Net neutrality, the “First Amendment of the Internet,” is the idea that ISPs should treat everyone’s data equally. It ensures that the large cable ISPs are unable to choose which data is sent more quickly than other data and which websites get blocked (or throttled), depending upon which content providers pay a premium.
The FCC has circulated a draft “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal to be voted upon at the upcoming Commissioner’s meeting.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai said. “Instead, the FTC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumer can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.” The FTC “will once again be able to policy ISPs, protect consumers and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy,” he said.
Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen provided the following statement: “I am pleased to see progress on this important matter. The FTC has long applied its competition and consumer protection expertise to network neutrality issues. The FTC also participated in the FCC’s proceeding, and I am gratified that my comments and those of FTC staff appear to have been taken into consideration in the development of this order. I look forward to reading the full draft order. The FTC stands ready to protect broadband subscribers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts and practices just as we protect consumers in the rest of the Internet ecosystem.”
In 2015, the FCC voted to more strictly regulate ISPs as utilities. Pai believes that net neutrality rules were established over hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom.
Problematic examples in which ISPs have violated net neutrality principles?
AT&T blocked Skype and other similar services on the iPhone so it would make more money from regular phone calls. Verizon blocked Google Wallet from smartphones when it was developing a competing mobile payment service.
All of Pai’s colleagues do not share his views.
FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel are not fans.
Clyburn said in a statement that the proposal is unwelcome. “…Their Destroying Internet Freedom Order would dismantle net neutrality as we know it by giving the green light to our nation’s largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic and paid prioritization of online applications and services.” See for Clyburn’s fact sheet on net neutrality.
Rosenworcel agreed. “Our internet economy is the envy of the world because it is open to all. This proposal tears at the foundation of that openness. It hands broadband providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make and what communities we create. It throttles access, stalls opportunity and censors content. It would be a big blunder for a slim majority of the FCC to approve these rules and saddle every Internet user with the cruel consequences.”
The FCC is expected to decide the fate of net neutrality on December 14, 2017.
Richard B. Newman is an Internet marketing compliance and regulatory defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising and digital media matters. His practice includes conducting legal compliance reviews of advertising campaigns, representing clients in investigations and enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General, commercial litigation, advising clients on promotional marketing programs, and negotiating and drafting legal agreements. You can find him on Twitter @FTCLawDefense.
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