The end of net neutrality is nigh. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Thursday that his agency's Restoring Internet Freedom Order will take effect on June 11.
Pai says the controversial move will return the regulation of Internet service providers “to the bipartisan, light-touch approach that fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.”
In 2015, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband as a telecommunication service and prohibited internet service providers from setting up internet fast and slow lanes, ensuring all online traffic is treated the same. The D.C. Circuit Court upheld the rules in 2016, but the FCC started efforts to roll back these protections in spring of last year. In December 2017, the FCC’s commissioners voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality.
The Commission’s new framework includes the following measures:
Restoring the classification of broadband internet access service as an “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act—the classification affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2005 Brand X case.
Reinstating the classification of mobile broadband internet access service as a private mobile service.
Restoring broadband consumer protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission, enabling it to apply its extensive expertise to provide uniform online protections against unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.
Requiring that ISPs disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission, including any blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or affiliated prioritization.
Eliminating “the vague and expansive” Internet Conduct Standard, under which the FCC could micromanage innovative business models.
The order and the framework it created required the approval of the Office of Management and Budget. That approval came on May 10.
“I strongly support a free and open internet. And that’s exactly what we’ve had for decades, starting in the Clinton Administration,” Pai said in a statement “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure and imposed heavy-handed Title II rules on the Internet economy. It doesn’t make sense to apply outdated rules from 1934 to the internet, but that’s exactly what the prior Administration did.”
As of June 11, he said, “unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed.”
“Armed with our strengthened transparency rule, we look forward to working closely with the Federal Trade Commission to safeguard a free and open internet,” Pai added.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel described the decision that “net neutrality protections will be taken off the books” as “profoundly disappointing.”
“The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land,” she said. “The agency turned a blind eye to serious problems in its process—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in its files. The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed.”
“I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too,” says acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. “The repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online.”