The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to start undoing a key decision from the Obama era, in a move aimed at easing regulations on internet providers. "The utility-style regulations known as Title II were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea".
The first stage of the process is the filing of a 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' (NPRM), outlining the changes the FCC are seeking to make.
For the next 90 days, the FCC will collect comments from stakeholders and the general public before drafting a specific order and voting on whether to set it into law.
Those who support Pai's plan, including Republicans and broadband providers, argue the 2015 regulation is an FCC regulatory overreach that has prevented investment and innovation in broadband infrastructure and has harmed customers.
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Francis Ford Coppola, director of classic films such as "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now", has sent a letter to the top US telecommunications regulator to urge support for "net neutrality", which prevents internet companies from blocking, throttling or giving "fast lanes" to particular websites.
Mignon Clyburn, the FCC's solo Democratic member, criticiised the decision, arguing that the decision to revisit the rules marked the Republicans' latest effort to undercut their own mission. He delivered a scathing rebuke of the plans, calling it "a hollow theory of trickle-down internet economics" that "contains ideological interpretive whiplash". "If you unequivocally trust that your broadband provider will always put the public interest over self-interest or the interest of their stockholders, then the "Destroying Internet Freedom" [proposal] is for you", she said.
Under the contested FCC rules to "protect the open Internet", cable companies are not allowed to charge websites more for faster loading times and no content can be blocked. The concept of "net neutrality" generally refers to treating all Internet traffic equally.
This may appear like an issue that only affects the U.S., but it may have troubling implications for the rest of the world, encouraging heavier deregulation by other countries.