FCC Chair Pai Plans for Rollback of Open Internet Rules

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai met with with trade groups this week to outline plans for rolling back open internet rules, according to informed sources.

Mr. Pai has reportedly requested that Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) voluntarily commit in writing to not impeding consumer access to the Internet as part of their terms of service.   It is unclear if regulators could legally compel internet providers to adopt open internet principles without existing net neutrality rules.  As part of that move, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would assume oversight of ensuring compliance.

Three sources said Pai plans to unveil his proposal to overturn the rules as early as late April and it could face an initial vote in May or June of this year.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, shown on March 8, aims to preserve the basic principles of net neutrality but shift enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, shown above on March 8, 2017 aims to preserve the basic principles of net neutrality but shift enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission.

PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER of BLOOMBERG NEWS

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The FCC declined to comment, but Pai previously said he is committed to ensuring an open internet but feels net neutrality was a mistake.  In December 2016, he predicted that net neutrality’s days were numbered. The new FCC Commissioner told Reuters this February he believes “in a free and open Internet and the only question is what regulatory framework best secures that.”

Pai and congressional Republicans have moved quickly to dismantle Obama-era telecommunications rules.

Trump on Monday signed a repeal of Obama-era broadband privacy rules a victory for internet service providers (ISPs) and a blow to privacy advocates.

Until recently, the Federal Trade Commission was the government agency responsible for policing internet service providers. But last year a federal court ruled that the FTC had no jurisdiction over telecommunications providers since they were considered common carriers — a tag placed on industries that allows them to be regulated like a public utility.

When the bill to repeal the privacy rules was signed on Monday, Pai said that he would work to put the FTC back in charge of internet service providers, something that would require at least a partial repeal of the net neutrality rules.

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It remains unclear when the FCC could move forward with the planned rollback, which is sure to spark an outcry from consumer groups and some congressional Democrats. They—along with some internet firms—view strong net neutrality rules as crucial to maintaining competition on the internet. They are skeptical of any effort to roll back the rules.

Mr. Pai’s plans could begin to be adopted as soon as the FCC’s monthly meeting in May, although the June meeting remains possibility, according to one person familiar with the matter. The FCC currently comprises Mr. Pai, Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. Two seats on the five-person panel are vacant, waiting for President Donald Trump to nominate new commissioners.

The multi-step plan that is emerging appears aimed at eventually shifting oversight for net neutrality to the FTC, which has long overseen most internet-related business, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Under federal law, the FTC lost much of its oversight of broadband providers when the FCC adopted its net neutrality policy, because the FCC rules reclassified broadband providers as common carriers subject to the agency’s oversight.

Mr. Pai’s plans likely would reverse that reclassification eventually, so the FTC again would have jurisdiction over the telecommunications carriers. To preserve the basic tenets of net neutrality, the plans would require broadband providers to pledge to abide by net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic. That would allow the FTC to go after violators for deceptive or unfair trade practices.

Some details of the meeting were first reported by Politico Pro.

Mr. Pai also is believed to be considering provisions to restore FTC oversight of broadband providers’ consumer privacy protections. GOP lawmakers, with the backing of Mr. Pai, recently passed a measure repealing an Obama-era FCC privacy rule that broadband providers criticized as unfairly restrictive.

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ISP’s like AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Comcast Corp have argued net neutrality rules would make it harder to manage internet traffic and investment in additional capacity less likely. Websites worry that without the rules they might lose access to customers.

AT&T and major trade groups sued the FCC in 2015 over the net neutrality rules.

Democrats and privacy advocates say net neutrality is crucial to keeping the internet open.  This author*strongly agrees!

References:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-internet-idUSKBN1790AP

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fcc-chief-ajit-pai-develops-plans-to-roll-back-net-neutrality-rules-1491527590

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/327771-fcc-chair-outlines-plan-to-undo-net-neutrality-reports

* End NOTE:  

Author finds there is NO REGULATION of Internet Service in CA or anywhere in the U.S.!

In 2015, this author had several complaints about his “broadband” Internet service and ISP (AT&T municipal contacts for CA and NV) which was submitted to one regulatory agency after another, including the FCC, FTC, California Public Utilities Commission, City of Santa Clara Telecom Policy Coordinator, CA Dept of Consumer Affairs, CA Dept of Justice, etc. These regulatory agencies either said they have no jurisdiction over Internet service or (in the case of the FCC and City of Santa Clara) they passed on the complaint to AT&T without taking any action or enforcement.

The FCC complaints website says: “We encourage you to contact your provider to resolve your issue prior to filing a complaint…..By filing a consumer complaint and telling your story, you contribute to federal enforcement and consumer protection efforts on a national scale and help us identify trends and track the issues that matter most.”

It turns out there is NO U.S. AGENCY THAT REGULATES OR ENFORCES INTERNET SERVICE OR PRACTICES.  I was told that ONLY VoIP is regulated- not Internet data services.

 

 

 

https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us

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