaches out to the chairman and others on the commission.”
Pai also endorsed Trump’s recent measure undoing Internet privacy protections enacted last October that limited control of ISPs over consumer data.
He seems determined to shift the power from consumers to ISPs:
“Make no mistake about it: This is a fight we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.”
Take a breath
Slow down, buddy. While the Republicans’ 2 to 1 majority on this commission is not exactly comforting for net neutrality advocates, the fact that the current rules were affirmed by a federal appeals court could stand in the way of Pai’s plan.
Much remains uncertain except a rough road ahead for both sides.