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FCC Votes to Cut Back Net Neutrality Regulations

18 May, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission May 18 formally began the process of reversing net neutrality provisions implemented by regulating the Internet as a utility.

In a 2-1 vote (President Trump has yet to name two open commission seats), the FCC authorized a “notice of proposed rulemaking,” which aims to scuttle the commission’s 2015 landmark decision classifying the Web as a utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

Under new FCC chairman Ajit Pai (appointed by Trump to lead the board), the Internet would be regulated under the more business-friendly Communications Act of 1996.

Net neutrality guidelines would prohibit ISPs from blocking or throttling content and/or charging content providers such as Netflix, Google or Amazon a higher price for faster streaming speeds for their subscribers.

“The Internet was not broken in 2015,” Pai said in a statement. “The utility-style regulations known as Title II were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea. Except that here, there was no flea.”

In addition, the FCC proposes re-classifying mobile broadband as a private service, which it claims would benefit consumers and the marketplace. It also wants to do away with an Internet conduct standard Pai considers vague and overly expansive.

Indeed, under former chairman Tom Wheeler, the agency had begun scrutinizing unlimited data plans being offered by telecoms and other ISPs for sponsored content, among other issues.

The notice also seeks public comment on whether the commission should keep, modify or eliminate the bright-line rules established by Title II. A bright-line rule is a clearly defined rule or standard, composed of objective factors, which leaves little or no room for varying interpretation.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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