The FCC to kill off net neutrality in April

22 February 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declares that 23 April is the date when the reversal of net neutrality rules comes into effect.

In its 'Restoring Internet Freedom’ order published earlier today, the FCC outlined its intention to repeal the controversial net neutrality rules on the aforementioned date except for five amendatory instructions 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8, which are delayed pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The news comes amid a turbulent few months for the regulator, which upon its decision to repeal the internet rules, was met with public outcry and the threat of legal action.

In a 3-2 vote across party lines, the FCC lead by its chairman Ajit Pai voted in December to reverse the revoke the rules that safe guards a free and open-internet. In statement Pai, attempted to explain the decision saying: " What is responsible for the phenomenal development of the Internet? It certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation. Quite to the contrary." According to Pai, it was President Clinton and the Republican Congress’s decision to adopt a "light-touch" approach to the internet, which resulted in its progress, one that was "unfettered by Federal or State regulation." Adding that between 1996 and 2015 roughly $1.5 trillion was invested into the internet.

Ajit Pai 160x186But according to Pai, in 2015, the Obama administration "jettisoned this successful, bipartisan approach to the Internet" subjecting the internet to "utility-style regulation designed in the 1930s to govern Ma Bell." As a result, Pai says "investment in high-speed networks has declined by billions of dollars. Notably, this is the first time that such investment has declined outside of a recession in the Internet era" at a rate of 5.6%. 

Despite his attempts at explaining, Pai and the FCC have face nothing short of a complete backlash. On the day of the decision, industry players and member of the public too to social media to express their disapproval.Twitter called the decision a "blow to innovation and free expression". Netflix said: " We’re disappointed in the decision to gut # NetNeutralityprotections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order." Other voices included Facebook, Reddit and the Internet Association, to name a few.

A few months later and Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General rallied 21 state Attorney’s Generals to file a lawsuit against the over its "illegal rollback of net neutrality" .

The 22 states listed as part of the petition are: New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Eric Schneiderman 160 x 186In the filing Schneiderman names the Administrative Procedure Act, as the basis for his lawsuit stating that "the FCC cannot make "arbitrary and capricious" changes to existing policies, such as net neutrality". It goes on to say that the new FCC legislation fails to justify the Commission’s reason to abolish the long-standing policy and accuses them of "misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses".

Included in the outline of the repeal the FCC, in its final draft that it published earlier this year, says that a number of definitions are to change including broadband Internet access service as an 'information service’ as opposed to a 'telecommunications service’ and 'mobile broadband Internet access service should not be classified as a commercial mobile service or its functional equivalent’ and instead will define it as a 'interconnected service’.

The draft goes on to argue that 'ISPs have strong incentives to preserve Internet openness, and these interests typically outweigh any countervailing incentives an ISP might have’ furthering its argument for a light-touch approach to internet legislation.

For further reading on the decision to repeal net neutrality, take a look at our feature from our Dec/Jan issue of Capacity magazine: Net neutrality: Moving into the fast lane?

Topics: FCC, Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality, Obama, Ajit, Pai, Eric Schneiderman, ISP, President Clinton