FCC Chairman Pai Announces Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality Rules

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Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reverse the agency’s Title II classification of broadband service, and to undo some and potentially all of the current net neutrality rules.

The FCC passed these rules in 2015 as part of the agency’s Open Internet Order, which barred broadband providers from throttling connection speeds, blocking websites, and accepting payment for prioritizing traffic. Millions of Americans expressed support for these rules by submitting comments with the FCC leading up to the Open Internet Order.

The following can be attributed to Ryan Clough, General Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“If enacted, Chairman Pai’s plan would dismantle the legal foundation of the Open Internet. Title II gives the FCC clear authority to enforce fundamental principles of non-discrimination, user control, and permissionless innovation. Pai’s proposal would throw all of the current net neutrality rules into doubt. Pai claims that internet openness was already protected prior to the classification of broadband service under Title II. But he conveniently ignores the preceding decade of history, during which net neutrality principles were periodically violated by ISPs, and where the FCC struggled to enforce net neutrality principles outside of Title II, losing repeatedly in the courts.

“Chairman Pai claims to be for a free and open internet, but he didn’t say in his speech which net neutrality protections, if any, he plans to retain. However, it’s already clear that Pai’s proposal will transfer power from consumers to the broadband monopolies, giving them more room to act as gatekeepers, standing between internet users and their choice of online applications and services. Under Pai’s vision, the internet would be increasingly governed by an opaque web of secret commercial arrangements between the big ISPs and major internet services, all in the name of promoting ‘investment.’ The broadband monopolies would have far more latitude to favor their own vertically-integrated content and services over competitors.

“This proposal is Washington policymaking at its worst -- an alignment of government regulators with dominant industry interests. And it’s particularly unfortunate to hear the Chairman of the FCC deploy fact-free rhetoric about supposed ‘government control over the internet’ -- a baseless distortion of the actual issues at stake in this debate. Telephone providers are, and will continue to be, regulated under Title II of the Communications Act, but the government doesn’t control your conversations and doesn’t let anyone else interfere in your conversations.

“From the beginning, the internet was designed to give control to the user -- to decentralize power away from any single network owner. This openness and freedom has been the foundation of the internet’s growth and success, to the point that many now take it for granted. However, Chairman Pai’s speech makes clear that, if Americans want to keep effective protections for the open internet, they will have to fight for them.”

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