Thursday, 14 December, 2017

FCC lay outs plan to roll back "net neutrality"

Trump’s FCC chair to repeal Obama-era rules that could change the internet Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to repeal net neutrality rules
Lori Graves | 22 November, 2017, 01:09

The landmark 2015 net neutrality rules considered internet as a utility that is essential to the public similar to phones and electricity, a move that Pai has called "heavy handed".

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a President Trump appointee, will seek to remove the regulations that require internet service providers to produce web traffic equally, sources told Politico. A vote on the proposal is set for December 14. The principle was born as regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies voiced concern about what broadband companies could do with their power as the gateway to the internet - blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example.

Chairman Pai had said earlier this year that the 2015 net neutrality rules were a burden to businesses and innovation.

Net neutrality rules, created to keep the internet a free and open place with democratic access for all, are once again under serious threat in the United States. Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called it a victory, saying the rules allowed the commission to act as an Internet "referee".

Without net neutrality, internet providers could speed up their own shows they want you to watch. The commission has five seats and the vote is expected to fall along party lines, with the three Republican members voting in favor.

Several internet companies are strongly opposed to the move.

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Republican Representatives Greg Walden, of OR, and Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, said Pai's plan shows the FCC "understands the importance of making sure the internet continues to flourish under a light-touch regulatory regime".

A USA appeals court past year upheld the legality of the net neutrality regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit led by telecommunications industry trade association US Telecom.

"He said the FTC will once again "police" service providers, protect consumers and promote competition like before 2015".

Pai, who has repeatedly rejected claims that the FCC is making rules changes with Sinclair in mind, said the review will include public input.

AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have said that repealing the rules could lead to billions of dollars in additional broadband investment and eliminate the possibility that a future presidential administration could regulate internet pricing.

"What Chairman Pai has proposed is unsafe and wrong, and he's going about it in the most incoherent and incompetent way possible". The FCC's new plan, which goes by the dubious name "Restoring Internet Freedom Order", would give ISPs like AT&T and Comcast complete control over what websites and services their users can access, and whether or not users would have to pay higher rates to access certain sites. Netflix, Google, Facebook and Twitter, all based in Silicon Valley or San Francisco, are against repeal. The FCC granted initial approval to Pai's plan in May, but had left open many key questions including whether to retain any legal requirements limiting internet providers conduct.

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