FCC Plan to Kill Net Neutrality, End Open Internet, Sparks Widespread Backlash

by Samuel Abasi Last updated on December 11th, 2017,

Washington, DC, USA: The Trump admin plan – championed by Former Verizon Lawyer, now FCC Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai – to repeal net neutrality provisions and reclassify broadband providers from “common carriers” to “information services” in an unprecedented giveaway to big broadband providers has sparked widespread backlash and outrage.

FCC Draft Order on Net Neutrality went beyond reclassification of broadband providers from Title II common carriers to Title I information services. The Draft Order removes all net neutrality protections and allow ISPs to extract tolls from every business.

Today, small and medium-size businesses rely on a myriad online business services for internal communications, sales, and accounting, to name just a few. Slack, Dropbox, Gusto, Quickbooks, and thousands more would have to pay access charges and fast-lane fees, costs they would likely have to pass to their customers.

Non-mainstream media news sources across the political spectrum would no longer be able to afford to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Even churches that now reach their members online with streaming sermons, video libraries, and online video chats, would no longer be protected from blocking or access fees.

Since the order was released, Congress has reportedly been flooded with more than half a million protest calls.

So far senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican member of Congress who has explicitly criticized Pai’s plan and has come out on the side of the internet.

If Congress allows Pai’s plan to pass, all that will be left of FCC oversight of broadband providers is a weak disclosure requirement: If Verizon, for example, wants to block content, charge sites to be viewable on its network, or create paid fast lanes, the company will simply have to tell its subscribers in their contract’s fine print. (Broadband providers won’t have to disclose, and the FCC won’t have control over, the sneakier ways they’ve found to mess with the internet.)

Enforcement will be left to the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that’s never enforced open internet rules and has no ability to formulate its own. The FTC won’t even be able to protect consumers against most net neutrality violations after the fact, and nor will it be able to protect consumers against greedy broadband providers.

And violations will come if Pai’s plan passes.

For years, broadband providers have used lawsuits and agency filings to fight FCC oversight and overturn its authority to prevent net neutrality abuses.

Verizon sued to challenge the 2010 open internet rules. It told a federal court that as an “information service” it had the right to charge online services like Yelp access fees simply to work on its network and should be able block those sites from Verizon subscribers if Yelp didn’t pay. (Verizon won that case, leading to the 2015 order and the reclassification of broadband providers as “common carriers”.)

The 2015 order, replacing the one Verizon had overturned, recognized this as a threat and prohibited ISPs from charging sites and services simply to reach their users.

FCC Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, apparently had an epiphany. Now his plan would usher in a radical upending of how the internet has worked in the US since its inception, to the benefit of Verizon and other broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.

Every website would have to pay more to simply be online; prices for online services would likely rise as companies start to pay broadband providers to be in fast lanes, while broadband providers would find even sneakier ways to enact tolls on the internet, free of any agency able to set rules to stop them.

Members of Congress have an opportunity to either side with their constituents, who overwhelmingly want them to defend the greatest communication and innovation platform ever invented, or support one of the most blatant anti-consumer corporate giveaways in modern history.

Pai’s plan will create a crises for entrepreneurs, free markets, free speech, and for Republican members of Congress running for re-election who didn’t make the choice to stop Pai when they had the chance.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, ATT & Verizon should not control what we see and do online. In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The rules prohibit Internet providers from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—”fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else.

It is ironic for the FCC to call a rollback of net neutrality “internet freedom.” Government will still be regulating the internet, just in a way that allows providers to fleece consumers and block content.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on Thursday, December 14, to overturn its 2015 net neutrality rules, which require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally.

With Republicans controlling a majority of the commission’s seats, the repeal is expected to pass 3-to-2 along party lines.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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