Hillicon Valley — States probe the tech giants
FCC poised to repeal net neutrality protections
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to repeal net neutrality regulations on Thursday, a move that has provoked a massive uproar both tech giants and internet users.
The FCC will likely vote along party lines later today to approve Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap the Obama-era rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Net neutrality supporters say that the move to repeal the 2015 rules will upend the level playing field that businesses enjoy on the internet and disrupt the free flow of information online.
"Together with his Republican colleagues, Chairman Pai will shrink consumer protection, competition and innovation ten sizes too small, delivering the goodies instead - like price hikes, extra tolls and users' personal information to sell - to giant broadband providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon," said Gigi Sohn, who served as an adviser to Pai's Democratic predecessor.
Pai, who voted against the original rules as a minority commissioner under the Obama administration, argues that the rules are too heavy-handed and that there is little reason to worry about internet service providers abusing their powers over the internet.
For its part, the broadband industry, which vehemently opposes the rules, has tried to reassure consumers that they will not be hurt by the regulatory rollback.
Michael Powell, a former GOP FCC chair who runs the trade group NCTA, said that users' internet experience "will not be compromised in any meaningful, measurable way."
"Your internet Thursday afternoon will not change in any significant or substantial way from the internet you're experiencing today, nor will it be different next week, nor will it be different on a Thursday a year from now," Powell said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.
But net neutrality's supporters aren't reassured. Sites like Reddit, Tumblr and Kickstarter engaged in online protests of the plan this week, pushing users to urge lawmakers to oppose the rollback. And a poll released this week showed that 83 percent of voters support keeping the FCC's rules in place.
Dozens of congressional Democrats - and at least one Republican - have urged Pai to cancel Thursday's vote, but the chairman has vowed to move forward with the plan.
The fight over the rules is likely to continue. If Pai's proposal is approved by the commission as expected, it will almost certainly face a legal challenge from consumer groups. Republicans in Congress are calling for a legislative replacement to the rules, but Democrats say that any bill would likely fall short of the FCC's protections.