Just three weeks after it voted to repeal the rules of net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission finally released the details of its “Restoring Internet Freedom” order Thursday.
As expected, the 539-page order removes a lot of protections that President Barack Obama’s administration put in place—the biggest being the end of public utility regulation of the internet. Broadband internet-access service will no longer be governed under the same strict guidelines that cover telephone networks and instead will be classified as an “information service.”
The order also effectively removes FCC oversight of internet service providers.
In a statement (pdf), FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that the rules put in place in 2015 fixed what wasn’t broken, and that customers weren’t complaining about their providers blocking access to sites but, rather, that there wasn’t enough competition in the field. He believes this rollback will fix that:
Not only was there no problem, this “solution” hasn’t worked. The main complaint consumers have about the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet service provider is blocking access to content. It’s that they don’t have access at all or enough competition. These regulations have taken us in the opposite direction from these consumer preferences. Under Title II, 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. When there’s less investment, that means fewer next generation networks are built. That means less competition. That means fewer jobs for Americans building those networks. And that means more Americans are left on the wrong side of the digital divide.
FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn wrote nearly 6,000 words to express her dissenting view of the change (pdf):
I dissent. I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order. I dissent, because I am among the millions outraged. Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers. Some may ask why are we witnessing such an unprecedented groundswell of public support, for keeping the 2015 net neutrality protections in place? Because the public can plainly see, that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the internet—the internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime—over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations. And if past is prologue, those very same broadband internet service providers, that the majority says you should trust to do right by you, will put profits and shareholder returns above, what is best for you.
Now we all sit back and wait to see which company will be the first to rob its customers blind with outrageous pricing tiers.
Now we wait to see which company will introduce internet packages based on which types of services you want to use while accessing the internet.
Now we wait to see just how much Ajit Pai sold out the American people for.
The same Ajit Pai, by the way, who is now afraid to show his face at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES show in Las Vegas next week.
Talk about throwing a rock and hiding your hand.
You did this, Ajit Pai. You should be a man and stand firm in your truth.