The End of the Open Internet? Chairman Pai Proposes Net Neutrality Rollback
November 22, 2017
The FCC’s Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, released a statement concerning net neutrality on Tuesday, announcing a plan to stop the federal government's “micromanaging” of the internet. Chairman Pai stated that, under his proposal “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 proposal, which was released Wednesday, would essentially allow internet service providers to create fast and slow lanes for subscribers. This would permit them to choose whether to block or slow certain websites and to charge more for better quality. However, internet service providers would have to publically disclose whether they engage in slowing down a site, blocking, or other forms of paid prioritization.
The proposal has received both criticism and support from internet providers and companies, telecom giants, and consumers. Internet companies like Google and Amazon have voiced their concerns over rolling back the net neutrality provisions put in place by the Obama administration because it would allow telecom companies to act as the gatekeepers of information and entertainment. There is concern that the proposal would allow telecom companies to play favorites, limiting or slowing access to certain sites unless consumers pay additional amounts. Smaller business worry they will not be able to compete if they have to pay for faster connections. However, telecom companies believe the current regulations prevent them offering a boarder array of products to consumers at higher and lower price points, ultimately benefitting the consumer. Chairman Pai has stated that he believes the current industries stifle innovation and that deregulation of the industry will allow greater investment in networks and infrastructure.There was a significant online protest this summer when the FCC solicited comments on this issue, and all sides are expected to lobby hard in advance of the FCC’s vote on the proposal on December 14, 2017. However, the five-seat FCC Commission is comprised of a Republican majority, Chairman Pai and two others, who generally vote with Chairman Pai. Thus, the age of the open internet is likely at its end.