FCC continues to deregulate internet provider, media industries

UPDATE 3 — 12/6, 3:09 p.m. EST: In a letter on Monday, 28 Democratic U.S. senators called on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to delay a vote on rolling back net neutrality rules set for Dec. 14. 

The group of pro-net neutrality lawmakers cited reports of “hundreds of thousands” of fake public comments generated by bots and suggested an investigation into the matter be launched.

Demonstrations have been organized in front of Verizon Wireless stores on Thursday, Dec. 7, to protest the FCC vote.  Pai is a former Verizon corporate lawyer.


UPDATE 2 — 11/24, 11:06 a.m. EST: According to advocacy site battleforthenet.com, over 377,000 Americans have contacted their congressperson this week to express dissatisfaction with the FCC’s proposal to end net neutrality rules.

In addition to the flood of calls to Washington, a protest has been scheduled for Dec. 13 in front of FCC headquarters at 445 12th St SW, a day before the commission will vote on Ajit Pai’s anti-regulatory proposal.


UPDATE — 11/23, 7:37 a.m. EST: The FCC released an order Wednesday to end rules instituted in 2015 that prohibit internet service providers from banning websites of their choice, arbitrarily manipulating connection speeds and offering different consumer price levels for faster internet.

In a Fox News channel interview, the commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, attempted to quell fears the proposal would raise costs for internet users by noting the Federal Trade Commission is “expressly empowered to protect competition and consumers.”


Multiple media sources said Wednesday the FCC will vote in December on a proposal by commission chairman Ajit Pai to rollback net neutrality rules instituted during former President Obama’s tenure.

Chairman Pai proposed overturning regulations in April which effectively ban internet service providers (ISPs) from charging customers more for high priority network access, resulting in faster connection speeds. The 2015 rules also disallow ISPs from blocking websites at their own discretion.

Pai’s plan would revoke the classification of ISPs as public utility companies and redefine them individually as an “information service”, legally subjecting them to less federal oversight as Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would no longer apply.

FCC personnel working on the proposal said specifics of the plan, which may also include greater transparency requirements for ISPs, will be revealed next week with a vote scheduled at the commission’s Dec. 14 meeting.

Over 22 million public comments on net neutrality have been made since May, which a consulting firm hired by a coalition of telecommunication companies found to be 98.5 percent in favor of keeping the current rules in place.

While consumer and “open internet” advocates argue FCC deregulation of ISPs will hurt  customers, online businesses and startup sites, lobbyists for telecommunication corporations are reportedly pressuring the commission to include language in the proposal’s final draft to block states from enforcing similar rules.

“Abandoning bipartisan net neutrality principles threatens to kill the streaming revolution and will hurt businesses, large and small, who are migrating to the cloud at record speeds,” said Incompas CEO Chip Pickering. “No one wants to see the internet turned into cable and have to pay more for streaming services they love.”

In related news, the FCC voted on Thursday to overturn a 42-year-long regulation that banned cross-ownership of multiple media platforms in a single, local market.  Elimination of the rule allows for the expansion of local newspapers and TV and radio stations, but could also result in the merging of outlets, which would stifle competition.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) responded skeptically to the move, predicting it “will pave the way for massive broadcast conglomerates to increasingly provide local viewers with nationalized cookie-cutter news and corporate propaganda that’s produced elsewhere.”


[Reuters] [Bloomberg] [Politico] [New York Times via Boston Globe] [CNBC] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Luis Gene/AFP/Getty Images via Cablefax]