Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

FCC votes to abolish net neutrality

FCC votes to abolish net neutrality

As you may have heard, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced his plans to reverse existing net neutrality protections established by his predecessor.

While Comcast, one of the US's largest Internet providers, said in a statement that they would "not block, slow down or discriminate against lawful content", ISPs have been unclear on whether they will take advantage of paid prioritization. Without net neutrality, they argue, internet providers could slow access to web content and make it more hard to transfer large amounts of data.

In a 2-1 vote along party lines Thursday, the FCC's Republicans voted to propose a new review of the rules, with the goal of loosening the regulations on the industry.

Francis Ford Coppola, director of classic films such as "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now", has sent a letter to the top US telecommunications regulator to urge support for "net neutrality", which prevents internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving "fast lanes" to particular websites. "The Commission's 2015 decision to subject ISPs to Title II utility-style regulations risks that innovation, serving ultimately to threaten the open internet it purported to preserve". "Except that here, there was no flea".

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The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes eliminating the Title II classification and seeks comment on what, if anything, should replace the current net neutrality rules.

Pai and his Republican colleague, Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, said the new review of net neutrality will include a cost-benefit analysis, which they say wasn't done in 2015.

Although Pai and fellow Republican FCC member Michael O'Rielly voted in favour of the proposals, the Commission's third member, Democrat Mignon Clyburn, was fiercely opposed. After taking public comment for 90 days, the FCC "will follow the facts and law where they take us", Pai said. It also raises worrying questions for anyone with a digital business serving USA customers, as the new rules could adversely affect the provision of their services. The FCC closed an investigation into whether such zero-rating is harmful last month. "If you unequivocally trust that your broadband provider will always put the public interest over self-interest or the interest of their stockholders, then the "Destroying Internet Freedom" [proposal] is for you", she said.

According to commentators, the FCC's move which received overwhelming support from major broadband providers, formed part of a broader effort by Republicans since president Trump took office to undo regulations enacted during the Obama era. Joining the protest were members of advocacy groups including Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition. The rules were passed at the urging of President Barack Obama, and Democrats say they're needed to prevent unfair treatment of web traffic by companies that control access to homes and smartphones. Before the Title II reclassification, interconnection disputes were harming the quality of video streaming and other Internet services, but those disputes were quickly resolved once the rules were in place.

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