Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) wants to start from scratch on net neutrality, today (21 November) proposing a full repeal of the commission’s 2015 net neutrality regulations.
Current net neutrality rules specifically prohibit fixed and mobile broadband providers from blocking, throttling and prioritising paid internet content. Pai’s proposal would do away with those Obama-era rules in favour of returning regulation of internet service providers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers 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.”
Verizon was quick to issue a statement saying it was “encouraged” by Pai’s announcement, but was careful to note it continues “to believe that users should be able to access the internet when, where and how they choose”.
The proposal received immediate support from Pai’s fellow Republican commissioner Brendan Carr, who said the move would reverse “regulatory overreach” and restore the light-touch framework of the internet’s early days.
In contrast, Democrat commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, who both voted in favor of the 2015 regulations, blasted the move. Rosenworcel described Pai’s proposal as “ridiculous and offensive” and claimed it “tears at the foundation of openness”.
“It hands broadband providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make, and what communities we create. It throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content,” she added.
Rosenworcel argued such a massive shift in regulatory policy should be subject to public hearings before a vote, just as the decision to implement net neutrality required in the first place.
The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal at a monthly meeting on 14 December. A full public draft of the proposal is expected to be released three weeks prior to the meeting.