Net Neutrality and the FCC

On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 2-1 in favor of starting the process of dismantling net neutrality rules and changing the classification of home and mobile internet providers as common carriers (under Title II of the Communications Act). The vote pushes forward the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to remove the Title II classification entirely. 

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Over the last few months that the FCC has been under the leadership of Ajit Pai, efforts to remove net neutrality rules have been moving forward. It started with a controversial vote in Congress back in March, which cancelled previously approved FCC rules on internet privacy.

The FCC is open to comments regarding the NPRM until August 16, when it will then make its final decision. For those who wish to share their thoughts, the docket can be accessed here. It’s still not clear, however, if Pai intends to put back the 2015 net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs from throttling or blocking lawful internet content in favor of prioritized, paid access.

Internet Freedom

Debate over net neutrality centers on protecting internet freedom. Pai himself called his plan "Restoring Internet Freedom,"  — but does removing net neutrality, and changing the Title II classification rules, really protect internet freedom?

Pai thinks so, arguing that "[t]he Internet was not broken in 2015" before net neutrality rules were put in place. Instead, the FCC chairman is optimistic. "This is the beginning of the process, not the end," Pai said before the 2-1 vote.

“Today, President Trump’s FCC took the first step to dismantle net neutrality," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). "This action will undermine the free and open Internet and hand its control over to a few powerful corporate interests."

In effect, what the FCC wants to do is to remove government regulation of ISPs and to give them total broadband access control. From that standpoint, taking out net neutrality is freedom — but not for consumers. That being said, removing the ISP's common carrier or utilities classification would put them under the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) authority.

The final set of rules will likely be presented this fall after the public comment period has ended.

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