In a highly controversial proceeding, the FCC voted 3-2 today to reverse the Title II regulation of broadband internet access service, known as Net Neutrality, implemented in 2015. Additionally, the FCC instituted transparency requirements that will protect consumers by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive and deceptive acts.
“The framework adopted by the Commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “Restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.”
Adding to the tension surrounding the FCC vote, federal protective service interrupted the meeting and cleared the room in the middle of Chairman Pai’s statement. The meeting came back to order minutes later. It was later divulged that the break was the result of a bomb scare.
Comm. Mignon Clyburn, who dissented, characterized the FCC’s action as the “destroying Internet Freedom” order. In her “eulogy,” she described the Net Neutrality rule as a “carefully crafted” attempt to strike a balance between protecting consumers and enabling investment in the internet. She noted the high probability that the issue will be decided in the courts.
“What saddens me the most is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you,” Clyburn said. “What I am pleased to say is that the fight to save Net Neutrality does not end today. The agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness for that.”
Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel had a finger on the pulse of why the FCC received 22 million comments in the Net Neutrality proceeding, not to mention the countless protests that occurred.
“The future of the internet is the future of everything,” she wrote in a dissenting statement. “That is because there is nothing in our commercial, social and civic lives that has been untouched by its influence or unmoved by its power.”
The Restoring Internet Freedom order eliminates the net neutrality rules, which have both survived challenges in the courts and now enjoy popularity among the American people, according to Rosenworcel.
“Today we wipe away this work, destroy this progress and burn down time-tested values that have made our internet economy the envy of the world,” she wrote.
New York AG to Sue Government over Internet Freedom Order
The next stage of the drama is already set. Among others, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman plans to lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the rollback of net neutrality.
“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” he said in a press release. “The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”
May 30, 2017
On the heels of the FCC’s adoption of the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposed rulemaking, which proposes to end utility-style regulation of the internet, FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn said she will work to continue Title II regulation of the internet, known as net neutrality, and ensure that communities can continue to rely on the internet as the “preeminent engine of innovation and opportunities.”
On the third day of the Wireless Infrastructure Conference, May 24, in Orlando, Florida, Clyburn spoke out against the so-called fast lanes reserved for those willing to pay more and preferences for those with business relationships with an internet service provider, which many say will be the result of killing net neutrality.
“And the 2015 Open Internet Order reflects a long-standing commitment shared by millions of Americans to protect a platform that inspires innovation and entrepreneurship, fosters freedom of speech and expression, and stimulates incentives for investment,” she said.
Clyburn passionately preached about the importance of broadband internet access to communities so that children can do homework, the unemployed can apply for jobs, the sick can obtain health care, and entrepreneurs can drive the economy.
“So as far as I am concerned – broadband is where we must all start,” she said. “To have an educated, competitive workforce in this century and beyond, we must ensure that everyone in our communities truly has access to broadband service, for all of the infrastructure builds in the world will not enable access if the service is not affordable.”
Clyburn said she met a man during a visit to skid row in Los Angeles who told here if he did not have an email address, he would have no address at all.
“That is just one example of how important connectivity is and how important it is for that person to be connected to the goods and services that will improve their life,” she said. “I think we all benefit when there is an open platform.”
Clyburn rejected the viewpoint that the internet would be better off without any regulation.
“What we have been the beneficiaries of in terms of this enabling platform did not happen by accident. It happened because there was a framework of rules that were codified,” she said. “People keep forgetting that all these things that enabled you to connect came about because there were clear rules of the road.”
As to what will happen next, Clyburn said she hopes “cooler heads” will prevail, but she will wait to see the record that is created by comments in the proceeding (FCC-17-60). There also could be a legislative solution that could restore federal regulation to the internet, she said.