The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month to put an end to its net neutrality rules, chairman Ajit Pai announced today. The vote will set the stage to reverse the Title II classification of internet providers, which right now allows the FCC to put strict limits on their behavior, and replace it with the previous “information service” classification. Federal courts have already ruled that that those “information service” rules are less comprehensive, and further weaken any protections that are currently in place.
It sounds like the FCC essentially wants to leave everything up for interpretation, and leave the internet without any sort of net neutrality protections in place. The full text of the order will be released tomorrow, and is the proposal that received 22 million comments.
Pai summarizes everything for us. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement emailed to reporters. “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.”
Since many things are handled by the FCC right now, they want to change and hand things over to the Federal Trade Commission to handle all of the anti-competitive disputes. The idea here is that if ISPs violate any policies, then the FTC can come in and take action as needed. This route doesn’t provide any legitimate protections for consumers and the FCC must realize that. Even if you take a look at companies’ terms of service or terms of conditions, they don’t offer any protections to the consumers as it is. Basically what can happen here is that a company can violate its own policies, get in trouble with the FTC, be fined, and promise to provide open internet protections until it feels like it won’t need to anymore. Then it will rewrite its policies and further impose more hostile conditions for consumers. This will become a cycle that doesn’t benefit anyone but companies. Consumers will be left in the dirt.
Competition is another thing that FCC isn’t taking into consideration. If you think consumers have more than a few providers to choose from, you’re mistaken. Less than a quarter of the United States has two or mor home internet providers in place that offer basic broadband internet speeds. If you don’t like your provider, well, you’re out of luck then (looking at you Comcast).
Republicans have stated and argued that FTC is the agency here to deal with anti-competitive practices and should be in-charge, but what’s happening here is that FTC does indeed provide consumer protections, however, to a wide range of industries. The FCC on the other hand is more focused and narrowed to helping consumers. The FTC doesn’t have the narrowed focus that the FCC does.
Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn has said that the rules “would dismantle net neutrality as we know it by giving the green light to our nation’s largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic, and paid prioritization of online applications and services.” Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described the same fears, and says that the proposal “hands broadband providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make, and what communities we create. It throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content.”