The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] on Thursday voted 3-2 to repeal [press release, PDF] Obama-era net neutrality regulations in favor of returning to what it calls “longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.”
Calling it an act to “restore internet freedom” and increase “Transparency to Protect Consumers, Spur Investment, Innovation, and Competition,” the FCC stated that it undertook detailed legal and economic analysis and extensively examined comments from consumers and stakeholders before deciding to repeal what it calls “the [Obama-era] FCC’s 2015 heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service.”
Stating that the net neutrality rules “imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem” the FCC proclaimed that it:
is returning to the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015. Moreover, the FCC today also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct. In particular, the FCC’s action today has restored the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices.
Among other things, the new rule adopted by the FCC claims to 1) restore the classification of broadband Internet access service as an “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act; 2) reinstate the classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service; 3) restore broadband consumer protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website], “enabling it to apply its extensive expertise to provide uniform online protections against unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices;” and 4) require ISPs to disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission, including any blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or affiliated prioritization.
Net neutrality [JURIST backgrounder] represents the principle that “all internet traffic should be treated equally” and that “internet providers should not discriminate or charge differently for any sort of data, including platform, user, content or any other category.” Stated differently, a law based upon net neutrality principles prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) from deliberately blocking or slowing down websites or internet content or charging for preferential treatment.
The FCC adopted [LA Times report] new internet traffic rules based on principles of net neutrality in February 2015 dramatically expanding government oversight of the Internet. Those rules prohibited prohibited ISPs such as AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon from slowing Internet speeds for some content such as video streams or otherwise treating online content on a discriminatory basis. The FCC signaled its plans to dismantle net neutrality rules last month despite severe opposition [JURIST reports] from 170 organizations that included the American Civil Liberties Union, Greenpeace and the American Library Association [advocacy websites].