FCC chairman wants to remove internet access rules

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The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set out Tuesday to scrap rules about open internet access, a move that would allow giant telecom and cable companies to throttle broadband speeds and prefer their own services if they want.

Ajit Pai followed through on a pledge to try to repeal “net neutrality” regulations enacted under the Obama administration. The current rules treat online service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon as if they were utility businesses that provide essential services, like electricity. The rules mandate that they give equal access to all online content and apps.

Pai Said those rules discourage investments which could provide even better and faster online access.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the world wide web,” Pai said in a statement.

Pai Distributed his choice plan to other FCC commissioners Tuesday in preparation for a Dec. 14 vote. Even though the FCC’s two Democrats said they will oppose the proposal, the repeal is very likely to prevail as Republicans dominate 3-2. The vote for net neutrality in 2015 was also along party lines, but Democrats dominated then.

Equal treatment for all Internet traffic has been a fundamental principle of the internet since its invention but firms have increasingly place their thumb on the scales of accessibility. AT&T, by way of instance, doesn’t count use of its streaming service DirecTV Now against wireless information caps, possibly making it seem cheaper to its cellphone clients than rival TV services. Rivals would need to pay AT&T for that privilege.

Regulators, Consumer advocates and some tech companies are concerned that repealing net neutrality will give ISPs even more power to block or slow down rival offerings.

A repeal also opens the ability for ISPs to Charge a company like Netflix for a faster path to its customers. Allowing this paid-priority market to exist could skew prices and create winners and losers among fledgling companies that require a high-speed link to end users.

Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said in an interview on Fox News Radio that Trump didn’t have some input on his proposal. Asked whether deregulation would result in higher prices and place speedy online access from the reach of blue-collar Americans, Pai said “it is going to mean exactly the opposite.”

“These heavy-handed regulations have made it tougher for the private sector to build out the networks especially in rural America,” Pai said.

The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet businesses. A data firm called Emprata that was backed by a telecom industry group found in August that after filtering out form letters, the overwhelming majority of comments to the FCC — about 1.8 million — preferred net neutrality, compared with just 24,000 who supported its repeal.

Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said ISPs’ ability to enforce monthly caps on data usage already act to raise prices and limit access. Repealing net neutrality, ” she explained, “is just erecting more barriers.”
Be hit hardest are startups that depend on high-speed internet connections for growth, said Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. He said his own business wouldn’t be dramatically affected in the near term, but the nascent robotics industry overall might.

“The need for these robots to consume bandwidth is certainly on the upswing,” Angle said.

Google Said in a statement that net neutrality principles “are working well for consumers and we’re disappointed at the proposal declared today”

Other tech firms were more muted, with some referring instead to their trade group, the Internet Association. Netflix, which was vocal in support of the principles in 2015, tweeted that it “supports strong #NetNeutrality” and opposes the principles rollback.

AT&T executive “Any ISP that’s so absurd as to seek to participate in gatekeeping will be quickly and decisively called out,” she said in a statement.

Comcast said its Commitment to consumers will stay the same. “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast’s senior executive vice president David Cohen said.

Pai’s plan also restores the Federal Trade Commission as the main watchdog to protect consumers and promote competition.

Pai’s Proposal on net neutrality comes after the Republican-dominated Commission voted 3-2 last week to weaken rules intended to support Independent local media, undoing a ban on companies owning papers And broadcast stations in one market.