Thursday, April 27, 2017

FCC Chairman Announces Start of Net Neutrality Pullback

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday unveiled his Strategy to gut the Obama-era Net Neutrality Rules by weakening his Agency’s Power over Internet Service Providers (ISP), plunging his Agency once again into a Major Policy battle pitting Telecom Giants against Digital Activists and Tech companies.

Pai’s Proposal seeks to eliminate the Regulatory Foundation of the Rules approved by the Agency's previous Democratic Majority in 2015 and jettison a General Conduct Standard giving the FCC Authority to oversee ISP behavior. The Net Neutrality Rules require Providers like AT&T and Comcast to treat all Web Traffic Equally as it passes through their Networks.

Supporters of the original Rules say they give the FCC sufficient Oversight over Internet Providers to prevent them from Blocking or Throttling Web Traffic or Charging websites for faster access to consumers. But Pai called that Legal framework heavy-handed Regulation that has hurt Broadband investment, and said his plan will return the Industry to a time when the internet was allowed to grow.

“For decades before 2015, we had a free and open Internet,” the Chairman said in a speech at the Newseum in Washington co-hosted by FreedomWorks, a Limited-Government group. “Indeed, the free and open internet developed and flourished under light-touch regulation. We were not living in some digital dystopia before the partisan imposition of a massive plan hatched in Washington saved all of us.”

Pai intends to seek a Commission vote on his proposal at the Agency’s May 18 meeting. The move is sure to reignite the Policy war that has raged for years between Nation's Telecom giants and Activists that fear that ISPs, if left unchecked, will abuse their power as gatekeepers of the internet.

Left-leaning Advocacy Groups and Democrats have promised a fierce fight to protect the current version of the Rules. They point to the Political fallout over Republicans’ repeal of the Agency’s Broadband Privacy Rules earlier this year, calling that a mere preview of the pain to come on Net Neutrality. Many Progressives are deeply invested in the issue, having helped to generate a flood of comments to the Agency during the last FCC Debate.

"Millions of Americans as well as internet companies, startups and innovators have supported the order," David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress, said in a statement. "The order’s main opponents are large ISPs that have made it clear they want to subvert the public interest by manipulating internet traffic to benefit corporate bottom lines."

Pai said his changes to Net Neutrality will spur companies to spend more money building networks and will restore the FTC’s Authority to Police ISP Privacy practices. He said he intends to finish the Rulemaking this year, and appeared to have no illusions about the resistance he'll face. “Make no mistake about it: This is a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win,” Pai said.

The Chairman got an immediate boost from Major Telecoms like Comcast and AT&T.

“We applaud FCC Chairman Pai’s initiative to remove this stifling regulatory cloud over the internet," AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. "Businesses large and small will have a clearer path to invest more in our nation's broadband infrastructure under Chairman Pai's leadership."

It’s unclear how Pai will be able to preserve the FCC’s Net Neutrality role without grounding its rules in the Regulatory Structure, approved two years ago, that treats ISPs like Telephone-style Utilities, subjecting them to tighter oversight. The FCC lost a Court battle over a previous Version of the Rules that did not employ that structure, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2015 Order last June in a 2-1 Decision.

Pai initially floated an idea to seek Voluntary Commitments from Internet Providers to adhere to Net Neutrality Principles, under the purview of the FTC, but that concept appears to have fallen by the wayside amid a backlash from Net Neutrality Activists. Even Pai's fellow GOP Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly, who’s no fan of the current Rules, expressed some skepticism about obtaining Voluntary Commitments from Private companies. O'Rielly, who spoke at the same event as Pai, made a plea for Lawmakers to get involved in the Net Neutrality issue. "The only way to bring resolution to the net neutrality debate once and for all is for Congress to consider and enact legislation on the subject matter, as it deems appropriate," he said. "There can be no lasting peace until that happens."

Republican Leaders of the Senate Commerce and House Energy & Commerce Committees called again Wednesday for Democrats to come to the Negotiating table. Republicans in the past have offered Bills that would do away with the Net Neutrality Rules' Regulatory Foundation while keeping Open Internet Principles in place.

“It’s now time for Republicans and Democrats, internet service providers, edge providers, and the internet community as a whole to come together and work toward a legislative solution that benefits consumers and the future of the internet,” Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said in a joint statement.

But Democrats, who've so far resisted GOP efforts to get them on board, appeared in no mood for compromise.

"We're on the right side of history and I'm ready for this historic fight to come," Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said on a call with reporters Wednesday morning, promising to oppose efforts to undermine the existing Rules.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

No comments: