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FCC Chairman to Seek Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules (Report)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai next month will seek to repeal net neutrality rules that require that major internet providers treat all traffic equally, according to a report from Politico on Monday.

Pai has the votes on the FCC to roll back the rules, along with the regulatory foundation that gave the FCC the authority to impose them in 2015.

The news of the proposal — expected to be unveiled on Tuesday — drew immediate criticism from public interest groups. They warn that the removal of the regulations will invite telecom companies to block or throttle traffic, or to sell “fast lanes” to internet providers willing to pay for speedier access to the consumer. Fight for the Future, which has been waging a campaign to preserve the rules, has been warning that Pai will seek to eliminate most of the rules altogether.

According to Politico, the proposal will preserve a rule that requires that major internet providers disclose practices that block or throttle content.

The FCC will vote on the proposal at its next meeting on Dec. 14.

Pai will also seek to roll back the FCC’s classification of internet service as a common carrier. That action, taken in 2015, gave the agency the legal footing to impose tough net neutrality rules governing how ISPs handle their traffic.

He had said that the FCC would vote on net neutrality by the end of this year, so it is no surprise that it would come up at its next meeting. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat and advocate for the current rules, on Monday began to tweet out stories from individuals about why net neutrality was important to them.

Gigi Sohn, who was counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016, wrote in a statement that “if adopted, the basic protections that consumers and innovators rely on to protect them from the anti-competitive and anti-consumer behaviors of huge broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T will be cooked.”

“In a few short weeks, the big broadband providers will be free to double their prices, extract extra tolls on fast lanes for online businesses, and track and sell their customers’ web browsing activity,” wrote Sohn, now a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “When they’re done, what will remain of consumer protection on the Internet will be nothing more than a carcass.”

An FCC spokesperson had no comment.

The FCC vote is expected to be challenged in court. Proponents of net neutrality are expected to argue that there was little rationale for the FCC to reverse itself just two years after imposing the rules.

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