FCC unveils final version of proposal to gut net neutrality

FCC unveils final version of proposal to gut net neutrality
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released on Thursday the final version of its controversial plan to roll back net neutrality measures.

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The agency had voted to approve the measure in December and its 539-page final draft was one of the few remaining steps before the policy is totally finalized. Before it goes into effect it must still be officially approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is expected to give the measure the go-ahead.

The text of the proposal is largely the same as the one the FCC voted on in December. It gets rid of the Obama-era net neutrality regulations that prevented broadband service providers from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet "fast lanes." The rules were intended to create a level playing field on the internet.

After the rules are approved by the OMB and published in the Federal Registrar, opponents of the policy will finally be able to file lawsuits against it. Multiple states including New York and Washington, along with consumer groups, are expected to launch legal challenges to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut net neutrality.

In the final version of its policy, the FCC took the chance to address several points of contention during the net neutrality debate.

Lawmakers and state attorneys general had sent letters to the FCC asking it to delay the vote on the grounds of a flawed comment process in which millions of fake net neutrality comments were filed.

“To the extent that members of the public are concerned about the presence in the record of identical or nearly-identical non-substantive comments that simply convey support or opposition to the proposals in the Internet Freedom NPRM, those comments in no way impeded the Commission’s ability to identify or respond to material issues in the record,” the agency responded in its document, noting that its order “demonstrates the Commission’s deep engagement with the substantive legal and public policy questions.”

The FCC also argued in its documents that America had lost billions of dollars worth of investment to build out better broadband infrastructure. This argument was chief among telecommunications firms and Pai’s arguments for scrapping the rules.

Their critics have disputed such numbers of lost investment in broadband infrastructure.