Trump’s FCC Plans to Repeal Net Neutrality Enacted by Obama Admin

The US Federal Communications Commission will vote on the plan at a 14 December meeting.

Published
World
3 min read
File image of President Donald Trump.
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The head of the US 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.

FCC chief Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, said the commission will vote at a 14 December meeting on his plan to rescind the so-called net neutrality rules championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama that treated internet service providers like public utilities.

The rules barred broadband providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain content. They were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and prevent broadband service providers from favoring their own content.

The action marks a victory for big internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc that opposed the rules and gives them sweeping powers to decide what web content consumers can get and at what price.

It represents a setback for Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc, which had urged Pai not to rescind the rules.

With three Republican and two Democratic commissioners, the move is all but certain to be approved. Trump, a Republican, expressed his opposition to net neutrality in 2014 before the regulations were even implemented, calling it a “power grab” by Obama.

'Let the Consumers Decide'

Pai said his proposal would prevent state and local governments from creating their own net neutrality rules because internet service is "inherently an interstate service." The preemption is most likely to handcuff Democratic-governed states and localities that could have considered their own plans to protect consumers' equal access to internet content.

"The FCC will no longer be in the business of micromanaging business models and preemptively prohibiting services and applications and products that could be pro-competitive," Pai said in an interview, adding that the Obama administration had sought to pick winners and losers and exercised "heavy-handed" regulation of the internet.

We should simply set rules of the road that let companies of all kinds in every sector compete and let consumers decide who wins and loses.

Protests Against the Move

The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet companies. More than 22 million comments have been filed with the FCC about whether net neutrality should be rolled back.

The Internet Association, a group whose members include major internet companies such as Google and Amazon, vowed to continue to fight to keep the current net neutrality rules intact.

Consumers have little choice in their ISP, and service providers should not be allowed to use this gatekeeper position at the point of connection to discriminate against websites and apps.
the group’s CEO Michael Beckerman

Consumers Union predicted a repeal of net neutrality would allow ISPs to raise their prices and give preferential treatment to certain sites and apps.

Tom Wheeler, who headed the FCC under Obama and advocated for the net neutrality rules, called the planned repeal "a shameful sham and sellout. Even for this FCC and its leadership, this proposal raises hypocrisy to new heights."

Several prominent personalities, including Democrat Bernie Sanders took to social media to urge the public to protest the move.

Meanwhile, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have said that repealing the rules could lead to billions of dollars in additional broadband investment and eliminate the possibility that a future presidential administration could regulate internet pricing.

(With inputs from Reuters and AP.)

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