Well, it happened… The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted by two-to-one Thursday to begin unraveling a key 2015 decision by former President Barack Obama protecting consumers’ internet content in favor of relaxing regulations on internet service providers. This is the first stage in dismantling net neutrality regulations.
Current net neutrality regulations prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down selected websites. Democrats and consumer advocates argue Thursday’s vote weakens those rules and puts in place the potential for ISPs to abuse their position as gatekeepers between customers and the World-Wide Web.
ISPs contend that softening rules helps them continue upgrading their networks and finding new ways to profit.
The new proposal suggests repealing the “general conduct” rule allowing the FCC to investigate ISPs suspected of engaging in anti-competitive business practices. It considers eliminating rules banning the blocking and slowing of websites and forbidding ISPs from charging additional fees for access to certain websites.
By buying up media firms, ISPs can create more sizable content bundles to sell customers. They can also mine customers’ online traffic and sell it to marketers or use it for advertising.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the agency’s sole Democrat, said the decision to revise the rules was the latest in a broader Republican attempt effort to undercut the agency’s own mission:
“The endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a wholesale destruction of the FCC’s public interest authority in the 21st century.”
Republican lawmakers would love to see the FCC regulation passed into law. Democrats, though, are preparing for a grassroots battle akin to the kind that defeated the first attempt at the House Republican American Health Care Act.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said:
“This fight is just starting. The public now has the opportunity to stand up, be heard, and influence the outcome. It will take millions of people standing up…to say that the Internet needs to stay free and open.”
Telecom companies are of course lauding the FCC vote.
Verizon said in a statement:
“The FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership took an important step today toward returning to the regulatory framework that was so successful for so many years.”
Consumer advocates, though, warn many of these new business practices present potential harm to consumers or startups. They fear these changes favor corporate profits over customers since ISPs will have the ability to start blocking and throttling data, pushing more expensive “fast lanes.” Strong, preemptive rules are seen as means to stave off these harms.
Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T opposed the 2015 rule change, citing it impeded their efforts to improve broadband service.
Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet and other net firms have backed the 2015 open net rules defending equal access for all.
Until mid-August, the FCC is inviting public comment on the dismantle the 2015 rules. People will most likely take this opportunity to voice their dissent, based on the more than one million statements supporting net neutrality already filed on the FCC site.
Please see the FCC contact page here for information on how to express your view.
Check out this video for more information on how Trump could care less about consumers or a free and open internet:
Featured Image: Screenshot Via YouTube Video.