FCC starts regulatory process to roll back net neutrality rule

The FCC voted 2-1 along party lines to advance FCC chairman Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom proposal, which would repeal current net neutrality protections Thursday. Politico reports “The FCC’s action Thursday doesn’t repeal the rules yet but instead launches a lengthy proceeding that will pit ISPs and conservative groups, which back Pai’s efforts, against left-leaning digital activists and leading tech companies that say the net neutrality rules are crucial to creating a level playing field online. Already, the debate has begun to echo the bitter fight over the issue two years ago, and the number of public comments filed in the proceeding has skyrocketed to 1.6 million at last count.”

From the FCC press release:

The Federal Communications Commission today took the first step toward restoring Internet freedom and promoting infrastructure investment, innovation, and choice by proposing to end utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC proposes to return to the bipartisan framework that preserved a flourishing free and open Internet for almost 20 years.  First, the Notice proposes to reverse the FCC’s 2015 decision to impose heavy-handed Title II utility-style government regulation on Internet service providers (ISPs) and return to the longstanding, successful light-touch framework under Title I of the Communications Act.

Second, the Notice proposes to return to the Commission’s original classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service.  Given the historical innovation and success of the wireless marketplace prior to the Title II Order, this proposal is expected to substantially benefit consumers and the marketplace.

Third, the Notice proposes to eliminate the catch-all Internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order.  Because the Internet conduct standard is extremely vague and expansive, ISPs must guess at what they are permitted to do.  Eliminating the Internet conduct standard is therefore expected to promote innovation and network investment by eliminating regulatory uncertainty.

“The FCC is proposing a rule that would reclassify broadband as an ‘information service’ rather than a ‘telecommunications service.’ FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that this move would protect users, but all it would really do is protect Comcast and other big ISPs by destroying the legal foundation for net neutrality rules. Once that happened, it would only be a matter of time before your ISP had more power than ever to shape the Internet” wrote Corynne McSherry in yesterday’s EFF commentary, Dear FCC: We See Through Your Plan to Roll Back Real Net Neutrality.

For background see Net neutrality: If the Internet is not a utility, what is it? on LLB. — Joe

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