Technology

Groups urge lawmakers to oppose ‘devastating’ net neutrality rollback

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Consumer advocates are sounding the alarm over the future of net neutrality with the Federal Communications Commission chairman poised to unveil his plan for rolling back the controversial rules.

Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday is expected to unveil his plans to undo the rules that require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally.

One element of Pai’s plan would hand over regulatory jurisdiction of broadband providers to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Such an approach is not only unworkable as a practical and legal matter, but would also be devastating for Internet freedom, economic opportunity, and innovation,” groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change and Public wrote in a letter Tuesday.

{mosads}The letter was sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), as well as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).

“The FTC lacks the ability to create rules that address the highly technical and quickly evolving practices of the industry,” the letter added.

The groups also noted that the FTC lacked the jurisdiction to regulate phone companies like Verizon and AT&T in Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Washington after a 9th Circuit Court decision in 2016 about which agency had authority.

“Neither agency would have the power to adopt and enforce effective Net Neutrality rules preserving access to the Open Internet,” they warned.

Pai is also expected to make net neutrality voluntary for companies, encouraging them to include the standards in their own customer terms of service, Reuters reported in April.

In their letter, the groups called this plan an “obvious flaw.”

“Nothing prevents cable and telephone companies from altering their pledges over time to try to reshape the Internet, charge higher prices, or invade the privacy of their customers in order to effectively avoid triggering FTC enforcement,” they wrote.

Pai, cable companies and other critics of the Obama-era net neutrality rules say the FCC overstepped its bounds and that the onerous regulations stifle investment.  

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