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FCC goes ahead with net neutrality repeal

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on party lines “to restore the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years”. It says: “Following detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders, the Commission reversed the FCC’s 2015 heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire internet ecosystem.” Former FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, had earlier taken aim at his successor’s plan to eliminate net neutrality rules, saying that FCC chairman Ajit Pai is selling out consumers and entrepreneurs at the behest of major internet service providers, reports Ars Technica. “ISP monopoly carriers have been trying for four years to get to this point,” Wheeler said, pointing to a 2013 story in The Washington Post about how telecoms were trying to shift regulation of their broadband businesses to other agencies that don’t have nearly as much power as the FCC. Pai’s elimination of net neutrality rules will also shift consumer protection responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and forbid state and local governments from writing their own net neutrality rules. “It is a classic example of regulatory capture, where the regulatory agency bends to the wishes of those they are supposed to oversee,” Wheeler said. The big ISPs haven’t suffered from the net neutrality rules, Wheeler said. Instead, the rules have been a win-win for businesses that offer services over the internet and the broadband providers. Venture capital money for internet-based companies has risen, and ISPs have enjoyed “expansion in profitability and stock prices”. But eliminating net neutrality regulations will allow the big four ISPs to “make their own rules”, Wheeler said. He also said relying on the FTC to police net neutrality will be much less effective than the FCC’s current regime. The FTC can’t issue net neutrality rules of its own; it can only punish ISPs if they make net neutrality promises and then break them. But other voices expressed support. Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, wrote in the Daily Caller: “FCC chairman Pai should be applauded for this extraordinary show of regulatory humility. Ceding turf to another government agency is a rarity on par with the Hope diamond. But in pressing this urgently needed course of action – despite the jabs of late-night comedians and various interest groups – he is paving the way for consistent consumer protections and a greater focus at the Commission on the critical, unfinished work of connecting rural America and advancing world-class broadband throughout our nation… Jettisoning FCC regulations originally crafted in 1934 to govern rotary phones – rules that could not possibly have envisioned today’s vast internet ecosystem — in favour of modern enforcement has the added benefit of roping in today’s dominant online players, the so-called ‘big five’ of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.” Read more and here. Read FCC announcement and statements

  • Tuesday, 19 December 2017

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