Following details leaked by a source to The Wall Street Journal, the FCC on Tuesday morning made Washington’s worst-kept secret official: What some call “net neutrality” and others bemoan as a hindrance to internet freedom will be up for vote at the Commission’s Dec. 14 Open Meeting.
The results won’t be a surprise, with the GOP majority clearly in support of the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”
RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION (full text below, for Subscribers Only): “Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world.” That’s the boiler-plate explanation FCC Chairman Ajit Pai used to close his announcement that net neutrality will, beyond a doubt, be coming to an end some 30 days after his Order appears in the Federal Register — following what will likely be a 3-2 GOP-fueled party-line vote in favor of “restoring internet freedom.”
We know what some of our readers may be thinking. “This is an internet thing, but how does this impact my business?”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated his draft of the Order to fellow Commissioners this morning — likely giving both Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel plenty of reason to grab a bottle of Brioschi, regardless of how much they eat at a Thanksgiving holiday meal.
What’s in the draft? The public draft is not yet available for perusal. However, the Commission promises its release “more than three weeks prior to vote.” Pai confirmed that the public draft will be released on Wednesday morning (11/22).
Commenting on the draft Order, Pai echoed views from such conservative think-tanks as the American Enterprise Institute by noting, “For almost 20 years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And, it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.”
Then, in 2015, the FCC under former Commissioner Tom Wheeler “bowed to pressure from President Obama,” Pai asserts.
He says, “On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”
Now, the FCC is set to reverse that decision on another party-line vote.
That will likely fuel discussion across Capitol Hill and Inside the Beltway that the politicization of the agency is well into its third year, and will only continue with more flip-flop votes depending on which party controls Congress and/or the White House.
Pai further shared details of his draft order by noting that “the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet.”
Instead, the FCC “would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
As a result of Pai’s proposal, he says, the Federal Trade Commission “will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015.”
Notably, he adds, Pai’s proposal “will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy.”