The Federal Trade Commissions (FCC) released a plan last week to roll back landmark Obama-era regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, a move that potentially allows internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and limit access to certain websites.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai aims to make a sweeping repeal of the net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules currently prohibit high-speed internet service providers (ISP) from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites and prevent them from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other internet services.
Net neutrality is the concept that consumers should be able to reach online applications and services of their choice without interference from their broadband providers, meaning that all data that travels through the internet should be treated equally.
Pai called his rollback on the internet regulations “restoring internet freedom.”
“Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world,” Pai said in a statement.
He said a limited regulatory approach led to private sector investments in building communications networks, and that, under his proposal, “the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet” and he would only require ISPs to be transparent about their practices.
“For almost 20 years, the internet thrived under the light-touch approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress,” Pai said. “But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama [and], on a party-line vote, imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet.”
But some FCC commissioners, including Obama-nominated Mignon Clyburn, have said they will vote against the chairman’s plan.
Clyburn released a two-page fact sheet about how the plan would dismantle net neutrality, warning that repeal would increase uncertainty for customers as service providers “block or throttle at a whim,” and could potentially prevent states from adopting related consumer protections.
She said the 2015 net neutrality laws are the best way to protect consumers from “the anti-consumer and anti-competitive practices of broadband providers.
Clyburn encouraged citizens to contact members of Congress and the FCC to express how they felt about the net neutrality rollbacks.
Fellow FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel agreed.
“[Pai’s proposal] hands providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make and what communities we create,” Rosenworcel said. “It throttles access, stalls opportunity and censors content.”
But the repeal is still expected to pass in a 3-2 party-line vote during a December meeting in which it will be discussed.