WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Net neutrality” is one step closer to being erased from the FCC‘s rule books.
In a widely expected partisan move that occurred on a day when many social media users use a “throwback Thursday” hashtag (#tbt), the FCC voted to press ahead on turning back the clock on regulations that require Internet service providers to give access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoritism to particular websites or portals.
The push for the negation of net neutrality—vehemently protested by Democratic leaders including Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and Cory Booker, as well as former FCC Chairman Michael Copps—came in a 2-1 party-line vote led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly.
Today’s vote does not kill net neutrality. Rather, it sets the process in motion through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which seeks comment on the existing rules.
Even so, the rollback of net neutrality is all but inevitable. Both Pai and O’Rielly have been advocates of the restoration of “a light-touch regulatory framework” by classifying broadband internet access service as an information service. This removes “Title II” classification, which Pai in April called “a mistake.”
In fact, the proposed NPRM is written in the viewpoint of Pai and O’Rielly, and states, “The Commission’s 2015 decision to subject ISPs to Title II utility-style regulations risks …
innovation, serving ultimately to threaten the open internet it purported to preserve.”
Those opposed to the end of net neutrality fear a result that could lead a company like Comcast, for example, to allow Xfinity to slow down speeds to portals or websites in competition with NBCUniversal’s content delivery platforms.
Both sides on the net neutrality issue have been rounding up their respective supporters. In Washington, conservative think tanks busily published columns and blog posts, including Daniel Lyons of the American Enterprise Institute.
Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) on Thursday morning delivered remarks on the Senate floor focused on “protecting the open internet” and today’s FCC vote.
Across the U.S., Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union on Wednesday (5/17) sent an e-mail targeting Xfinity and Charter Spectrum customers asking them to tell Congress and the FCC “to protect net neutrality today.” Consumers Union also claims that if net neutrality is repealed, “your internet provider could slow down your favorite sites or blacklist content from competitors.”
For TechFreedom President Berin Szóka, “Today’s vote isn’t about net neutrality, but the FCC’s legal authority over the Internet. Democrats and Republicans have long agreed on the core of net neutrality: ISPs shouldn’t block or throttle traffic, they should provide transparency about their service plans, and anti-competitive conduct should be punished. The real debate is over the FCC’s power. Over the past few years, some activists have conflated the ‘Open Internet’ with ‘Title II’ regulations designed for monopoly telephone and railroad networks. Such broad claims of power enable the FCC to go far beyond net neutrality — such as cracking down on copyright or regulating cybersecurity. The FCC will no doubt receive a flurry of policy-related comments on today’s proposal, but the real audience for those should be Congress. Absent legislation, or a clear Supreme Court decision in still-pending litigation, the question of the FCC’s legal authority will simply keep ping-ponging back and forth depending on which party controls the FCC. ”
“The FCC will no doubt receive a flurry of policy-related comments on today’s proposal, but the real audience for those should be Congress.” — TechFreedom President Berin Szóka
Meanwhile, a “Save The Internet” rally held in front of the FCC’s headquarters at The Portals seems to have fallen flat, with an estimated crowd of 50 protesters attending ahead of the Commission’s 10:30am May Open Meeting start time.