Jolly Old Ajit Pai is in the process of bringing a huge Christmas present to Internet Service Providers far and wide. The gift is in the form of a Federal Communications Commission vote, coming at its December 14th meeting, to rescind the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015 by then President Obama through his puppet FCC.
“The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that could be pro-competitive,” said Chairman Pai. He added that the Obama administration had tried to pick winners and losers through ‘heavy handed’ regulation of the internet. Pai intends to “simply set rules of the road that let companies of all kinds in every sector compete and let consumers decide who wins and (who) loses.”
The new order, of course, will reclassify ISPs back to Title I information service providers — as they had been until 2015 – rather than more heavily regulated Title II telecommunications service providers. Pai has said that he has not shared this rollback plan with the White House in advance, or been directed by the president to undo net neutrality rules. He must be aware, however, that Trump opposed Obama’s net neutrality rules in 2014, calling them a “power grab.” A positive vote in favor of the relaxed rules is more than likely.
At its December meeting, the FCC will also vote on Pai’s proposal to require ISPs to disclose whether they allow blocking or slowing customer internet access, or permit fast lanes to facilitate “paid prioritization.” This will make it easier for the Federal Trade Commission – returning to its long-standing internet watch dog role – to determine whether ISPs are engaging in any abuse of consumers.
Pai has stated that state and local governments should be preempted from imposing their own net neutrality rules over broadband internet, which is “inherently an interstate service.” The FCC will also vote to eliminate the current “inherent conduct standard,” which gives the Commission far-reaching discretion to prohibit any ISP practice that it believes violates an extensive list of factors.
Instead, it will use a “light touch, market based” regulatory approach which will not hinder innovation, competition, new services and rapid growth.
It appears that IXCs will be getting a very Merry Christmas, indeed.