Net Neutrality Hangs in the Balance Yet Again


By: Steven Morris

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, pictured above, is campaigning to end the 2015 net neutrality laws. (Credit: wired.com)

The fight for a free internet is upon us again.

On December 14, the FCC held a successful vote on the FCC Chairman’s proposal to get rid of the protections that the FCC passed in 2015.

In 2015, rules were adopted based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

According to The Daily Dot, “Title II of the Communications Act concerns something called “common carriers,” which also covers utilities like landline phones and electricity. The 2015 Open Internet Order reclassified broadband internet service under Title II (it was previously classified under Title I as an “information service”), which provided the legal basis for the FCC to enforce net neutrality rules.”

By classifying broadband internet service under Title II, the FCC passed its strongest set rules regarding net neutrality.

According to savetheinternet.com, net neutrality is “an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.”

Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is the current FCC Chairman; he was appointed by President Trump.

According to a statement released by the FCC Chairman on November 21, he said that he has “…shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet.”

He went on to say, “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

In the statement that was released, Pai also criticized the rules that were put in 2015, saying “the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”

Ajit Pai and the FCC are facing strong criticism for this proposal.

More than 200 tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr etc. are siding with consumers to defend the net neutrality rules, advising Pai and the FCC to not pass the proposal.

Other companies, such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, are for the proposal, due to that they are internet service providers (ISP’s), and they would benefit the most from the proposal passing.

Without rules that would enforce net neutrality, savetheinternet.com says that “cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with.”

The source went on to say, “ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.”

Although the proposal was passed, it still has a huge obstacle to face:  the FCC has to prove to the courts why the proposal should be in place.

According to the Supreme Court, federal agencies that are planning major policy changes, must “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action.”

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