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FCC unveils plans to roll back net neutrality rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today released a draft order (via Wired) that would roll back rules put in place during the Obama administration, which were intended to ensure equal access to all content on the internet — commonly referred to as net neutrality.

FCC unveils plans to roll back net neutrality rules

Image credit: FCC

Called the "Draft Order To Restore Internet Freedom And Eliminate Heavy-Handed Internet Regulations," the move comes ahead of a planned December 14 vote on the issue. With majority Republican control of the FCC's five commission seats, the vote is expected to pass.

From the draft order:

Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.

The order would also move some ISP policing power to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

If passed, the move would allow internet service providers (ISP) choose which content to prioritize on their network, opening up concerns that ISPs could choose to block or throttle speed to certain websites, or provide faster access to websites and services that agree to pay a fee. The concern among net neutrality advocates is that this would create an unfair landscape, with smaller services and websites being drowned out in favor of larger competitors that could afford to pay providers a fee.

The ACLU has already come out against Pai's proposal. "Internet rights are civil rights," said Jay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst. "Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online. Without it, gateway corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information."

The FCC plans to vote on the rollback of net neutrality rules on December 14.

81 Comments
  • I'm afraid we'll end up seeing tiered/package services like is already offered with cable. Or a situation where an ISP hinders traffic to a site they don't have a deal with. My cable/internet provider offers Netflix in one of their packages so Hulu would be a competitor. I don't want to have to pay extra to stream Hulu through my ISP just because they have partnered with Netflix.
    If there was actually any competition in markets between ISP's or cable companies it would be one thing but every market is basically controlled by one cable company or broadband internet service provider.
  • Ajit Pai - winner of the most punchable face of 2017. Runners up: Donald Trump Jr., Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
  • On the plus side, this stuff just reminded me I hadn't heard "perfect government" by NOFX in a while... Shame that after 23 years if anything it seems more relevant.
  • Kind of late to really be concerned about this now. The time to have concern about this issue was last November.
  • Man, ain't that the damn truth.
  • It will be fine. There was no problem to begin with, and no need for the government to micromanage ISPs and declare their business a public utility.
  • I hope your right, but ISP's like cable and local fiber providers will find a way to take advantage of it, I think you can count on it.
  • I think there won't be any problem. There wasn't one before, this legislation was from the beginning a "what if" bait-and-switch thing. If there will be a problem in the future, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity to pass legislation to fix it. In any case, there was no reason to have a 300+ page document micromanaging the business model of ISPs, that solved no actual problem, as law. They called it "net neutrality" to gather public support, and there's plenty of naivety going around to make it work - look at the replies I got. But if they really wanted net neutrality in the sense of enforcing QoS limits on providers, that was a 1-page job. Here in Switzerland we have a gentleman's agreement having the same effect, you don't need the government boot to do it. There was no need to, I repeat, micromanage the ISP business models with really intrusive legislation that gives the government veto right over private business decisions (to the extent that ISPs have to submit their business plans for approval!) and call it something right out of Orwell's 1984.
  • Actually there was a problem before the 2015 ruling. Verizon and Comcast were throttling the speed of Netflix to it's customers.
    https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/netflix-performan... Tom Westrick below posted this yesterday.
  • Actually if you read the article it's far more nuanced, with things like "we explained last week why that wasn't enough evidence to declare that Verizon is suddenly throttling Netflix". To warrant legislation as intrusive as this 332 page document, micromanaging ISP business models to the point where they need government approval for everything they want to do, I think the problems would have to be pretty big and harm consumers in a very clear manner. Neither you nor Tom Westrick - or anyone else for that matter - provided proof that consumers were harmed, let alone as much as to warrant such regulation. Instead, everything was a "what if" from the very beginning. What's particularly annoying to me about it was that they dressed up this government overtake of the Internet provider business using Orwellian terms such as "net neutrality", when in fact it was never about that. It was about Obama's administration wanting to rule and control.
  • Wouldn't the fact that since Netflix has had to pay isp companies to stop throttling... And since then Netflix has had to increase revenue through price increases.... This is what you would call a cause and effect situation.
  • beat me to it. At this point, it has unfortunately become a more tribal battle of republican vs democrat rather than an actual subject discussion. What an absolute shame!
  • Netflix accounts for more than 30 percent of North American Internet traffic at peak times, making it something of a special case. There's no need for the government to take over ISPs just to maximize Netflix' profits.
  • Being a bit naive with that statement, aren't you? You need to really familiarize yourself with what net neutrality really means for competition and the consumers bud. Ajit has shown in every decision or move that he is very pro business at the expense of consumers.
  • Come on in, the sand is fine! Really keeps your ears warm...
  • Comcast and Verizon were both degrading traffic from Netflix in 2014, before Net Neutrality was enacted.
  • If you really believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
  • How much are you asking for it?
  • That's some fu cking bubble you live in symphara. Meanwhile in the real world.
  • It is a public utility.
  • Man, eff this guy.
  • On a societal level, this is bad. The Internet as delivered by AT&T will be different from the Internet delivered by Verizon. As if the telcos weren't bad enough, imagine when they can shake down every content provider on the web. On a personal level, this is one reason why I already use a VPN, and will continue to do so, but that is a band-aid not a solution. I'm even trying to move away from Google in small ways when I can.
  • Thank God. Government doesn't need control of the pipe.
  • It's not about government controlling "the pipe". It's about them having oversight over the corporate interests that can't be trusted with it.
  • And government interests can be trusted? I mean, look at the guy at the top...
  • Did I say they could? Exactly, he's a businessman. The ultimate corporate shill, selling out the public interest to his pals at Comcast. The whole point of this is that they aren't willing to look after and serve the interests of the people who didn't technically elect them. So the people should do something about it.
  • So what did you mean to say when you suggested that government oversight was necessary? Isn't that essentially saying you trust those in government more than those in business?
  • Exactly what I said. But just because I believe corporations need oversight, doesn't mean I think the overseers shouldn't be overseen... That's your job. Watch the Watchmen. To the extent that you can, at least. Don't let the FCC shirk off it's responsibilities to the people it is supposed to serve.
  • The net neutrality debate is more about how we can get more competition among ISP's than it is about oversight. So it comes down to what you believe allows for more competition. Free market vs government intervention.
  • No, it isn't. It's about the fact that packets of data transmitted over a network, or "net", should be treated equally, or with "neutrality", regardless of sender and recipient. 512 kilobytes, or megabytes, of data should be treated the same whether it's going to YouTube, Netflix, twitch or a video call to your friend. Competition at an ISP level is great, and should be encouraged. But it's got nothing to do with net neutrality in and of itself. Furthermore, having a bunch of ISPs isn't much better than having one or two if they're allowed to collude with one another to stifle actual competition. Know what the unfortunate best way to prevent that is? Here's a hint; oversight.
  • But this is a really bad idea. Different traffic has different requirements. For example, packetised voice has much stricter latency requirements than bulk (e.g. web pages or file downloads), otherwise your conversation breaks down all the time. Same for video streaming. There's a very good reason why QoS is built into the fabric of the Internet. You need different treatment of packets all the time. BGP or DNS traffic is far more important than FaceTime, and FaceTime has different latency needs compared to FTP. And so forth. This idea of communism for data packets is as harmful as communism for humans. Sounds good to naive people though.
  • Wow, someone who actually has some knowledge... Awesome!! +1 from me!
  • Not many, I imagine, are against qos at a service level, ISPs were already throttling traffic from Netflix more than other video providers. So in essence, not all video was being treated the same. How do you reconcile that with the 0-Communism theory? At the end of the day, Both sides have the capability of cheating the people. I trust the government does have a role in this and that it is oversight to avoid these issues.
  • I don't see how it would be in the ISP's benefit to systematically act against the interests of their customers and certainly the case has not been made that they've done so in the past. Far from it. Some innuendo about Verizon throttling Netflix isn't a compelling case for declaring all ISP essentially public domain and micromanaging their businesses. If there's anything I saw in the past 20 years is that the IT industry in general, Internet included, has been extraordinarily inventive and dynamic, because politicians didn't understand it and they've been slow to mire it down with regulation. This falsely named "net neutrality" regulation wasn't about equal provider access. It was about putting Internet provision under government control. We don't need that. It's not "freedom" as some declare. I want to see what else the private sector comes up with, because they've been pretty good so far, with minimal government intervention.
  • Ain't no bloodclart "free market". When will you all see that this is an open door to a further entrenched oligopoly? There is no competition, especially among ISPs. Over half of American consumers have access to only one broadband provider. Eliminating net neutrality is not going to remedy this.
  • As far as my life experiences go in the last 10 years since I joined the workforce, I'd say the Govt has a much better track record than private industry that almost drowned the whole world with their greedy betting.
  • Get your head out of your ass.
  • VPN to hide traffic from ISP...non-issue then? Just throwing it out there for conversation sake...
  • But then you'll be paying extra to use a VPN, and/or having all traffic routed through a VPN degraded.
  • Yup, anonymous traffic isn't an issue. Just flat out degrade that most of all.
  • And then there's the problem of ISP's bumping your connection when it's encrypted, which exposes your true IP while your VPN software recovers. Spectrum does that. They, and Comcast, also use DNS shims, or at least penetrate some VPN's to override the DNS.
  • ISP are already throttling VPN traffic. And many providers of media content don't allow the use of a VPN. A VPN to fix the issue of ISP gone rogue with power is like using a cough drop to cure strep throat. Nonsensical.
  • agreed.
  • "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate." In theory this practice would work if consumers had more than one or two choices of internet provider across the country
  • Transparency in the same sentence with businesses? Ha! I am pro capitalism, but make no mistakes, capitalism requires checks and balance or else it runs amok. At the end of the day, we are all consumers and will be at the receiving end.
  • This. The invisible hand that capitalist loving conservatives worship doesn't work. It's far from being as benevolent as they sell it.
  • No, because it's in every single isp's best interest to degrade some content in favor of others, and sell tiered packages. Therefore they will all do it.
  • We can't trust the government or the isp's this is obvious. We're all screwed.
  • Can any Trump supporter educate me why this is a good thing for American citizens and small digital content companies? This just seems like an outcome that big ISPs and telecom lobbyists have wet dreams over.
  • The best possible solution. I still haven't heard a coherent explanation as to why, considering that both the gov and the ISPs are completely untrustworthy, we should be giving both of them more power over the internet and raising more barriers to competition. The Internet did just fine before the neutrality nonsense movement. Nothing has changed.
  • If this pissed off LIBTARDS, I'm all for it! Even If I have to pay more! Rofdlmao
  • So that's the price of liberty, you having a laugh at someone else's expense?
  • A real shame, isn't it.
  • This should piss off anyone who uses the Internet regardless of political leaning.
  • This is the result of fat slob isp executives wondering how they can double and triple dip their customers.
  • The best thing that could happen here is if Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T started charging $10 per month to visit foxnews.com but let you visit cnn.com for free. Then everyone on both sides would see why net neutrality is important, and appointing a Verizon employee as chair is a bad idea.
  • Well said... Then they would see the problem... Maybe...
  • Thankfully since such as thing won't actually happen, it should be clear that government control of Internet provision masquerading as "net neutrality" isn't something we need, and having the government in charge of the Internet provision business models isn't something to applaud either.
  • probably not. But you're a complete fool if you don't think Comcast isn't going to prioritize traffic to and from MSNBC and deprioritize traffic from every other news site, That sort of "fast lane" is exactly what Pai wanted when he worked for Verizon, and unsuccessfully sued to try and get. And you can quit pretending that anyone wants the government in charge of anything other than oversight.
  • Of course they will, which is why you can drop them and choose an ISP that doesn't do this, or has no financial interest in doing this.
  • Good joke. It is sometimes problematic to use another ISP in some areas. Your words are cynical.
  • Problematic how? And if it is problematic, what does that have to do with net-neutrality? ISP providers' coverages are controlled by local municipalities. Have you contacted your state, or local government to have them look at why this is?
  • Nah. How many ISP do you even know of? Most only have one, two choices tops. The ISP know this. They will use the to their advantage. All the while fools that believe the benevolent free market will protect consumers will be the same fools waiting for that trickle down that was promised in the era of reganomics.
  • Some pie-in-the-sky guesswork you're making here is no justification for this kind of heavy-handed regulation. If you thought that calling me a fool made your case, it hasn't. Insulting me merely tells us something about yourself. If people want to argue for net neutrality, that's fine. But this regulation with its Orwellian name isn't about net neutrality, it's about government control of the ISP business models. No case has been made for the government to take over ISP's business models. It's not oversight either. It's about the government having a veto over everything ISPs do, down to investment. It's pretty clear at this stage that no "little guy", as in small content provider, has been harmed before this "ministry of truth" regulation has been introduced, and the best its defenders can come up with is some far-fetched scenario in an unspecified future - i.e. absolutely nothing - or something-something about Netflix. Which ain't the little guy. There's no need for the government boot in the ISP business. If the government wants oversight for net neutrality, they should regulate for that, instead of taking over ISPs' business model and pretending it's net neutrality.
  • That "business model" you reference is anti-consumer horse manure.
  • Corporations are people too.
  • Well, simply put the proponents of this malady any evidence under their nose one finds of providers messing around with their lines. The good point is, if something bad results of this, you all know which simpletons are to blame.
  • Um, you mean the simpletons who think that a 1930's law is good for digital high-speed packet switching and load balancing? If "something bad" results, why not blame it on hope and change, since that is why it is called "disruptive" in the first place. I don't see why restrictive laws are better, as it doesn't work so well for guns, drugs, or porn.
  • Its funny how you disregard a law because of its age and yet, compare to gun rights in the same breath which exists due to a 200+ year old document.
  • You misunderstand the Constitution. The rights don't exist because of a document, they simply exist (if I were religious I'd say we're endowed with them by our Creator), and the US Constitution merely prevents the government from creating legislation that restricts these rights. On your point on things changing because of their age, well, not always. When free speech was protected, it didn't include for example television because the concept of television was unknown at the time. Shouldn't television be protected? I think it should.
  • Classic false equivalency
  • I do. It was a fine-grained statutory framework. This wannabe reform is not limited to important medical services, it simply favors companies with enough money (to summarize it). And to make differences between streaming services is of no importance, it only guarantees the profit for well-established services.
    There is not a single argument that is not oriented at profit and a so-called freedom which in the end will also lead to more profit since it is only the freedom to use one's money to strengthen one's own position. But yes, there is this wannabe argument that it is not possible anymore to treat all equally but that leads again to the argument that it is not as profitable as their favored solution.
  • "Internet rights are civil rights." This is a false statement. It is one thing to stand on a street corner and speak, but there are no "civil rights" involved when prioritizing packet traffic for paying customers of a service which is provided by a for-profit company. Maybe Obamaphones are civil rights, but being able to play low-latency shoot-em-up video games for free doesn't pass constitutional muster. You ACLU guys should know that; you're lawyers.
  • What a poor analogy! The paying customers in this case were NOT getting their money's worth because ISPs decided to throttle speeds of specific services from specific providers.
  • How do you know that they weren't getting their money's worth? Said who exactly, based on what? I see a lot of enthusiasm for this heavy-handed regulation but generally the argument is something like "what if Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T started charging $10 per month to visit foxnews.com but let you visit cnn.com for free", as some poster puts it here, or some other far-fetched, unrealistic scenario like that. Far fetched, unrealistic "what-if" stuff isn't good enough to justify this level of regulation. Not by a long shot. You need to make the case on what has actually happened. If you want for the government to micromanage a whole business sector, I'd like to know precisely why that's needed. Not based on what "could" happen, but based on what actually happened.
  • Ah, the typical American style of prevention, is it not? Firstly, one has to be damaged before we do prevention -- afterwards. It is like warning some people about a hole after they fell into it. Good job, others will bleed for this kind of reasoning, but what to expect from shoot-first-ask-later-peeps? Oh, and since you call it far-fetched, here a glimpse of the future:
    https://twitter.com/DirkFriday/status/933055998578888706
  • The heavy handed regulation you argue for is damaging in itself. If you don't show an actual need for it - but merely speculate as to what may happen, as you just did - then clearly it shouldn't be done. And no, it's not at all like warning some people about a hole after they fell into it. It's more like removing people's healthy kidneys and putting them on dialysis just in case they might perhaps get kidney problems sometime in the future. No thanks. I don't want an ossified ISP market where no new business model is possible and nobody new can enter it, because of a mountain of regulation. This type of government-controlled corporatism is repugnant to me, it's cronyism at its worst. We've been doing pretty well so far with light regulation, no need for the government boots in the Internet.
  • The ossified market is now about to start, these changes do not give freedom to innovation, it gives freedom firstly and mostly to generating profit, so let us see, how that gets invested. And now, we are all talking about the things to come, it is not that you are talking about facts and others are speculating, different people are evaluating the outcome of these changes differently. The only distinction is that we already have markets without regulation and we can readily see how the markets have evolved unregulated; but again, we will see by and by who will have the final say on this matter as neither opponents nor proponents are going to rest.
  • This. So much this. People like symph are conflating stifling innovation with stifling profit margin and rev share.
  • I'll see your "far fetched, unrealistic what if stuff" that'll "never happen" and raise you....reality: http://www.businessinsider.com/net-neutrality-portugal-how-american-inte...
  • Here is another reasoning about it. But ignorance gets cherished as a blessing, it seems. https://m.windowscentral.com/net-neutrality