Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

FCC vote kicks off a battle over regulation of the internet

FCC vote kicks off a battle over regulation of the internet

On the other side is basically everyone else, from individual internet users and small businesses all the way up to giants like Google and Facebook, which rely on net-neutrality principles to operate, and to cultivate small start-ups that might yield important technological innovations. What is now at stake is the ability of the FCC - the expert agency by law - to protect consumers on what is now one of the most critical inputs to the USA economy - broadband networks. Last week Oliver did a segment on net neutrality and asked his fans to comment on the FCC's site supporting the rules.

Today the FCC voted to officially propose an order that would eliminate net neutrality rules as we know them.

As feared, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday afternoon to begin the process of undoing open internet protections. Instead, it would give broadband providers far more unconstrained power to manipulate internet traffic and customer behavior for profit.

Pai wants public input on whether the FCC has the authority or should keep its "bright line" rules barring internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving "fast lanes" to some websites. Following the protests, the FCC will vote on a replacement sometime later this year. In his speech Pai claimed the country's 12 largest internet providers reduced their domestic capital expenditures by 5.6% from 2014 to 2016.

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What will happen to net neutrality? For the past few weeks, both supporters and critics of Pai's repeal plan have produced research making the economic case both for and against strict net neutrality rules.

Pai's move was cheered by major broadband providers who have celebrated the new FCC chairman's pledge to take a "weed whacker" to the net neutrality rules and replace them with "light touch" regulation.

The FCC has a proposal on the table from its chairman, Ajit Pai, entitled "Restoring Internet Freedom".

Calling it the Destroying Internet Freedom NPRM, Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn "vociferously" dissented and in a lengthy statement called for a court challenge. Pai may be threatening to kill net neutrality to open the door to a new GOP net neutrality "compromise" bill.

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While Verizon and Comcast have provided measured support for the overturn of the 2015 order, many technology companies, like Mozilla, have strongly pushed back against Pai.

eBay supports net neutrality and opposes undermining a robust and open Internet.

"People everywhere depend on the open internet, but Chairman Pai [Chairman of the FCC] refuses to listen to the voices of the millions of people his agency is supposed to serve", said Free Press Field Director Mary Alice Crim, who is taking part in the demonstration.

Today's vote doesn't immediately undo the 2015 Open Internet Order. "When I was at the FCC, problems with the electronic comment filing system were treated with the utmost urgency and transparency", Gigi Sohn, the counselor to previous FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, told Vocativ.

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The FCC didn't respond to repeated requests to specifically say whether it would filter out the astroturfed comments.

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