Reports: FCC going ahead with plans to dismantle net neutrality rules

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that sources have confirmed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will go forward with plans to dismantle Obama-era “net neutrality” rules after meeting with telecommunications industry lobbyists on Tuesday.

In 2015, the then-Democratic majority FCC panel approved regulations on broadband internet service providers, called the Open Internet Order, which prohibited discrimination against data usage and high-speed prioritization for certain websites or users who pay higher nominal rates.

Many Republicans, like Pai, argue that these rules stifle ISP competition and discourage innovation and expansion of internet access to more remote and hard-to-reach areas of the country.

Instead, the chairman has said he wants to maintain “a free and open internet” through provider-generated terms of service agreements which would legally bind companies not to charge customers more for faster connections.  While offering such language to clients would be voluntary, once the agreements are in place the Federal Trade Commission would be charged with ensuring ISPs adhere to them according to Pai’s plan.

According to Wall Street Journal sources, the new FCC chairman’s regulatory reform outline would reclassify broadband providers so they are no longer treated as traditional telecommunications companies.

Net neutrality rules essentially gave FCC the authority to regulate ISPs. Once they are nullified, firms that provide internet access will again fall under the jurisdiction of the FTC.

Along with the restoration of FTC governance of ISPs, Pai’s reforms may also shift oversight of internet consumer privacy rules to the trade commission. Last week, Congress repealed a FCC rule which prohibited internet providers from selling customer browsing data to third parties.

While Pai will reportedly unveil his revamped FCC internet regulation plan within the next month, only three of five seats on the commission’s panel are currently filled.  President Trump must nominate two more members to the vacant seats, preferably before scheduled meeting in May and June when the chairman’s new rules will likely be voted on.


[Reuters] [Wall Street Journal] [PC World] [Photo courtesy Gigaom]