Net Neutrality Is Officially Dead w.e.f. Today – Ajit Pai, Former Verizon Employee, Pens an Op-Ed

Rafia Shaikh
Ajit Pai fcc net neutrality

It’s official. The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality protections takes effect today. Among other things, the net neutrality rules required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content. The repeal effectively allows ISPs to block, throttle and prioritize content and internet access as they please.

Most notably, the repeal removes the Title II classification of broadband internet that put it in line with essential utilities like electricity. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai continues to suggest that Obama-era rules were "heavy-handed" and they negatively impacted innovation.

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The new rules approved by lawmakers who were heavily paid by the ISP lobbyists also take the oversight powers away from the more powerful and resourceful FCC to the Federal Trade Commission. One of the FTC commissioners had even said that the FCC is setting up FTC to fail.

"The United States has a specialized telecom agency with the expertise and technical capability to protect net neutrality and ensure an open internet," FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny had said. "That agency is the Federal Communications Commission."

"The FTC does not have specialized expertise in telecommunications. We don’t have engineers with technical experience in data network management practices."

McSweeny had also warned that it takes FTC years before it could get a court order to halt a practice that may be deemed as anti-competitive. "During that time, the dominant ISP could continue to discriminate against its rival, potentially driving it out of business," she added. "Even if the FTC were ultimately to prevail, we couldn’t resurrect the dead rival. Nor could we go back in time and undo the harm to consumers or to the competitive evolution of the marketplace. At the end of the day, the dominant ISP might lose the antitrust suit and yet still wind up better off."

Ajit Pai, FCC chairman, argues in favor of the new Internet Freedom Order

To announce the repeal of net neutrality protections and the new "Restoring Internet Freedom Order" taking effect on Monday, Ajit Pai wrote an op-ed today repeating what he has already said in the past: Title II classification was heavy-handed; FTC should be responsible for consumer protections, and that the system fine worked for decades before these new protections came into place.

[It didn't: see the list of a few times that ISPs abused their powers]

However, while Pai has focused on how the new rules require ISPs to be transparent "about their network management practices," he hasn't touched on some of the most criticized aspects of the repeal: the ability to throttle, prioritize, or block content and internet access.

The chairman hasn't talked about any of those incidents where the ISPs discriminated against content by blocking websites or apps that could be their competitors or how their decision to offer paid and fast lanes to big companies could kill the innovation that is being heralded as the winner of this repeal. With startups unable to pay for these lanes, there is no chance that small, unsupported entrepreneurs will turn into future Snapchats or Facebooks, as this repeal only preserves the monopoly that the handful of tech giants currently enjoys along with the powers of a few ISPs.

Net neutrality repeal - is it the end of the world?

Probably not. You won't even see the direct effects of this repeal immediately. ISPs aren't idiots. However, this repeal would definitely end up in some big problems, especially slow internet access for many.

With that said, several states have taken a stand against the FCC to keep net neutrality protections in place in their respective states. According to the NYT, at least 29 "state legislatures had introduced bills meant to ensure net neutrality" protections.

Last month, Senate had also voted to reverse the net neutrality repeal in Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution. The CRA has to be further approved by the House and then signed by President Trump, which isn't likely to happen. However, net neutrality proponents continue to ask citizens to call their representatives to push for a reversal. You can head over here for details.

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