The FCC’s highly controversial Net Neutrality Order, issued in 2015 by the Tom Wheeler-led Commission, is under serious attack from current Republican Chairman Ajit Pai. In the recent circulation of a draft NPRM on net neutrality, Pai denounced the negative impacts of the existing order’s classification of Internet Service providers as Title II telecommunications carriers. His proposal would roll back the order and return ISPs to the more lightly regulated Title I status.
A statement from the Chairman’s Office, entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom For All Americans,” pointed to the failure of “the prior Administration’s Title II solution,” including: Declining investment in broadband networks; Shelving of planned deployment of new or upgraded broadband infrastructure; Job losses due to the reduced investment; and the weakening of online privacy caused by stripping the FTC of its authority over the data security and privacy practices of broadband providers.
Chairman Pai said his new approach – the return of broadband providers to Title I regulation – will benefit all Americans by:
Spurring broadband deployment, which will make available better, faster internet service to more people.
Creating jobs, through the deployment and creation of broadband networks and online opportunities necessary for job growth and economic opportunity.
Increasing competition and choice in the broadband market.
Strengthening and securing online privacy by returning authority over the privacy practices of broadband providers to the FTC – “the nation’s premier consumer protection agency.”
Restoring internet freedom, by “ending government micromanagement and returning to the bipartisan regulatory framework that worked well for decades.”
Democrats, of course, took a different view. A joint statement by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny decried Pai’s plan, saying it would be “a gift to behemoth incumbent broadband providers at the expense of innovators and consumers.” They called the proposal, “net neutrality in name only,” as it “will hand over control of the open internet to the powerful gatekeepers or our connections to the modern world.
With hyperbole like this, we should expect a battle over this NPRM. But with Republicans in control of the FCC, Congress and the White House, we also expect the internet to once again be basically deregulated. Now if the FCC would just lighten its touch on small, rural ILECs…