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December 14 could be a grim day for Internet users in the US
The Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai will reveal his proposal to end net neutrality tomorrow in preparation for the December 14 vote.
The FCC has confirmed yet again its intent to completely repeal net neutrality rules, one of the Obama-era FCC’s signature achievements. In a press conference today, the FCC reaffirmed its plan to reverse the classification of ISPs as common carriers, remove limits on Internet Service Providers from blocking and throttling content, and allow ISPs to create “fast lanes” for websites that pay. Pai promises to unveil his full proposal tomorrow, on November 22, claiming, “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. 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.”
It’s highly likely the FCC will vote 3-2 to repeal these landmark regulations, the effects of which could be devastating.
The FCC leadership is currently comprised of two Democrats and three Republicans, and the five members will hold a vote on December 14 to either approve or reject Pai’s proposal. Given the historical opposition from the Republican Party on net neutrality rules, however, it’s highly likely the FCC will vote 3-2 to repeal these landmark regulations, the effects of which could be devastating.
While the reclassification of ISPs – from common carriers to information service providers –frees ISPs from net neutrality rules, such protection becomes relatively meaningless when the FCC is trying to repeal net neutrality itself. Indeed, the real concern is the potential (and likely) repeal of these Obama-era regulations. Implemented under Tom Wheeler in 2015, net neutrality rules deem every content equal, meaning companies cannot collect fees to prioritize certain information, and they are required to treat all information flows in the same manner. You may recall Comcast throttling BitTorrent connections or AT&T placing a limit on iPhone Skype users’ data. These are the sorts of behavior that net neutrality rules sought to curtail.
Without net neutrality, ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have the power to prioritize their services and websites over others. Not only that, it will become easier for ISPs to block certain apps and throttle Internet speed at their discretion. For instance, if your carrier thinks Skype is taking a toll on their network, it may place a limit or block Skype entirely. Or if Android Authority doesn’t pay a company for a fast lane, its content could be buried under irrelevant and unwanted pages.
Without net neutrality, it will become easier for ISPs to block certain apps and throttle Internet speed at their discretion.
The trouble with this paid fast lane approach is that it can have a devastating impact on emerging businesses. Budding start-ups in video and music streaming arenas in particular, who might not have the same financial capacity as big corporations like Amazon and Netflix, face a serious challenge. Gutting net neutrality rules, in effect, further fosters well-established, multibillion dollar conglomerates while crushing burgeoning competition and innovation. The worst part is that the order will prohibit individual states from creating their own net neutrality regulations. Indeed, as Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the two Democratic commissioners at the FCC, puts it, “This is ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the Internet every day.”
However, the battle isn’t over. Consumer groups have already started preparing to challenge the FCC’s plan in court, and as I previously pointed out, the Administrative Procedures Act will likely play a key role. The Act essentially bans federal agencies from acting in a “capricious” manner (i.e. going back and forth on a decision with changes in political administration). As well, there is still time to contact your senator and/or governor to get your voice heard. There is a splendid thread on Reddit that explains an easy way to do so:
There’s a bot you can text, that helps you write an email or a fax, free of charge, to your senator, or governor. Text “resist” to “504-09” and it’ll ask you some questions, then you’re onto writing. From another thread a few weeks ago, someone posted this message, and it think it’s a great one to send.
What are your thoughts on net neutrality? Will you be contacting your local representative or the FCC? Let us know by leaving a comment below!