FCC plans may scrap net neutrality rules next month

Pauline Gross
November 22, 2017

The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unveiled plans on Tuesday to repeal landmark 2015 rules that prohibited internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content in a move that promises to recast the digital landscape.

On Dec. 14, the commissioners will vote on whether to roll back regulations instituted in 2015 for companies that include AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. The proposal, which will be up for public view tomorrow, is largely expected to pass with the vote splitting along party lines.

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet", Pai said in a statement. Under the new rules, he said, the FCC would "simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices". The rules, which the commission is expected to vote on at its December 14 meeting, would replace those Open Internet or Net neutrality rules, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling legal content users sought to access, as well as preventing ISPs from accepting payment to prioritize some data. Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online. The Federal Communications Commission is expected to release a new net neutrality rule this week reversing that decision.

Long set at 39%, the ownership cap is accompanied by a rule known as the "UHF discount", a method of counting stations that dates to the days when stations were tuned in with a VHF/UHF dial. UHF stations are counted at a lower level in overall station tallies than VHF ones with stronger signals, enabling one owner to amass more net stations.

A repeal of the rules is a big victory for cable and internet providers - and has been opposed by many tech companies and internet advocacy groups. Internet users also mocked up photos envisioning what the end of net neutrality might look like.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, and it's essentially how the internet has worked since its inception.

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The embattled rules risk "stifling innovation, costing jobs, and casting a pall over the investment needed", said Michael Powell, chairman of the Washington-based trade group.

A hot-button issue, the rules rollback generated record input at the FCC, which received more than 9 million public comments. "An ISP could slow down its competitors' content or block political opinions it disagreed with".

"The Internet should be competitive and open", Google said on its website. However, Chairman Pai doesn't want the American user to fall for this "fearmongering".

"The FTC stands ready to protect broadband subscribers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts and practices just as we protect consumers in the rest of the Internet ecosystem", Ohlhausen said in a statement Tuesday.

The regulation survived a court challenge from broadband providers past year.

Other reports by GizPress

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