Last month, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, released a draft order that would soften net neutrality regulations. He wants to overturn the restrictions that make paid prioritization, blocking or throttling of traffic unlawful. If approved, this order could drastically alter the way that people experience and access the web. Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers could determine what sites you can or cannot see.
The proposed draft order is disheartening. Millions of Americans are trying to save net neutrality; the FCC has received over 5 million emails, 750,000 phone calls, and 2 million comments. Unfortunately this public outpouring has not altered the FCC's commitment to dismantling net neutrality.
The commission will vote on the order on December 14th. We have 10 days to save net neutrality.
Although I have written about net neutrality before, I want to explain the consequences and urgency of the FCC's upcoming vote.
What does Pai's draft order say?
Chairman Pai has long been an advocate for "light touch" net neutrality regulations, and claims that repealing net neutrality will allow "the federal government to stop micromanaging the Internet".
Specifically, Pai aims to scrap the protection that classifies ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Radio and phone services are also protected under Title II, which prevents companies from charging unreasonable rates or restricting access to services that are critical to society. Pai wants to treat the internet differently, and proposes that the FCC should simply require ISPs "to be transparent about their practices". The responsibility of policing ISPs would also be transferred to the Federal Trade Commission. Instead of maintaining the FCC's clear-cut and rule-based approach, the FTC would practice case-by-case regulation. This shift could be problematic as a case-by-case approach could make the FTC a weak consumer watchdog.