US regulator unveils plan to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

November 21, 2017

Credit: Wikipedia
The top US telecom regulator formally unveiled plans Tuesday to roll back "net neutrality" rules adopted in 2015 aimed at treating all online traffic equally.

The announcement by Federal Communications chairman Ajit Pai marked the latest twist in a decade-old political dispute with both sides claiming to represent a "free and open" internet.

Pai unveiled a "Restoring Internet Freedom" order to be voted on at the FCC's December 14 meeting, scrapping a hotly contest rule that barred broadband firms from shutting out rival services or creating online "fast" and "slow" lanes.

Pai said his plan would return to a "light-touch regulatory approach" that has allowed the internet to flourish.

He said the 2015 rule had "depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation."

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

The dispute over net neutrality has been the subject of several court battles, with backers arguing strong rules are needed to guard against powerful broadband firms like Comcast and AT&T acting as "gatekeepers" that can punish rivals.

Ferras Vinh of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a digital rights group, said the change threatens the online ecosystem.

"This is a direct assault on the fundamental digital rights of Americans," Vinh said.

"In repealing these net neutrality protections, chairman Pai is providing internet service providers with an explicit license to block, slow or levy tolls on content, creating barriers to innovation and the spread of new ideas."

Matt Wood of the consumer group Free Press said the new initiative was a "massive giveaway to the handful of media conglomerates" that control broadband.

"The most-hated and worst-rated companies will be free to block, throttle and discriminate against your speech on the internet if Trump's FCC chairman gets his way," Wood said.

Harold Feld of the consumer group Public Knowledge said the plan "puts broadband subscribers at the mercy of local cable companies whose 'innovations' have more to do with gouging consumers and crushing competition than with providing new services."

'Utility' regulation

FCC officials said the new rules will retain consumer protection requiring internet providers to disclose any actions on blocking or throttling, and noted that any anticompetitive or discriminatory actions could be scrutinized by regulators.

Internet providers are barred from blocking "lawful content" under current laws, and that would not change, according to senior FCC officials.

They said the proposal would end "utility style" regulation adopted two years ago that was based on a 1934 law aimed at the telephone system.

Jonathan Spalter, chief executive of the industry association USTelecom, welcomed the move.

"The removal of antiquated, restrictive regulations will pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades," Spalter said in a statement.

Cinnamon Rogers of the Telecommunications Industry Association, said the new policy would return to an approach that "has encouraged private sector innovation and investment in broadband infrastructure, and the development of high-tech communications equipment that allows the internet to thrive."

The move was criticized by Google, which said, "The FCC's net neutrality rules are working well for consumers and we're disappointed in the proposal announced today."

Denelle Dixon of the online group Mozilla said the FCC plan "would only benefit internet service providers (ISPs). That's why we've led the charge on net neutrality."

Poking Obama

The FCC, which has three Republican and two Democratic members, was likely to pass the measure on a party-line vote.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic FCC member, said she would oppose the plan, as did fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

"I'm going to give it all I've got. Our Internet economy is the envy of the world. It was built on a foundation of openness. We're going to have to fight to keep it that way—for all of us," Rosenworcel tweeted.

Roger Kay, an independent technology analyst and consultant, said the new policy appears to favor "old line telecom providers" that control broadband, at the expense of tech firms like Netflix and Google, and overturns a plan supported by former president Barack Obama.

"Why this particular set of alliances? The only unifying principle to any of these otherwise inexplicable policy decisions is 'destroy anything Obama did,'" Kay said in a blog post.

"Obama and his friends were in favor of net neutrality? Then, we're against it. He liked Silicon Valley? Let's poke them in the eye."

Explore further: US agency votes to roll back broadband 'neutrality' rules

Related Stories

FCC chairman sets out to repeal 'net neutrality' rules

November 21, 2017

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is following through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally.

Q&A: What is net neutrality and why does it matter?

June 14, 2016

An appeals court on Tuesday upheld "net neutrality" rules that treat the Internet like a public utility and prohibit blocking, slowing and creating paid fast lanes for online traffic. They have been in effect for a year.

Key facts on US 'open Internet' regulation

February 26, 2015

A landmark ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission seeks to enshrine the notion of an "open Internet," or "net neutrality." Here are key points:

Recommended for you

Team breaks world record for fast, accurate AI training

November 7, 2018

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have partnered with a team from Tencent Machine Learning to create a new technique for training artificial intelligence (AI) machines faster than ever before while maintaining ...

24 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EyeNStein
5 / 5 (3) Nov 21, 2017
So now there is paid for bandwidth; plus bandwidth we can milk for every penny we can get.
PTTG
4.7 / 5 (13) Nov 21, 2017
Not yet, but soon.

The blame for this can be put at the feet of everyone who voted for Trump last year.
ddaye
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 21, 2017
Not yet, but soon.

The blame for this can be put at the feet of everyone who voted for Trump last year.


It can be, but how do you solve a problem using democracy when you're defining the people as being the problem? It's worth considering multiple factors that can contribute voter behavior. Possibly one might come to mind that supports a solution using democracy.
LED Guy
1 / 5 (8) Nov 21, 2017
There is some irony about this debate in the US. The argument is that companies that paid the least (or even nothing) should benefit as much as the companies that invested the most in developing infrastructure - pure socialism!

At some level pure net neutrality will remove all incentives for companies to invest in and improve bandwidth.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Nov 21, 2017
Not yet, but soon.

The blame for this can be put at the feet of everyone who voted for Trump last year.

Not just for Trump, but for the "anti regulation party", as well.
And...
Don't blame the corporation, blame the ROI expectations of the stockholders...
Eikka
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 21, 2017
but how do you solve a problem using democracy when you're defining the people as being the problem?


It's not really a people problem, as almost half the people refused to vote for a lack of good options: the only ones allowed to the public were a neoliberal corporate shill, or the coprorate himself.

So Trump got into power by a 1/4 minority. Can you call that democracy?
carbon_unit
5 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2017
The problem is not bandwidth, it is the monitization and manipulation of people's communications which is going to really bite. Think Equifax was bad? Wait till future employers can get a full lowdown of sites you've visited. Wait till that pile of info is there for the hacking. ISPs should be data pipes, period.
gkam
3.7 / 5 (9) Nov 22, 2017
Trump is killing the America I knew and fought for.
javjav
5 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2017
In the media market this is not going to reduce piracy but totally the opposite. It will favour the "package" model too much, where you will only have access to the media services offered by your internet provider. So even the consumers who don't mind to pay for the content they want wathever it cost will not be able to buy it. They will be made slaves of its provider and only be able to buy content from him. This model is very wrong, it leads to great frustration and it will strongly push consumers to the pirate market
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2017
The government doesn't enforce the end for net neutrality for better profit of ISPs, but primarily for its own profit. It's elimination will open the way for taxation of porn but also proxies, bit coin transactions and file sharing services in similar way, like the tobacco, sugar drinks, incandescent lamps and similar "socially harmful" things. The government will ask the tax money not from consumers, but distributors of these media, which is way more efficient.

Which, in turn, will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher cost of access...
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2017
The media companies have made plenty of money charging for bandwidth. Now they want to make more by limiting bandwidth and even cutting off access, not at the source where the site host already pays, nor at the destination where the consumer already pays, but by making the site host pay more for access to consumers, and they also want to restrict the sites a consumer can access through their ISP.

This is unconscionable, and the extra charges will affect the economy as these greedy telecommunication providers siphon off profits from small companies. It's also technically a violation of several RFCs and STDs by the IETF. Finally, it's infringement of privacy by private corporations, which are actually quite a bit more of a privacy threat than governments.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Nov 23, 2017
Trump is killing the America I knew and fought for.

So... you fired your weapon at an enemy attempting to squashTruth, Justice and the American Way?
It ain't Trump that's the problem, it's the (engineered) political environments (as presented by manipulative media) that put him there...

Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Nov 23, 2017
Trump is killing the America I knew and fought for.

So... you fired your weapon at an enemy attempting to squash Truth, Justice and the American Way?
Thanks, Superman..
It ain't Trump that's the problem, it's the (engineered) political environments (as presented by manipulative media which, in turn, is driven by corporations to appease stockholder profit motive) that put him there...

Oops...
Hit the "quote", instead of "edit" They shouldn't put 'em so close together....
gkam
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2017
The internet is OURS, We paid for it. The big companies did not, but they make money with it.

We should be charging THEM!!!
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2017
The internet is OURS, We paid for it. The big companies did not, but they make money with it.

We should be charging THEM!!!

C'mon, George...
They built the infrastructure, either directly or thru massive investment...
What Universe are you livin' in...?!?
PTTG
5 / 5 (4) Nov 23, 2017
The taxpayer paid for the R&D that built the infrestructure of the internet through DARPANET and through public institutions. Plus all the funds and subsidies paid to telecom industries and the free right of way that has been gifted to them.

Taken together, they've already been more than paid for assembling the network.

Funny thing, for free market libertarians, they're targeting NN but they don't seem to have a problem with non-compete agreements that block localities and small ISPs from competing. Where's the Republican outrage over that?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2017
The taxpayer paid for the R&D that built the infrestructure of the internet through DARPANET


Though truth be told, that infrastructure has been re-built multiple times over now, and the ISPs have built vast networks of last-mile access which were never part of the government sponsored backhauls of the internet. If it was still the original stuff, you wouldn't be watching Youtube because you'd still be dialing in with a 28k modem.

The issue with net neutrality is that ISPs want to practice rent-seeking by placing unnecessary roadblocks on the internet, basically preventing their users from using what already exists in order to demand more money for it. It's already profitable - they're just being too greedy.

The second issue is the balkanization of the internet, because ISPs want to block each other by refusing peering, so content providers and users would have to sign separate contracts to maintain access, and that will break the internet apart.
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 24, 2017
The point is, if you can't transmit data from one ISP network to another - or very slowly at best - content providers like Hulu, Netflix, Google, etc. have to put machine halls and servers separately into every ISP's network and pay each separately for the bandwidth. Smaller content providers with not so much money to spend have to cut their losses and not sign up with the smaller ISPs, instead choosing the biggest one, which then grows.

That makes it possible for the big monopoly ISPs to maintain their monopoly, because anyone even trying to compete would have to build an entirely separate parallel internet of equal size and coverage.

Slow lanes and fast lanes within an ISP are not so important for net neutrality, because people can switch ISPs. Peering is the important point: net neutrality means ISPs are not allowed to treat data differently according to where it comes from or where it's going, so they cannot throttle another ISP. Non-neutrality means they can.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2017
So it's basically the same deal as AT&T back in the day, when they refused to connect local phone companies through to the long distance network, so if you wanted to call anyone besides your neighbor, you had to sign up with AT&T instead. The government had to step in and declare that phone networks are public carriers, and AT&T has to let others compete - although for a long time the government basically allowed them to be a monopoly.

That's what the ISPs are trying to do again. As soon as they can strangle off peering between networks, they can start growing and merging towards one big continent-wide monopoly that can dictate all the prices.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Nov 24, 2017
"This is a direct assault on the fundamental digital rights of Americans," Vinh said.

Ooookay? while I'm all for having equal access on the internet for everyone (and no fast/slow lanes or similar BS)...what exactly are these "digital rights" anyone is supposed to have?

...moreover what are *fundamental* digital rights?

...moreover where are these "digital rights" for Americans established?

Can't people make succinct/factual arguments instead of going for all this hyperbole?
gkam
2.4 / 5 (5) Nov 24, 2017
"Can't people make succinct/factual arguments instead of going for all this hyperbole?"

Well, . it's not as much fun, . .
MR166
1 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2017
The part of net neutrality that no one here is addressing is bandwidth usage and time sensitivity. If I download 1 gigabit/month and my neighbor downloads 100 Gigs per month why should he pay the same monthly rate as I do? Bandwidth costs real money so the costs of providing it should be shared proportionally. The same goes for the the likes of Netflix and Hulu and VOIP providers. They need their information delivered in a timely manner, special delivery so to speak, thus is is not unreasonable for these companies to pay more for expedited service.

Net Neutrality forces low usage entities to pay the same rates as high usage entities resulting in one group subsidising the other.
MR166
not rated yet Nov 25, 2017
As far as throttling back high usage retail customers goes, that is fine just as long as the customer is clearly made aware that this will happen when certain limits are reached. These services should not be advertised as "Unlimited" data plans. To do that would be a fraud.
drrobodog
not rated yet Nov 27, 2017
Bandwidth costs real money so the costs of providing it should be shared proportionally.

Do you not pay different prices for different bandwidth packages?

They need their information delivered in a timely manner, special delivery so to speak, thus is is not unreasonable for these companies to pay more for expedited service.

Is it reasonable that your current service degrades as more users sign up for the expedited services? Would you mind, after paying for the expedited service, not being able to use the internet service of your choice, due to latency, because they hand not payed for the expedited service too? What if a competing service paid your ISP to not allow any competition on their network?

Net Neutrality forces low usage entities to pay the same rates as high usage entities

No, net neutrality prevents your ISP overselling your network, as well as providing a paid for service to block/limit network access.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.