FCC votes to blow up net neutrality

The FCC on Thursday voted 2 to 1 to begin dismantling net neutrality.

It’s not a surprise. The Federal Communications Commission is made up of two Republicans including Chairman Ajit Pai — who put forth the proposal to roll back the rules adopted under the previous administration — and only one remaining Democrat.

For the most part, Republicans (and big internet access providers) favor fewer regulations and say net neutrality rules endanger innovation and tech  investment. Democrats (and many tech companies, plus internet rights advocates) advocate for net neutrality rules because they say big companies and incumbents could take advantage of their positions to limit access to certain content online, and hinder innovation by smaller competitors.

Now what?

Net neutrality proponents have some harsh words for the FCC.

That includes the lone Democratic FCC commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, who tweeted this after the vote:

Before the vote to approve Pai’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) today, Clyburn had tweeted that “If you unequivocally trust your #broadband provider to put the public interest over their self-interest then today’s @FCC action is for you.”

Pai’s proposal would undo the classification of internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That classification was key to the adoption of the net neutrality rules in 2015 — when Republicans were in the minority in the FCC — after a long battle because it gave the agency the power to regulate internet access providers.

Tech companies such as Mozilla are encouraging protests.

“During the public comment period in 2015, nearly 4 million citizens wrote to the FCC, many of them demanding strong net neutrality protections,” said Denelle Dixon-Thayer, chief legal and business officer for the Mozilla Foundation, in an emailed statement. “We all need to show the same commitment again.”

One policy expert, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who says the internet flourished without internet access providers being classified as common carriers, isn’t so sure protesting will work.

“If any of these protests succeed, they need to succeed at the congressional level,” Stuart Brotman told SiliconBeat in a phone interview Thursday. “To what extent will political representatives respond to this?”

Well, Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Anna Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley, are echoing the call for people to rise up.

“Three years ago, the American people spoke loudly and clearly in support of rules to protect free speech and online commerce from the powerful grip of corporate gatekeepers,” Eshoo said in an emailed statement. “As the public comment process begins, the American people again have the opportunity to make their voices heard.”

The public has 90 days to comment on the proposal. They can add to the more than 2.1 million comments the FCC has received online so far.

Meanwhile, advocates of big business such as the telecom and broadband industries are cheering the FCC’s move.

“The FCC is moving the conversation beyond the merits of net neutrality to how best to safeguard this universally embraced value with a modern, constructive policy framework,” USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said in an emailed statement.


Photo: Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outside the American Enterprise Institute before his arrival May 5, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


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  • sd

    Hard to imagine that, even with 2 million plus comments on the move already, the FCC will be moved to change their minds. Pai came in with this mindset and, #&^% it all, he was going to ram it through. But let’s see what can be done…

  • stevetrujillo

    this is a major disappointment to those who believe in democracy. and this is a win for Trump. he has not had many, but this is what he wanted. all the more reason to:

    • Bryan See

      Yeah. Agree with you. 100%