The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to eliminate regulatory rules that prohibit internet service providers from interfering with consumers’ access to web content.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the regulatory body will vote Dec. 14 to repeal 2015 Obama-era regulations. That regulatory model, referred to as Title II, treats internet service providers like public utilities, which Pai said curbs innovation and investment.
Today, I’m proposing to repeal the heavy-handed Internet regulations imposed by the Obama Administration and to return to the light-touch framework under which the Internet developed and thrived before 2015. In @WSJopinion: https://t.co/uDIiKr6YHF
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) November 21, 2017
Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers should enable equal access to all content regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
Rather than maintaining “heavy-handed” regulations, Pai’s proposed changes would only require ISPs to “be transparent about their practices.” The Federal Trade Commission would ensure no wrongdoing by ISPs to “protect consumers and promote competition, just as it did before 2015,” according to the plan.
The American public will benefit from a lighter regulatory approach, Pai said.
“If it passes, Washington will return to the bipartisan approach that made the internet what it is today,” wrote Pai, a former attorney for Verizon. “Consumers will benefit from greater investment in digital infrastructure, which will create jobs, increase competition, and lead to better, faster, and cheaper internet access — especially in rural America.”
While large internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast stand to gain from the move, tech giants like Google, Facebook and Etsy remain steadfastly opposed.
Startup ecosystems depend on an open internet so small businesses can compete on a “level playing field without the threat that their services will be discriminated against by big cable and wireless companies,” the coalition maintains.
More than a dozen Kansas City-area firms have joined the nationwide alliance of startups supporting net neutrality.
Startup founders, people operating online businesses and concerned citizens should contact their representatives in Congress immediately, Kansas City attorney and net neutrality advocate Chris Brown said.
Eliminating the regulatory rules will reduce competition and increase prices for average internet users, he added.
“The negative effects of repealing the 2015 open internet rules will be felt across all internet users and it is a bad direction for the internet economy,” Brown said. “If internet service providers are allowed to discriminate against certain content producers, it will become harder for new, small startups to compete. The large content providers have the financial resources to pay the internet service providers. Smaller companies do not.”
A native Kansan, Pai visited Kansas City in 2015 as part of a national tour chatting with entrepreneurs to discuss the effects of high-speed Internet. In 2016, Pai visited Think Big Partners and shared with local entrepreneurs six strategic steps that he believes would close the digital divide.