FCC proposes ‘Open Internet’ policy reversal

As trailed earlier in 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has circulated a draft ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Order’ to his fellow Commissioners, which will be voted on at the FCC’s Open Meeting on December 14th, suggesting it will restore Internet freedom and eliminate heavy-handed sector regulation, effectively reversing predecessor Tom Wheeler’s ‘Open Internet’ policy designed to ensure net neutrality.

In a Statement, Pai said: “For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.”

“But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”

“Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

“Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy.

“Speaking of transparency, when the prior FCC adopted President Obama’s heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC’s vote. This time, it’ll be different. Specifically, I will publicly release my proposal to restore Internet freedom tomorrow—more than three weeks before the Commission’s December 14 vote.”

“Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world,” he concluded.

Civic engagement hub Change.org has come out strongly in opposition to the move and has called on the FCC and Congress to support strong net neutrality rules. “As an open platform, we don’t take positions on many issues — we believe that’s best left to the millions of people who use our site and that it’s our mission to provide a free platform that empowers them to tell their own stories to make a difference in the world,” stated North America Campaigns Director Jonathan Perri. “At the same time, we recognise that as the world’s largest online petition site, we can’t continue that mission if people don’t have access to an open Internet, free from censorship.”

In July 2017, Change.org joined the Battle for the Net coalition alongside companies such as Amazon, Kickstarter, Netflix, and Twitter. It also launched its own petition, something it hadn’t done before, and over 150,000 people have now signed.

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