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21 Nov, 2017 19:19

FCC announces vote to reverse ‘net neutrality’ rules

FCC announces vote to reverse ‘net neutrality’ rules

Federal regulators have unveiled a plan to overturn ‘net neutrality’ rules adopted by the Obama administration, giving Internet service provides broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use.

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plan to repeal a 2015 regulation designed to ensure internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally. FCC Commissioners will vote on the plan on December 14.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai told reporters. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumer 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.”

Under current “net neutrality” rules adopted during the Obama administration, the internet was declared a public utility under Title II. ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon were blocked from favoring their own digital service over their rivals’. If approved, the repeal would classify providers as “information service.” The FCC would also set up the Federal Trade Commission to handle all anti-competitive disputes.

Advocates for net neutrality are planning nationwide protests arguing the move is potentially costly, discriminatory and would lead to censorship.

One of the dissenting Commissioners, democrat Mignon Clyburn, told the Verge the rules “would dismantle net neutrality as we know it 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.”

Pai argues the net neutrality rules discourages ISPs from making investments in their network to provide even better and faster online access. Many consumer groups and internet companies disagree. Critics have argued that net neutrality prevents the ISPs from charging extra fees, engaging in censorship, or controlling what the consumer sees or does on the web.

The Internet Association, a trade group that represents some 40 web companies including Google and Facebook said the lack of ISP options is a critical flaw in the plan. Less than a quarter of the US has two or more home internet providers that offer basic broadband speeds.

“Consumer has very little choice in their ISP,” the organization said, according to The Verge, “and service providers should not be allowed to use this gatekeeper position at the point of connection to discriminate against websites and apps.”

Those fighting against the repeal, like the Free Press Action Fund, are joining in nationwide protests on December 7 outside Verizon retail stores. In some cities, protesters will march from Verizon retail stores to lawmakers’ offices.

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been too busy meeting with industry lobbyists and greedy Verizon executives to hear the outcry from millions of people who are joining together to reject his plan to kill off Net Neutrality,” said Mary Alice Crim of Free Press Action Fund. “People know that the open internet is essential for accessing everything from elder care to mental health services and they're willing to fight for it. Our message to Pai and Verizon is clear: people everywhere will not sit idle as you destroy the free and open internet.”