FCC set to overturn Obama-era net neutrality rules with Dec. 14 vote

The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month to repeal the net neutrality rules championed by President Obama, a move that will likely change how we use the Internet.

New proposed regulations are being circulated among the commission today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday. The rules, which the commission is expected to vote on at its Dec. 14 meeting, would replace those Open Internet or Net neutrality rules, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling legal content users sought to access, as well as preventing ISPs from accepting payment to prioritize some data.

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," Pai said in a statement Tuesday. "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."

The chairman also addressed the issue in a column in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday. Pai will release the rules, called a draft order, to the public Wednesday, he said.

New rules would restore a "light-touch regulatory approach," said Pai, a Republican appointed by President Trump. As a commissioner, Pai voted against the Obama-supported rules in 2015 when Democrat Tom Wheeler was chairman.

Passage of the rules would be seen as a victory for big telecom and cable companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. More than 94.5 million U.S. homes subscribe to broadband service, according to Leichtman Research Group.

Pai has criticized the regulations as heavy-handed and an overreach of the FCC's power that stifled ISP investment in network expansion and faster broadband connections

Back in May when the FCC began the process to create rules and overturn the current ones, Pai called it "the start of a new chapter in the public discussion about how we can best maintain a free and open Internet while making sure that ISPs have strong incentives to bring next-generation networks and services to all Americans."

The new regulations will more business-friendly, giving ISPs more leeway in their business practices than the Wheeler-championed rules against prioritizing some content over other content, possibly for payment. Also expected to be jettisoned is an Internet conduct standard meant to prevent ISPs from unreasonable interference with consumer's access to destinations on the Net.

Opponents to the 2015 rules find fault in the reliance in regulations within The Communications Act of 1934 formulated for telephone companies. But proponents of the net neutrality rules say that provides a strong enforcement grounding to protect consumers.

A hot-button issue, the rules rollback generated record input at the FCC, which received more than 9 million public comments. Groups on both sides of the issue complained about bogus comments being filed in the process. The influx surpassed the then-record comment filings of nearly 4 million comments during the consideration of the 2015 rules.

With a Republican majority on the FCC, passage of the proposed rules is almost certain.  

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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