The Federal Communications Commission voted today to reverse the Obama-era rules that sought to democratize the Internet.
Soon after Donald Trump came to power, he made Ajit Pai chair of the FCC. Pai wasted no time in proposing to roll back rules that the previous administration had used to reclassify Internet service providers so that they were more closely regulated. His final plans for scrapping the regulations were announced during the week of Thanksgiving.
Now, the majority-Republican commission has decided to carry out the plan, with 3 of 5 votes in favor. The move will soften the FCC’s ability to police ISPs and the services they provide to consumers, as well as hand some oversight of the companies to the Federal Trade Commission. Perhaps most important, the repeal will make it easier for ISPs to throttle, block, or prioritize traffic for their own gain.
Ahead of the vote, Pai said that the rollback would be “helping consumers and promoting competition,” adding that “broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
But as we recently argued, the move to reshape how the Internet works in America will likely be to the detriment of consumers and entrepreneurs. As our own Martin Giles explained:
Entrepreneurs are rightly concerned that large companies will spend heavily to dominate fast-lane access, making it harder for some startups, such as bandwidth-hungry mobile video companies, to challenge them … The FTC can’t impose rules like net neutrality across the board; it can tackle complaints only on a case-by-case basis. And few innovators will have the time or the money to launch legal battles.
So, what now? Well, most likely, there will be legal challenges to delay the rollback. But for now, the current administration’s plan to less stringently regulate the Internet just became very, very real.