FCC blasted for vote to repeal net neutrality protections

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FCC blasted for vote to repeal net neutrality protections

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 2:12pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont’s two US senators – Senator Patrick Leahy (D) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I) – have joined Senator Edward J Markey (D-Mass), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and 13 other senators on Thursday in announcing their plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo Thursday’s action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules.

The FCC Thursday afternoon approved an item that guts the 2015 Open Internet Order, which the DC Circuit Court upheld in 2016. The Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from setting up internet fast and slow lanes and ensured they could not block or slow down internet traffic.

“Donald Trump’s FCC made an historic mistake today by overturning its net neutrality rules, and we cannot let it stand,” said Senator Markey. “Without strong net neutrality rules, entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses, activists and all those who rely on a free and open internet will be at the mercy of big broadband companies that can block websites, slow down traffic and charge websites fees in order to increase their profits.

“We will fight the FCC’s decisions in the courts, and we will fight it in the halls of Congress,” continued Senator Markey. “With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations. Our Republicans colleagues have a choice - be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality, or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy.”

A copy of the CRA can be found HERE.

Senator Markey’s resolution of disapproval would rescind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s item and fully restore the Open Internet Order. CRA resolutions allow Congress to overturn regulatory actions at federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.  In accordance with the Congressional Review Act, the senators will formally introduce the resolution once the rule is submitted to both houses of Congress and published in the federal register. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) plans to introduce a CRA resolution in the House of Representatives.  

In addition to Leahy and Sanders, other senators cosponsoring the CRA resolution include Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.), Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

In dismantling its previous net neutrality rules, the FCC said today (see statement below) that the vote was a bi-partisan effort to restore "Internet freedom." Vermont's US Senators Leahy and Sanders, who had opposed the Trump Administration's move to deregulate the Internet, said the FCC's action will lead to discrimination, stifle competition, and damage democracy. The FCC vote was 3-2, with the three Republicans on the panel voting in favor and the two Democrats voting against. The rules were put in place in 2015 during the Obama Administration.

Leay said: “Today the FCC took a wrecking ball to the pillars of freedom and openness upon which the Internet was built.  Without the protection of net neutrality rules, powerful telecommunication companies can decide which content gets preferential treatment and which gets throttled or even blocked.  That will hurt consumers, small businesses and startups. The FCC is stifling innovation and competition.

“This has been a rushed, cynical and slipshod process that has been fundamentally flawed. Chairman Pai and the FCC’s Republican majority have shown a shocking disregard for the overwhelming input from the public, choosing instead to listen only to those with the deepest pockets. They have made it clear that the voices of the American people do not matter to them and will be ignored in President Trump’s Washington. As a staunch supporter of net neutrality rules, I will keep fighting until these protections are restored.”

New York Times: Net Neutrality Rules Are Repealed, Giving Providers Free Rein

VBM: Burlington Telecom to remain net neutral regardless of FCC ruling

Sanders issued the following statement: "Once again, the Trump administration has sided with big money and against the interests of the American people. The FCC’s vote to end net neutrality is an egregious attack on our democracy. With this decision the internet and its free exchange of information as we have come to know it will cease to exist. The end of net neutrality protections means that the internet will be for sale to the highest bidder, instead of everyone having the same access regardless of whether they are rich or poor, a big corporation or small business, a multimedia conglomerate or a small online publication. At a time when our democratic institutions are already in peril, we must do everything we can to stop this decision from taking effect."

FCC Press Release

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to restore the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.

Following detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders, the Commission reversed the FCC’s 2015 heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem.

In place of that heavy-handed framework, the FCC is returning to the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015.  Moreover, the FCC today also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct.  In particular, the FCC’s action today has restored the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices.     

The framework adopted by the Commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules.  And restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.  The Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order adopted by the Commission takes the following steps to achieve these goals:

Declaratory Ruling

  • Restores the classification of broadband Internet access service as an “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act—the classification affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2005 Brand X case. 
  • Reinstates the classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service.
  • Finds that the regulatory uncertainty created by utility-style Title II regulation has reduced Internet service provider (ISP) investment in networks, as well as hampered innovation, particularly among small ISPs serving rural consumers.
  • Finds that public policy, in addition to legal analysis, supports the information service classification, because it is more likely to encourage broadband investment and innovation, thereby furthering the goal of closing the digital divide and benefitting the entire Internet ecosystem.
  • Restores broadband consumer protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), enabling it to apply its extensive expertise to provide uniform online protections against unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.

Report and Order

  • Requires that ISPs disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission, including any blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or affiliated prioritization.
  • Finds that transparency, combined with market forces as well as antitrust and consumer protection laws, achieve benefits comparable to those of the 2015 “bright line” rules at lower cost.
  • Eliminates the vague and expansive Internet Conduct Standard, under which the FCC could micromanage innovative business models.

Order

  • Finds that the public interest is not served by adding to the already-voluminous record in this proceeding additional materials, including confidential materials submitted in other proceedings.

The item takes effect upon approval by the Office of Management and Budget of the new transparency rule that requires the collection of additional information from industry.

Action by the Commission December 14, 2017 by Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order (FCC 17-166). Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr approving.  Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel dissenting.  Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel issuing separate statements.

WC Docket No. 17-108

Washington, DC. (THURSDAY, Dec. 14, 2017)