http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-net-neutrality-fcc-vote-20170518-story.htmlIn a Thursday vote that fell along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began the process of repealing Obama-era net neutrality rules. Republican commissioners on the FCC pushed through a proposal to begin dismantling the 2015 Open Internet Order and walk back the agency's ability to oversee or enforce net neutrality regulations. The vote is largely considered a major victory for internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.
In a 2-1 vote, Republican commissioners advanced FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back regulations established under President Barack Obama roughly two years ago, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally and abstain from favoring certain sites over others. Under regulations passed by the FCC in 2015, internet service providers are prohibited from discriminating against web content by blocking or slowing traffic to certain websites or apps. They are also prohibited from engaging in paid deals that could see some companies and websites buy an advantage over competitors.
Those in favor of rolling back the FCC's ability to enforce net neutrality rules claim such regulations represent unnecessary "heavy-handed" government overreach which has stifled investment in broadband.
"The internet was not broken in 2015," Pai said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We were not living in a digital dystopia. These utility-style regulations… were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against a flea — yet in this case there was no flea." Pai added that the FCC would look to restoring "light-touch" regulations.
Net neutrality supporters, however, disagree. They argue that regulations not only protect a level-playing field for online competition and innovation but also ensure consumers — who may not have many options when it comes to choosing an internet service provider — control what websites, apps, and services they access online.
In her dissent, Mignon Clyburn, the FCC's lone Democratic commissioner, warned the measure being advanced by her Republican colleagues "contains a hollow theory of trickle-down internet economics, suggesting that if we just remove enough regulations from your broadband provider, they will automatically improve your service, pass along discounts from those speculative savings, deploy more infrastructure with haste, and treat edge providers fairly," according to Variety. Her harsh criticism continued:
While the majority engages in flowery rhetoric, about light-touch regulation and so on and so forth, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a whole scale destruction of the FCC's public interest authority in the 21st century.
It is important to note that Thursday's vote does not mean current net neutrality rules have been repealed just yet. Rather, the FCC's vote kicks off a period of public comment on just how the commission should approach its oversight of broadband internet providers. But don't expect a flood of opposing public comments to convince the now Republican-controlled FCC to opt against repealing net neutrality rules or reversing the Obama-era Title 2 classification of broadband.
Pai, whom Trump appointed FCC Chairman in January, has made no secret of the fact that dismantling net neutrality regulations is one of his top priorities —shortly after Trump was elected, Pai claimed that net neutrality's "days are numbered."