Trump's FCC moves quickly to upend internet, media rules

Javier Stokes
November 23, 2017

"Our position is clear: the end of net neutrality would only benefit Internet Service Providers".

People and organizations who are for the de-regulation say this will let companies offer more services for folks at different price points which in turn would create a better service overall. Critics say it will allow ISPs to give preferential treatment to particular sites and apps, and to their own digital content. ISPs, they say, could block access to sites and cap and throttle network speeds by segregating the Internet into fast and slow lanes, slow down competitors' content, block unfavourable political opinions, and charge consumers extra for a faster Net experience.

The proposal also would shift some enforcement responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission, which can sue companies for violating the commitments or statements they have made to the public.

The FCC's proposal also puts additional pressure on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers have called for federal legislation that would supersede any FCC rules.

Pai's 200-page proposal would eliminate all but one of those net neutrality protections in a bid to stop the federal government from "micromanaging the internet".

But the FCC has seemingly taken no action to remove fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed. Federal law requires the FCC and all federal agencies to take public comments on proposed rules into account - so it is important that the public comment process actually enable the voices of the millions of individuals and businesses who will be affected to be heard.

"For nearly twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress", the statement from Chairman Pai reads. "New York City stands with other cities against the repeal of Net Neutrality". "What they are telling me is not that their ISP is blocking access to lawful content, it's that they don't have access at all, or that they don't have enough competition".

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As we've reported before, dozens of consumer advocacy groups including Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and the ACLU have supported the strong net neutrality rules - aligned with companies like Netflix, Google, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit and Amazon.

"We got the internet economy that is the envy of the world precisely because we rejected heavy-handed regulation from the get-go", Pai added.

The five-member FCC has a Republican majority, including Pai, suggesting that his plan - called "The Restoring Internet Freedom Order" - will pass.

Pai announced plans to review existing rules that prevent broadcast companies from owning TV stations that reach more than 39% of all TV households in the United States. While Canada has always been in favour of Net Neutrality, big business in America is pushing against it.

The FCC voted to begin the process to repeal net neutrality in May. "But smaller startups, small companies, non-profits, libraries, governments, they can't afford this".

Matt Wood, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press, likened the proposed system to the way that many companies design their privacy policies.

Diagram explaining net neutrality. The 2015 rules were the first version to be upheld in court in full.

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