As soon as he took over as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai never made secret his ambitions to tear down current net neutrality regulations. For months, we’ve heard his grumblings over the idea of treating internet service like a utility and his belief that the FCC should implement a lighter touch in dealing with internet service providers.
And Thursday marked a big win for that cause when, in a 2-1 vote along party lines, the FCC voted to begin rolling back the net neutrality regulations implemented under the Obama Administration in 2015.
“The Internet was not broken in 2015. We were not living in a digital dystopia,” Pai said in a statement. “The utility-style regulations known as Title II were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea. Except that here, there was no flea.”
Pai, a former lawyer from Verizon, plans to advance his own proposal titled “Restoring Internet Freedom”. It undoes the legal basis of current rules and returns the country to the much looser regulatory framework from before. It essentially presses the factory reset button taking us back to the Clinton era.
But opponents worry rolling back net neutrality rules will undermine the interest of the public. Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has called this move a win for lobbyists over core principles. Both on Thursday and in the weeks leading up to the vote, protesters gathered outside the FCC building in Washington D.C. to voice their dissent.
The lone Democratic no vote from Thursday came from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. In a separate statement, he called Pai’s proposal “no-touch regulation” and lamented that the move worked against the public interest.
Democrats have argued the current rules are critical to protecting consumers by preventing ISPs from doing things like blocking and slowing content they don’t like. We saw exactly this happen in late 2013 when Comcast slowed down Netflix videos until the content streaming service agreed to pay Comcast for faster speeds.
Following this ruling, the FCC will collect comments from stakeholders and the general public for the next 90 days before drafting and setting into law a new order. Their website has already been inundated with millions of comments on this topic, including tens of thousands of anti-neutrality comments left by spammers and bots, as uncovered by the Verge.
As a member of the public, you can submit an express comment on the proceeding by clicking this link and then clicking the link “+ Express”.