FCC Sets 11 June Deadline For Repeal Of Net Neutrality Rules

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Formal repeal of Obama’s rules for open Internet will take place next month, despite upcoming US Senate vote

The landmark net neutrality rules delivered under the former Obama administration back in 2015 to guarantee an open Internet, will end on 11 June.

It comes after the US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, under the control of its Republican chairman Ajit Pai (appointed by President Donald Trump), had in December voted 3-2 to overturn Net Neutrality regulations.

That FCC decision prompted a widespread backlash. A number of US states, including Washington State signed a law in direct opposition to the FCC in order to stop Internet Service Providers from blocking websites or offering fast lane Internet access to companies willing to pay.

Death of open Internet?

But the republican dominated FCC is not detered, and on Thursday it set 11 June for the expire of Obama’s net neutrality rules.

The new FCC rules will require ISPs to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid “fast lanes. That said, Comcast, Verizon Communications and AT&T have all pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the net neutrality rules expire.

FCC Chairman Pai announced his decision under the title of “restoring Internet freedom”, in a move sure to wind up his opponents.

“I strongly support a free and open Internet,” said Pai. “And that’s exactly what we’ve had for decades, starting in the Clinton Administration. The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure and imposed heavy-handed Title II rules on the Internet economy. It doesn’t make sense to apply outdated rules from 1934 to the Internet, but that’s exactly what the prior Administration did.”

“Now, on June 11, these unnecessary and harmful Internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years will be restored,” he said.

“The Federal Trade Commission will once again be empowered to target any unfair or deceptive business practices of Internet service providers and to protect American’s broadband privacy,” he added. “Armed with our strengthened transparency rule, we look forward to working closely with the FTC to safeguard a free and open Internet.”

Pai said the FCC gave ISP providers 30 days to comply with the new transparency rules.

He also said many politicians had sought to “mislead” the public about the repeal’s impact.

Repeal opposition

But his statement stood in stark contrast to Pai’s detractors.

“The repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online,” acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, a Democrat, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

A spokeswoman for Underwood told Reuters that state attorneys general have not sought a stay of the FCC order yet.

It comes as a group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued to try to block the new rules from taking effect.

And multiple governors, including in New York and Montana, have signed executive actions that prohibit ISPs with state contracts from blocking or slowing data on their lines.

“The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, was quoted by Reuters as saying on Thursday. “The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people.”

Senate vote

And it should be remembered that the US Senate may vote as early as next week to reject the December repeal.

That vote is largely symbolic, because although the US Senate may just have enough votes to reject the FCC repeal of the net neutrality rules, it is likely their vote will have little impact.

This is because if the Senate approves the measure, it would not likely pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But if by some small chance the legislation were to pass the House, President Donald Trump would be expected to veto it.

The overturning of the net neutrality rules by the FCC has been as opposed by many in the tech industry and beyond.

Indeed, such was the fallout from the decision, that Pai in January this year unexpectedly cancelled an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas because of death threats.

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