FCC Decides To Remove Net Neutrality Rules
The newly Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission still did not make a clear decision to officially dismantle the controversial net neutrality rules, but it took its first steps to scale them back. On Thursday, Feb. 23, the FCC has voted to remove transparency requirements from smaller internet providers.
The FCC Removes Net Neutrality Rules For Smaller Internet Providers
The Verge reported a rule change that small internet providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers will not be required anymore to disclose information on data caps, fee, and network performance. Internet providers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers were initially exempted from the rules by the FCC, with the intention of revisiting the issue later in order to evaluate whether a lower or higher figure was appropriate. As Republicans concluded that the reporting requirements unfairly burdened smaller ISPs with additional work, the new rule passed in a 2-1 vote.
The only one to oppose the change has been the Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Clyburn argued that the disclosures were far from overbearing on businesses and they were, in fact, the important consumers. By dismantling basic consumer protections for broadband services, billion dollar companies will be exempt from being transparent with consumers, according to the Democratic commissioner.
Clyburn also argued that larger internet providers will be able to take advantage of the new rule and avoid disclosing information by simply breaking their vice areas up into different subsidiaries. However, Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who voted in favor of the change, was saying that he actually would have preferred that the subscriber exemption is even higher.
Commission chairman Ajit Pai stated that the change in net neutrality rules was necessary in order to protect small internet service providers from unnecessary costs imposed by burdensome requirements. Pai also pointed out that the 250,000 subscriber figure was also planned by a bipartisan proposal in Congress leading to the same exemption.
Previous Debates On Net Neutrality Rules
According to CNET, the idea of net neutrality is based on the belief that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. The transparency rule requires internet broadband providers to inform their customers when the internet traffic is being slowed down. In fact, the only part of the original 2010 FCC rules surviving a court challenge in 2014 is the transparency rule.
Expanding the number of broadband providers that are not required anymore to comply with the transparency rule is just the first step in the changes ahead. Republicans in Congress discuss plans to dismantle the regulation. Pai, who took over the position of the chairman of the FCC just a month ago, hasn't said whether the FCC will wait for Republicans in Congress to write a new law or will just repeal the old regulation.
Since a federal appeals court upheld the FCC's authority and the rules, a repeal of them could face legal challenges. However, Pai has already suggested that he has no intention of enforcing the rules. He even closed earlier this month an investigation into Verizon's and AT&T's zero-rating practices that allow customers watching video on their mobile devices without it counting against their monthly data caps.
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