Battle for free internet rages as FCC swamped with over 10mn net neutrality comments
Net neutrality is the principle that the internet is free, open, and accessible, meaning internet users can access any sites they want, and internet service providers (ISPs) can’t block or slow down content and websites as they choose.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to reverse net neutrality rules it passed in 2015, which prevent ISPs from blocking and prioritizing certain content online over others.
The public comment period ended on Monday and a one-month rebuttal period is underway. To date, 10.94 million filings have been made on the FCC’s site. This is a record number of comments made and is twice as many as in 2015 when the current rules were being discussed, according to CNET.
Who’s in favor of net neutrality?
Privacy rights groups, tech companies, and internet activists are against lessening regulations, fearing it will destroy what the internet is at its core, a free information source for everyone.
There are concerns that reversing regulations would damage innovation and the value provided by the internet. Government influence on access to information could also be an issue, as internet service providers could slow down websites or block ones they don’t agree with. ISPs are large donors in US politics.
The likes of Google and Apple support the regulations, fearing a rollback would give ISPs freedom to favor different content over others.
An umbrella group of tech companies, Internet Association, wrote a letter calling for “strong and enforceable net neutrality rules.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with 200 internet scientists and engineers, penned a 53-page comment highlighting their “fundamental understanding of what the Internet’s technology promises to provide… (and) how the Internet actually works.”
Who’s against net neutrality?
Telecom and cable companies want to get rid of regulations, saying they unfairly target internet providers, which leads to them not investing in broadband in rural areas.
AT&T and Comcast filed comments in support of rolling back the regulations. “We support the FCC returning internet access to the light-touch regulatory framework in place for more than two decades that kept up with the speed of innovation,” it said.
US President Donald Trump has criticized the 2015 rules, and FCC chair Ajit Pai, who was named to the post by Trump days after his inauguration, said he would consider overturning them. Pai says the regulations have led to reduced investment in network expansion.
The commission approved the proposal in May. It hopes to reclassify broadband internet service as information service instead of a telecommunications service.
The 2015 regulations invoked Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to enable the FCC to oversee ISPs as “common carriers” and the internet itself as a public utility.
Pai told the Senate Commerce it “will make a full and fair review of the record.”