FCC Votes To Repeal Obama-Era Net Neutrality Protections

Update: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement following Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s actions to undo net neutrality regulations:

“Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society. The Trump administration’s action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet. As Chairman Pai outlined today, the way to protect consumers is to put the Federal Trade Commission back on the beat to crack down on those who would abuse open access. This new plan of action will open new avenues for telemedicine, distance learning, and future innovations."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman - who positioned himself as a leading voice against the decision - announced shortly after the vote that he would lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the rollback of net neutrality. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would join the suit.

Nancy Pelosi has also chimed in, tweeting that the FCC "voted to throw away net neutrality" and that the rules led to "good jobs" and "saving families money."

 

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Three weeks after introducing the plan, the FCC - in a 3-2 vote along party lines - has voted to repeal net neutrality rules adopted by the Obama administration in 2015, triggering a torrent of outraged backlash from consumers who view the decision as blatantly benefitting telecoms companies at the public's expense.

While events proceeded mostly as expected, the lengthy hearing was interrupted by a "brief recess" shortly before 1 p.m. Media reports said the room was cleared because of an unspecified threat, and Capitol police brought in bomb-sniffing dogs to check the area before the comments could resume.

"The fight for the future of the internet has come to a head" is one of the dramatic headlines surrounding the Republican-led FCC's. Democrats on the committee dissented to the decision, describing it as an "internet-destroying" order that would benefit corporations at the extent of broadband consumers.

"The public can plainly see that a soon to be toothless FCC is ahdning the keys to the Internet...over to a handful of multi-billion-dollar corporations," one Democratic member said.

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by President Trump, has framed the repeal as getting the government to "stop micromanaging the internet."

The issue was the fourth item on the agency's agenda. It was entitled "Restoring Internet Freedom."

Making the case for the rule, a lawyer for the Wireline Bureau, a Telecom industry lobbying group, said the Obama era rules stifle conpetition and deter investment.

But one dissenting commissioner - in a longwinded defense of the status quo - blasted Telecoms companies and the FCC for siding with corporations against the "will of the people.

"When the current protections are abandoned...we will have a Cheshire Cat version of net neutrality. We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all thats left is a broadband providers toothy grin," the Commissioner said. "Right now we have every incentive to do the right thing. Now, they’ll have every incentive to do their own thing."

She also complained that the FCC refused to acknowledge public comments opposing the rule change, while deliberately ignoring the public backlash.

In comments defending Pai's plan, another commission described opponents' claims about harms to consumers resulting from the rule change were "fraudulent" and didn't represent "reality".

"This decision will NOT break the internet. What we are doing is reverting back to the bi-partisan approach that existed before 2015," he said. 

He added that there is no legal basis to delay the committee's decision.

Shortly before the vote, Pai reiterated his argument that net neutrality existed before the Obama administration applied Title II protections to broadband access. But Pai said the apocolyptic rhetoric is "quite somethng."

"The sky isn't falling consumers will remain protected and the Internet will flourish," he said. "Title II did not create the open internet, and Title II isn't necessary to maintain it."

He added that the decision includes "powerful legal checks" to stop ISPs from taking advantage of consumers.

 

The FCC's proposal elicited vociferous public outrage, with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers speaking out against the decision, denouncing the plan as a corporate powergrab that would benefit telecoms companies at the expense of virtually everybody else. Indeed, the issue is extremely unpopular, with some polls showing 75% of the public opposes Pai's proposed changes.

Furthermore, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has said his office discovered more than 100,000 fake comments related to the Net Neutrality issue..

 

 

Here is The Mises Institute's Brian Dellinger to put this decision in context...

On November 21, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to revisit its Obama-era internet regulations. It seems likely that the resulting vote will repeal the policies often referred to as net neutrality. The name is, perhaps, misleading; to support net neutrality is to support placing the internet more fully under government supervision. The related political debate often divides traditional allies with arguments for free expression pitted against defenses of small government.

To understand net neutrality, one must see its position in technical history. Traditionally, internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, have guaranteed their customers a certain quantity of bandwidth – that is, a certain amount of data per unit of time. It was assumed that even a voracious user would rarely use his maximum bandwidth, and services were priced under this assumption. ISPs also de facto allowed customers to access whatever websites they wished; while there was no legal protection for this behavior, technical complexities made discrimination by website infeasible. The result was a largely open web: anyone with a blog could potentially reach millions.

In the early 2000s, the situation changed. Technological innovations enabled providers to determine which site a user visited and so potentially to restrict access. In principle, an ISP could now sell “packages” of websites, in a fashion resembling cable television: “basic internet” for news and Facebook, say, or “premium internet” for those who wanted more. These years also saw the rising popularity of streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. Users now binge-watched videos, consuming their maximum available bandwidth for hours at a stretch. Such trends increased costs for the ISPs, leading them to investigate new responses: restricted access to high-usage sites, artificially slow downloads, and so on.

Net neutrality stands in opposition to these changes. Broadly, under net neutrality, the government requires ISPs to treat all web traffic in the same way: no limiting access, no reducing speed. Since 2005, the FCC has several times established net neutrality regulations; inevitably, the courts struck down such rules on the grounds that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate ISPs. In response, in 2015 the FCC redefined broadband internet as a telecommunications service, placing it under FCC jurisdiction, and promptly passed net neutrality rules. With the political shift of the 2016 elections, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai began rolling back these regulations – hence the upcoming vote.

Both sides of the debate have merit. Concerns that ISPs might slow targeted websites are not idle speculation; Comcast did precisely thatto Netflix in 2014. Indeed, Comcast and others have done little to engender public trust in their behavior. Comcast had pledged for years not to “prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes.” That pledge disappeared from its website less than a day after Pai announced policy changes.

It is also true that the meritocratic nature of the internet – its enabling of anyone to win a following through quality work – has been one of its most notable virtues. A world of “basic internet,” in which new entrants might be simply unreachable, would reduce its value as a platform for new ideas.

Despite these fair concerns, arguments against the FCC rollback seem insufficient. It is difficult to deny that price incentives have drastically shifted over the last decade; if streaming video is generating much of the ISPs’ expenses, it makes intuitive sense that providers might demand Netflix share those costs, or might price service by total consumption rather than maximum bandwidth. Nor are the corporations supporting net neutrality any more trustworthy than the ISPs. Setting Netflix aside, supporters such as Google and Facebook seek to block ISPs from trading in users’ private information – a trade on which these companies themselves depend. For them, net neutrality eliminates the competition.

Other objections rely too heavily on speculation. While a “fast lane” internet would be a marked shift, the brief history of the web is one of constant change. Indeed, the rise of mobile browsing, which often limits the user to app-specific websites and now constitutes a majority of all web usage, may produce a greater alteration than that net neutrality would prevent.

Further, the internet is historically the result of market activity rather than top-down regulations. If one approves of its remarkable evolution to this point, it seems peculiar to assert that this is the moment to freeze it through government action. Given how few accurately predicted that evolution, it seems hubristic to assert how it will change next. Perhaps, as the ISPs argue, the increased revenue from a non-neutral internet would enable the expansion of broadband networks, ending regional monopolies of service providers. Such a change might ultimately produce a faster, more accessible internet – or it might not, but the experiment seems worth the risk.

Finally, whatever one’s feelings on net neutrality, the 2015 rules should be seen for what they are: a staggering expansion of bureaucratic power, by decree of the bureaucracy itself. The result is an ugly patchwork of overlapping authority between the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, with ISPs disfavored over similar services. This reclassification can never be a stable solution; it will always be vulnerable to precisely the kind of unilateral repeal currently occurring.

If the public supports net neutrality, then let it be defended through the proper channel: by laws, and not bureaucratic fiat.

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At least one person lampooned the hysterical backlash to the plan shortly before the decision...

 

 

Comments

Bes Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:16 Permalink

ending net neutrality is nothing but more power given to oligarchs over Americans and continuing the firesale of our society #thankstrump fuck you

crazzziecanuck Bes Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:20 Permalink

I know it's not going to be popular, but think about how some of the biggest names in the "software sector" have directly profitted off the ISPs.  Google, Amazon and the like have arisen cost-free for the most part.It's like a battle raging inside the 1% and all the collateral damage is wrought upon us mere proles.

In reply to by Bes

LetThemEatRand crazzziecanuck Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:30 Permalink

What this does is allow the few big companies that provide internet service to throttle back anyone they want.  It is easy to point the finger at Netflix, but that's not what this fight is about.   What will happen in the future is that the big users of bandwith (Netflix, Facebook, etc) will simply pay the Comcasts and Verizons etc to be in the fast lane.  The catch is that if you don't pay, you'll be in the slow lane.  No high speed for you, ZH, unless you pay up.  Want to start a blog?  Pay up or be dial up speed to potential viewers.  Get it?  This isn't about free markets because that concept can't work when in any given community you only have one or two options for internet service.

In reply to by crazzziecanuck

virgule Monkeymitts Thu, 12/14/2017 - 22:53 Permalink

There is an argument missing from this discussion, suspiciously. All the ISPs have to do is sell packages of data transfer per unit of time, just like a data plan for a phone (at least that is how it works in Asia). Buy a 3oGB package for 1 month and you can download all you want up to 30GB, after wich all traffic will be throttled. This would not discriminate any source site, would give users the freedom to do whatever they want, and would allow ISP to generate usage-based revenue that is fair.Someone who just wants to read ZH would buy a 1GB package, and someone who wants Netflix 24x7 would buy a 100GB package.I'm surprised Mises has not come up with such alternative.

In reply to by Monkeymitts

GoinFawr virgule Fri, 12/15/2017 - 01:44 Permalink

it is suspicious, 'telling' evenTo me it suggests that it's not the 'unlimited' aspect of current hard line data plans at all, or even the supposed preciousness of bandwidth (which is the sock puppet rail against your data caps) that are the concerns, it's really all about control; right now no one has that but the individual end user, and that's not acceptable to the ISP's, because they can make ever so much more money from directly dictating what gets through, and how fast. Lots and lots of money, 'cause MAN do they know what you like; they got scads of files 20 years long! SO much money that the money itself is the very least of what they are going to achieve (for themselves, at your great expense) with the immense power that has just been handed to them.Did the US' internet just become a plutocratic version of China's'?I suppose Mencken would approve...so, uh, congratulations are in order then?

In reply to by virgule

mkkby 1stepcloser Thu, 12/14/2017 - 22:23 Permalink

This is actually a strike against socialism. Netfux and boob tube are parasites on the ISPs. Let them pay their fair share for the bandwidth. If they cannot, then they should close shop or ask investors for a few billion more.

Of course the slimy comcast will try and push their own services over others. Their day in the sun may be very short. Soon 5g wireless will come out possibly take over large chunks of their business.

I don't use facebook or video games. I sure don't want to pay for the basement dwelling snowflake next door. Go trump. Roll back everything the kenyan nigger did.

In reply to by 1stepcloser

mc888 overbet Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:06 Permalink

Condensed shortlist - who gave us 'Net Neutrality'?George SorosFord FoundationFree Press, a Soros-funded NGO run by socialist Robert McChesneyMark Lloyd, Center for American Progress and consultant to George Soros’ Open Society InstituteCass SunsteinSusan P. Crawford, Obama's Marxist 'Internet Czar' -Crawford’s pet project, OneWebNow, listed as “participating organizations” Free Press and the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.Crawford and Kevin Werbach, who co-directed the Obama transition team’s Federal Communications Commission Review team, are advisory board members at Public Knowledge, a George Soros-funded public interest group.Google. Microsoft. Facebook. Twitter. Amazon.

In reply to by overbet

GoinFawr Pickleton Fri, 12/15/2017 - 01:07 Permalink

Yet directly contrary to your claim the cheapest prices in Canada today for 'telecom' services are in Saskatchewan, because of the profitable publicly owned and operated company Sasktel. And despite the public competition the private companies still somehow manage to make good money there, even as the consumer avoids being gouged, hunh, go figure.And because the public company is profitable it pays for some gov't services while simultaneously reducing prices for private individuals; it's a fucking double win in the "saving anyone money" dept. for the average Saskatchewanian (sp?)What's more: overall they have the best quality service in the country.The only reason you claim(ed) no example exists? Ans. You never even bothered to look. ie. Your stupid confirmation bias, or paycheque, won't allow you to notice anything outside your narrow little neoliberal inspired paradigm. And you probably like singing in the echochambermaidens' choir. Oh well, so much for another one of your outdated, thoroughly debunked, heavily conditioned misapprehensions, eh? 

In reply to by Pickleton

Escrava Isaura ne-tiger Thu, 12/14/2017 - 16:17 Permalink

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ne-tiger ….overcharge……beyond the understanding of all the tards here. Because conservatives are suckers. They just can’t help. Jack Menendez: Oh so conservatives are about free markets are they?  Free markets is hype. Conservatives are about "conserving" the status quo, which means that those with lots of money keep that status.   Conservatives, at least the ones in charge, could care less how the status quo is conserved.  If conservatives were really about free markets they would be all over creating a level playing field in the markets so that you and I can play there too, but conservatives do the opposite, they "deregulate" markets so that those already established in the market have an almost insurmountable advantage over anyone starting out.  Conservatives are about money, their own money.  Oh, there's plenty of little people who fall for the hype and call themselves conservatives, but they are not conservatives they are another thing; suckers.  

In reply to by ne-tiger

mc888 curbjob Thu, 12/14/2017 - 22:14 Permalink

Ok, back. EPIC snipets with *notes*===========================Enforcement Jurisdiction and the FTCPrior to the Open Internet Order, the Federal Trade Commission was the primary agency that brought enforcement actions against internet companies that violated consumer privacy. However, Section 5(2)(a) of the FTC Act prohibits the FTC from pursuing actions against “common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce.” *** internet companies no longer regulated by FTC for consumer privacy protection or antitrust laws***Section 222This section aims to protect consumers’ personal information collected by carriers, as a result of the customer-carrier relationship.*** mandatory collection of CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information) due to reclassification as carriers ***CPNI and Consumer Data Under Section 222CPNI is defined in this section as “information that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of a telecommunications service subscribed to by any customer of a telecommunications carrier, and that is made available to the carrier by the customer solely by virtue of the carrier-customer relationship.” This Section could potentially cover all personally identifiable customer data, such as web-browsing history and geo-location data, that is stored on a device or that a broadband service provider tracks as a consequence of the customer-carrier relationship.Net Neutrality and Government SurveillanceThe Open Internet Order mandates compliance with federal surveillance statutes - Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). the Order’s surveillance compliance mandate is at odds with its focus on customer privacy and data security. the Order still requires broadband providers to comply with federal surveillance statutes that weaken the privacy and security of broadband provider networks. CALEA is particularly troublesome, as it requires telecommunications carriers to construct their network in such a way that allows the government a backdoor into the network, for surveillance purposes. These backdoors create heightened network security vulnerabilities, allowing access not just to the government but also hackers and criminals.https://www.epic.org/privacy/netneutrality/

In reply to by curbjob

Beatscape LetThemEatRand Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:49 Permalink

LetThemEatRand,Are you a socialist? The Internet is a business. If you want more bandwidth you pay for it, period. FYI, that's the way businesses work.  If you want more of anything, you have to pay for it.What is it with people like you!?  This is not socialism. The Internet blossomed beautifully without any government oversight at all. You think it will improve with more rules forcing ISPs to provide the same bandwidth regardless of what they pay for their access to the Internet?  If that law was passed, then there would be no investment incentive for the owners of the Internet backbone.  In order for these companies to keep the Internet working and improving they have to be able to make a profit. This issue has become so overblown it's ridiculous. I'm truly worried that our society is swinging over to this idiotic socialist utopia fairy tale where everyone thinks that only the government can make good decisions for everyone.  In fact, the opposite is true.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

LetThemEatRand Beatscape Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:06 Permalink

Total misdirection on your part.  First of all, the internet came into existence due to Defense Department investment.   Every time you use the internet, you are using a "socialist" invention if by "socialist" you mean anything that was funded by tax payer dollars.  Second, the internet companies are profitable under the current system so suggesting the internet will die if these huge monopolist companies are not allowed to control every aspect of the internet is absurd.  Third, I already pay for the internet.  I'm not asking that it be provided for free.  Fourth, ISP's were already allowed to charge consumers by bandwith usage and many already do.  That is a total red herring and has nothing to do with what the FCC just did.Take off your ideological glasses.  What this does is allow Verizon to decide if you get to see sites like ZH with high speed, or just sites like MSN, Facebook, etc.  And if we don't like it, we have nowhere to go in terms of competition.  In my area, it's basically Frontier or Comcast.  Those are the options.  If they both do the same thing (they will), the consumer is fucked.

In reply to by Beatscape

Beatscape LetThemEatRand Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:52 Permalink

LetThemEatRand, Firstly, I'm not saying that the Internet would die if net neutrality were passed.  I'm saying that investment into the Internet would slow down therefore hindering further innovation. There has to be a profit incentive for companies to make investments and innovate.Secondly, I ask you to think about your proposal for maintaining 'equal & fair access' to websites like ZH. Are you proposing that we hire a boatload of technical bureaucrats to monitor all websites to be sure they are getting equal & fair access to the Internet backbone?  Do you realize the huge bureaucracy that would create? Further, it opens the door to a slew of lawsuits if a website operator feels they are not getting fair and equal access.  If an ISP starts to get a reputation for throttling some of their paying customers, those paying customers will go to another ISP.  That's how competition works.Lastly, you are correct that the DOD invented the Internet protocol.  But at that point it was an internal government network.  It took free enterprise and lots of private investment with no further government intervention to turn the Internet into a widely available service.  

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

factorypreset Beatscape Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:22 Permalink

"The Internet blossomed beautifully without any government oversight at all." Apparently you know nothing about how the internet actually came about.  My tax dollars and your tax dollars (and that of our parents and grandparents) were materially responsible for what is now the internet.  So now you have a few ISPs - benefactors of our tax dollar largesse - lobbying for the right to have complete control over the the pricing of what is partially PUBLIC property.  

In reply to by Beatscape

Gap Admirer factorypreset Thu, 12/14/2017 - 14:57 Permalink

Of course.

There are a very limited number of things that the government should do, not leaving them to private industry. One is the national military - that's spelled out in the Constitution (and it happened to create the Internet). The other is research where private industry doesn't see a return on investment so can't/won't do it and charity can't fund it. That kind of thing must be tightly controlled or it gets out of hand like the Globalwarmist government "research."

When tax payer funded research provides results the results should be turned over to the tax payers to run with it. They should not be kept by the tax payer funded government, not allowing the people who paid for it to have control of it.

In reply to by factorypreset

SeaMonkeys factorypreset Thu, 12/14/2017 - 15:02 Permalink

People don't understand that you can't have free competion and monopolies at the same time. The Red/Blue culture wars are responsible for the confusion. All the proxy wars on identity politics have served the 1% in making people think that this issue is a Liberal vs. Conservative issue. Now the ISP's will dictate content, directly or indirectly. Look for a return to the media reporting only sanitized news as they only do. And we will have nowhere else to go. Soviet Union 2.0

In reply to by factorypreset

verumcuibono SeaMonkeys Thu, 12/14/2017 - 15:31 Permalink

I've been searching through these comments for exactly your post---the true risk in control, however it may evolve/devolve, is filtering content. We've already lost 96% of mainstream media to content control by a few individuals, designed entirely to keep the public disinformed. Much of the internet is controlled in the same way, due to the fact that nearly everyone uses google as their search engine.The public is divided into three groups - those who use the internet primarily for social media and to check email. They couldn't care less about or even understand media control. The secondary group are people who use the internet to circumvent mainstream media in order to understand the fraction of truth in the world that we can suss out through our internet lifeline. The third group is the deep state who uses the internet as a means to surveil, control and keep the system running.The first group cares only about cheap speed.The second group cares more about uncontolled content access, or at least the illusion of it and potential loss of what we currently have.The third group doesn't give a shit because none of the system controls apply to them. And - the internet was developed by intelligence, not the military. There is a difference.So, back to the NN argument--isn't the crux of the argument a control over content? Is control over content being intentionally overshadowed by the noise regarding cost and capitalism and free market development? The ISPs will always be able to charge for speed and development, and most people will support that--either outright or simply by paying for internet access, regardless of the cost. Literally, the gamer and the FaceBooker will pay whatever he/she is charged. Period. It was the same for cell phones and plans, same for Nike shoes, the market will bring them all along.But what .gov or "regulatory" agency or corporate mechanism will defend access to information, when our primary media disinformation model already proves it's a done deal?

In reply to by SeaMonkeys