Thursday’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission marks the transition of the internet from so-called “net neutrality” to what the agency calls a “light-touch regulatory framework.”
Reuters reports that the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of repealing 2015 rules that prevented internet service providers from charging extra for, or slowing access to particular content. It’s a big win for companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast that control much of the residential internet landscape.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai led the Commission’s initiative to end the regulations, saying that they stifled innovation and competition.
“The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia,” Pai said, according to Reuters. “To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success.”
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ripped the move on Thursday, calling it a strategic move to place the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – not the FCC – in charge of the internet.
“Strategically, it is a brilliant sleight of hand since the FTC has no rule-making authority and no telecommunications expertise, yet the companies and the policymakers who support them can trot out the line that the FTC will protect consumers,” Wheeler said in a blog.
Wheeler calls it a matter of the FCC “walking away” from efforts to preserve fairness between service providers.
“The press has focused on the repeal of the Obama era Net neutrality rules, but the Commission went far beyond that to deliver just what the headline proclaimed. The agency responsible for oversight of the nation’s networks has disavowed responsibility for the internet,” Wheeler wrote.
Kathy Grillo, Verizon’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel of public policy and government affairs, said last month that her company supports net neutrality while at the same time supports the FCC’s proposal to remove the legislation. The FCC announced the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” Nov. 21.
“Our company operates in virtually every segment of the internet. We continue to believe that users should be able to access the internet when, where, and how they choose, and our customers will continue to do so,” Grillo said. “We are also confident that the FCC will reinstate a framework that protects consumers’ access to the open internet, without forcing them to bear the heavy costs from unnecessary regulation that chases away investment and chills innovation. We look forward to reviewing the draft order after it is released.”
Read Lorna Garey’s column for insight on how the end of net neutrality will impact channel partners and their customers.