FCC Starts The Process Of Overturning Net Neutrality Rules

May 18, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday started the process of overturning the existing net neutrality rules. As revealed by a release published by the federal agency earlier today, the FCC cast a two-to-one vote to reconsider what it deems are unnecessary industry regulations with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The document details the agency’s proposal to eliminate the Title II classification of Internet providers in the country as utility providers and look for an alternative solution to the rules that were adopted by the same agency under the former Obama administration when the agency was still led by Tom Wheeler. The FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voted in favor of the proposal together with the Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, while Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was against reviewing current regulations.

Pai repeatedly asserted his dislike of net neutrality rules, claiming that they discourage investment and consequently stifle innovation, thus hurting job growth in the industry. While the newly introduced NPRM technically calls for suggestions on alternatives to the present regulations, it also makes no guarantees that any alternatives will be adopted if and when the Title II classification of Internet service providers is revoked. Pai previously suggested adopting open Internet provisions into Terms of Service of each individual Internet provider in the country, though critics of that suggestion argued how Pai’s proposal wouldn’t be legally enforceable. Previous statements on the matter from the FCC Chairman indicated that he’s looking to relax regulations imposed on the telecommunications sector in the country as he believes any telecom giant that’s looking to take advantage of a loosened regulatory framework would be punished by the market itself, which is a sentiment that’s shared by many other members of the Republican Party. Pai also asserted that the net neutrality rules adopted in early 2015 were unnecessary, noting that Americans “were not living in a digital dystopia” from which they were saved by Wheeler and the Democratic majority of Commissioners who voted to enact the presently existing regulations.

The FCC will now be monitoring comments on its plan that consumers are free to post on its website and will announce its next course of action in 90 days, the agency revealed, adding that it’s also planning to conduct a “cost-benefit” analysis that will be factored into the final decision on whether to revoke the net neutrality rules. Several broadband providers in the country including Verizon Wireless have already supported the FCC’s decision to review the existing regulatory framework, with many industry watchers predicting that the Title II classification and a number of other rules will likely be revoked in the second half of the year.