You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

FCC Launches Process to Roll Back Foundation for Net Neutrality Rules

More than two years after the FCC passed a robust set of net neutrality rules, the commission on Thursday set in motion a proposal to largely reverse its approach.

The commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to launch a proceeding to repeal the legal foundation for the FCC’s current rules, which ban internet providers from favoring or disfavoring content based on the way they deliver content traffic to their subscribers.

The latest proposal, championed by Chairman Ajit Pai, would roll back the FCC’s classification of internet service as a common carrier, a move known in regulatory parlance as “Title II.” That move, made in 2015 after nine months of contentious debate, was vigorously opposed by the cable and telecom industry, but viewed by many public interest groups as necessary to give the FCC the authority to establish rules that had legal heft.

The current proposal also leaves open the question of just what the net neutrality rules should be, if the FCC reverses itself on reclassification. The FCC will now open a public comment period that will last through most of the summer, with a vote expected in the fall.

“The internet was not broken in 2015. We were not living in a digital dystopia,” Pai said, calling the FCC’s approach back then as heavy-handed regulations.

“As a result of these rules, small ISPs faced new regulatory burdens associated with common carrier compliance,” he said. “Providers hoping to offer consumers new, even free services had to fear Washington bureaucracy that might disapprove and take enforcement action against them.”

He said that the proposal draws on the “Clinton-era, light-touch approach.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that the new proceeding will be much more comprehensive that the FCC’s previous one, taking into account the economic impact of the rules.

Pai claimed that investment in internet infrastructure declined for the first time since 2015. Those figures have been countered by studies from public interest groups and the Internet Association, which represents major internet firms like Google, Netflix, and Facebook.

Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democrat on the commission, dissented. She noted that she was in Los Angeles’ Skid Row last week, where she heard from a number of very low-income residents of the necessity of them to have access to an open internet to take advantage of services like online job applications.

The proposal, she said, “contains a hollow theory of trickle-down internet economics, suggesting that if we just remove enough regulations from your broadband provider, they will automatically improve your service, pass along discounts from those speculative savings, deploy more infrastructure with haste, and treat edge providers fairly.”

She added, “While the majority engages in flowery rhetoric, about light-touch regulation and so on and so forth, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a whole scale destruction of the FCC’s public interest authority in the 21st century.”

Given that Pai and O’Rielly, his fellow Republican on the FCC, opposed the FCC’s 2015 move to reclassify the Internet, there is every expectation that they will ultimately vote to reverse it.

That said, the current proceeding is already proving contentious.

Outside the FCC on Thursday, net neutrality advocates held a demonstration, and they were joined by a number of Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Earlier this month, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver did a segment on his HBO show, urging viewers to file comments with the FCC to retain the current rules, just as he did as the commission considered net neutrality in 2014 and 2015. Ultimately, about 4 million comments were filed back then, and more than 1.5 million have been filed so far in the current proceeding.

Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who is now special adviser to Common Cause, predicted that there would be a similar outpouring this year.

“It became a national issue and a public issue, and this episode shows every sign of the same,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “Already, there have been a million and half comments filed, and they are heavily toward not changing the rules.”
He also said that lawmakers could face increasing questions from constituents as they go back to their districts for town halls.
The FCC has struggled for more than a decade to establish either net neutrality standards or regulations. A set of net neutrality principles were overturned by an appellate court in 2010. That led to the FCC’s passage of a set of rules later that year. But those, too, were challenged in court, leading to the FCC’s move toward reclassification in 2015.
On the Senate floor on Thursday, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for a bipartisan compromise on net neutrality for legislation, saying that he believes “we can find common ground to protect the internet so long as we don’t fixate on the misguided notion that monopoly regulation is the only way to preserve it.”
Thune, a critic of the FCC’s current approach, called for “a statute offering clear and enduring rules that balance innovation and investment throughout the entire internet ecosystem.”
He has previously suggested that Democratic lawmakers would be willing to negotiate once they see that the FCC was moving toward repeal.
“While the FCC’s 2015 order may soon be consigned to the dustbin of history, the last few months have shown that political winds can and often do shift suddenly,” he said.
He added, “It is time for Congress to finally settle this matter.”

More Biz

  • Hipgnosis Acquires Catalog From Jeff Bhasker

    Hipgnosis Acquires Catalog From Bruno Mars-Harry Styles Collaborator Jeff Bhasker

    Hipgnosis Songs Fund has acquired a music catalog from five-time Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and musician Jeff Bhasker. Terms of the deal were not announced, but Bhasker has worked extensively with such artists as Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (on “Uptown Funk” and Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” album), Kanye West (“808s & Heartbreak” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted [...]

  • Kasi LemmonsNew York Women in Film

    Kasi Lemmons, Jane Rosenthal, Ann Dowd Talk Golden Globes Female Director Snub

    The absence of women among director nominees for the Golden Globes is another example of how much work remains to be done to achieve gender parity in the entertainment industry, honorees said Tuesday night at the 40th annual Muse Awards presented by New York Women in Film and Television. “Harriet” director Kasi Lemmons, “The Irishman” [...]

  • Juice WRLD - Jarad HigginsWireless Festival,

    Juice Wrld Streams Climb Nearly 500% After His Death

    As often happens after an unexpected death, Juice Wrld’s music soared in popularity after his passing on Sunday, with streams climbing nearly 500% on that day alone. On-demand audio streams for the rapper, who died at the age of 21 after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport, climbed 487% on Sunday to more than [...]

  • Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California,

    Netflix Ordered to Stop Poaching Fox Employees

    A court on Tuesday issued an injunction barring Netflix from poaching employees from Fox and confirming the validity of fixed-term employment agreements. The ruling marks a hard-fought victory for Fox — now owned by Disney — which set out three years ago to stop Netflix from raiding its employees. Netflix had sought to invalidate Fox’s [...]

  • Harry Styles performs at the Greek

    First Look at Harry Styles' Ticket-Giveaway Bus (EXCLUSIVE)

    Harry Styles announced Tuesday he is partnering with American Express to give away tickets to his concert at the Forum in Los Angeles on Friday — on a special custom bus. At the show, “Harry Styles Fine Line Live: One Night Only!,” the singer is expected to perform his entire new album, which is also [...]

  • Weeknd

    The Weeknd Takes Top Two Spots on Rolling Stone Singles Chart

    Fighting off a seasonal surge from Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” The Weeknd’s two new singles topped the Rolling Stone Top 100 songs chart this week. “Heartless” and “Blinding Lights,” both of which dropped last week, rocketed to No. 1 and 2 respectively with more than 40 million streams between them. [...]

  • The Olympic Rings adorn an event

    NBCUniversal Expects More Than $1.2 Billion in Ads for Tokyo Olympics

    Madison Avenue is rushing to get money down in NBCUniversal’s broadcast of the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo, the latest big TV-sports event to spark heavier demand from advertisers at a time when finding truly big media audiences has grown more difficult. NBCUniversal said it is on track to take in more than the $1.2 billion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content