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FCC Takes First Steps Toward Gutting Net Neutrality

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The Federal Communications Commission Thursday voted to propose ending utility-style oversight of internet service providers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the plan late last month. Two years ago, the commission adopted regulations that treat broadband as a telecommunications service, prohibit blocking and slowing down of web content and ban internet providers from prioritizing certain traffic.

For the next 90 days, the FCC will collect comments from stakeholders and the general public before drafting a specific order and voting on whether to set it into law.

“Today’s notice is the start of a new chapter in the public discussion about how we can best maintain a free and open internet while making sure that ISPs have strong incentives to bring next-generation networks and services to all Americans,” Pai said. “To reiterate, this is the beginning of the process, not the end. The FCC is simply seeking comment on these proposals. We also ask questions about the existing bright-line rules. Over the next 90 days, the American public will then have a chance to share its views on them. And in the time to come, the FCC will follow the facts and the law where they take us.”{ad}

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the notice, said that while the “majority engages in flowery rhetoric about light-touch regulation and so on, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a wholescale destruction of the FCC’s public interest authority in the 21st century.”

Craig Silliman, Verizon’s executive vice president of public policy and general counsel, said the telco supports rolling back Title II utility regulation on broadband.

“The FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership took an important step today towards returning to the regulatory framework that was so successful for so many years,” he said.

The Internet Association, a group that represents more than 40 top internet companies, including Google, Facebook and Netflix, said the current rules are working.

“ISPs should not be able to use their position as gatekeepers to prioritize their own content over others,” said Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and CEO. “Internet companies stand with consumers, startups and other beneficiaries of the ecosystem in our fight to maintain a free and open internet.”


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