It seems like the net neutrality debate in the US is making a comeback after all; the Federal Communications Commission may decide to reverse its 2015 net neutrality reclassification order in a vote next month.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today announced that he has shared a proposal with his fellow commissioners “to reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light touch framework that served us so well during the Clinton administration, Bush administration, and first six years of the Obama administration”.
Pai was appointed as Chairman of the FCC by the Trump administration and has been a critic of the Title II reclassification brought upon the industry by the FCC in 2015. He describes them as "a panoply of heavy-handed economic regulations that were developed in the Great Depression to handle Ma Bell".
In 2015, the FCC reclassified broadband under Title II, giving the regulator authority to enforce rules on broadband providers and treat the Internet as a public utility. The FCC’s rules have since helped ensure that the Internet remains free of blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.
In an interview with Reason, Pai described the Internet as “one of the most incredible free market innovations in history”, and that its overregulation may end up harming it. "Companies like Google and Facebook and Netflix became household names precisely because we didn't have the government micromanaging how the internet would operate”, he continued.
Pai’s proposal would reclassify broadband providers as Title I information services, making it difficult for the FCC to regulate them. The complete text of his proposal is expected to be published tomorrow.
Pai acknowledges that while some against the net neutrality regulations have “called on the FCC to reverse Title II immediately through a declaratory ruling”, the “decision should be made through an open, transparent process through which every American can share his or her views”.
The FCC will vote on the proposal on May 18, which will be followed by months of debate as it will be opened for public comment – perhaps the most important process. Later this year, the commission will revise its rules based on the feedback it receives, and take a final vote to enact the new rules.
Net Neutrality is a much-debated topic; consumers want an unbiased network, while broadband providers have been very open about how net neutrality would stifle broadband investment.
The FCC has to consider both sides – the regulator is not just responsible for ensuring a fair Internet, but also for improving access to it.