Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FCC schedules Dec. 14 vote on rollback of net neutrality rules; will likely end up in court again

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Dec. 14 on a proposal to dismantle Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which prevented internet service providers like AT&T from blocking or slowing down access to websites that don't pay extra. Conversely, without net neutrality, ISPs can also create paid internet "fast lanes" where websites that pay extra can be accessed more quickly.

The proposal, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai officially declared today, includes a transparency mandate that would require ISPs to inform customers about their blocking and throttling practices. It would also shift authority to police internet service providers to the Federal Trade Commission. The proposal will be publicly released Nov. 22, Jim Puzzanghera reports for the Los Angeles Times.

Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, says current regulations are too burdensome and stifle investment in broadband networks. Telecommunications companies have said that repealing net neutrality regulations could benefit rural America by clearing the way for a "smarter and more practical approach", but net neutrality helps rural areas because small, rural companies that can't afford to pay ISP tolls for faster connection could wither without a decent web presence.

The FCC is likely to approve the rollback on a 3-2 party-line vote, but the issue will probably end up in court again. "A federal appeals court upheld the current net neutrality rules in June 2016, siding with the FCC against a challenge from AT&T, USTelecom and other industry trade groups. This time, it’s likely to be net neutrality advocates taking the agency to court," Margaret Harding McGill reports for Politico. Watch this Politico video for a primer on net neutrality:

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