In a completely expected but still crappy move, the US FCC voted today to move ahead with Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to roll back net neutrality rules enacted under the Open Internet Order of 2015.
The commission will now consider Pai’s proposal, which would repeal the reclassification of US broadband providers as “common carriers” (a little like utilities) under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Pai’s proposed rulemaking would also “seek comment” on the so-called “bright line” rules — no blocking, throttling or paid prioritisation of internet traffic — likely meaning those rules would be watered down or even erased. We won’t know for sure until closer to the final vote, but without Title II authority, the FCC might not be able to enforce those rules anyway.
The lone Democrat on the FCC, Mignon Clyburn, said the proposal “would deeply damage the ability of the FCC to be a champion of consumers and competition”, calling it a “political rush job,” according to prepared remarks.
Meanwhile, the other Republican, Mike O’Rielly, laid the groundwork for ignoring pro-net neutrality comments that have already flooded in and will likely continue to do so before the vote, saying FCC rules aren’t decided “like a Dancing With the Stars contest”. More than 2.1 million comments have already been filed, though as we’ve reported, hundreds of thousands of those appear to be astroturfed, possibly bot-filed anti-net neutrality comments, submitted under the names of other people. But as much as O’Rielly might want to dismiss the comment process, every comment in favour of net neutrality makes it more obvious that Pai’s proposal is something that only ISPs want.
The proposal will receive a final vote later this year, likely in spring. Until then, expect a renewed push for net neutrality legislation on Capitol Hill: American ISPs would love to get some broad legislation that favours them under this US Congress, which recently did their bidding by gutting rules protecting internet privacy.