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FCC plan would give Internet providers power to choose the sites customers see and use

FCC plan would give Internet providers power to choose the sites customers see and use

Postby smix » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:02 am

FCC plan would give Internet providers power to choose the sites customers see and use
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the ... ity-rules/
Category: Politics
Published: November 21, 2017

Description: The Federal Communications Commission took aim at a signature Obama-era regulation Tuesday, unveiling a plan that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use. Under the agency’s proposal, providers of high-speed Internet services, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, would be able to block websites they do not like and charge Web companies for speedier delivery of their content. The FCC’s effort would roll back its net neutrality regulation which was passed by the agency’s Democrats in 2015 and attempted to make sure all Web content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers. The repeal of those rules would be one of the more significant deregulatory efforts by Republicans since President Trump took office. Ajit Pai, who was nominated to head the FCC by Trump in January, has said undoing the net neutrality rules was one of his top priorities, arguing that the regulation stifled innovation and was an example of government overreach. “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai said in a statement Tuesday. The plan could be approved by the Republican-led FCC as early as its Dec. 14 meeting. Pai’s remarks were cheered by conservatives as well as cable, broadband and wireless companies, which provide most of the Internet service to American homes, smartphones and other devices. “It’s a signature accomplishment for Pai’s chairmanship,” said Fred Campbell, director of the conservative think tank Tech Knowledge. “This item represents the starkest policy difference between the Obama FCC … and Chairman Pai.” In a statement, Verizon cheered Pai’s proposed “light-touch regulatory framework for Internet services.” The sentiments were echoed by Comcast, though the cable giant said it would continue to treat all websites equally. But Pai’s announcement set off a firestorm of criticism from Internet companies and activists who vowed to hold demonstrations ahead of the FCC's vote. The Free Press Action Fund and other net neutrality activist groups said they would organize protests outside Verizon stores and accused Pai of doing the company’s bidding. Pai served as an associate general counsel at Verizon for two years beginning in 2001. Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who drafted the 2015 net neutrality rules, called Tuesday’s move “tragic,” adding that “if you like your cable company, you’ll love what this does for the Internet. “The job of the FCC is to represent the consumer,” he said in an interview. “Tragically, this decision is only for the benefit of the largely monopoly services that deliver the Internet to the consumer.” Technology giants also expressed dismay at the FCC’s plan. “The FCC’s net neutrality rules are working well for consumers, and we’re disappointed in the proposal released today,” Google said in a statement. Pai’s plan would require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices. For example, if a provider chose to block or slow certain websites, or gave preferable treatment to content that it owned or had partnerships with, that provider would have to inform consumers of its policy on an easily accessible website. Violations of the transparency rule could lead to fines by the FCC, said senior agency officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter more freely. But Matt Wood, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press, likened these proposals to the way that many companies point consumers to privacy policies. “You need only look to how privacy policies from websites allow essentially any and all bad behavior,” he said, “so long as it is disclosed to users.” The FCC's proposal also would shift some enforcement responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission, which can sue companies for violating the commitments or statements they have made to the public. “The FTC stands ready to protect broadband subscribers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts and practices just as we protect consumers in the rest of the Internet ecosystem,” Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chairman of the FTC, said Tuesday in a statement after the announcement by her counterpart at the FCC. Relying more heavily on the public promises of Internet providers is a departure from current net neutrality rules, which lay out clear bans against selectively blocking or slowing websites, as well as speeding up websites that agree to pay the providers a fee. Repealing those rules would allow Internet providers to experiment with new ways to make money. In recent years, some broadband companies, such as AT&T, have tried offering discounts on Internet service to Americans as long as they agree to let the company monitor their Web browsing history, for example. Other companies, such as Verizon, have tried to drive users to their own apps by exempting them from mobile data limits. One major beneficiary of the FCC’s rule-change may be AT&T, which is embroiled in a major legal dispute with the Justice Department over an $85 billion purchase of the entertainment conglomerate Time Warner. Should AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner be allowed to close, a repeal of the FCC’s net neutrality rules would give the telecom giant greater power to promote its new content properties in myriad ways, several analysts said. The FCC’s proposal also puts additional pressure on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers have called for federal legislation that would supersede any FCC rules. On Tuesday, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) praised Pai’s effort but renewed his call for a bipartisan compromise on net neutrality, saying it was the only way to “create long-term certainty for the Internet ecosystem.”

What to know about the FCC’s upcoming plan to undo its net neutrality rules
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the ... ity-rules/
Category: Politics
Published: November 20, 2017

Description: With its final meeting of the year less than a month away, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to reveal the latest details of a plan to roll back the government's net neutrality regulations this week. The result could reshape the entire digital ecosystem by giving Internet providers more control over what their customers can see and access online and how quickly they can do it. Under current rules, broadband companies such as Verizon and Comcast must treat all websites and online services equally. Verizon, for instance, isn't allowed to deliver content from Yahoo, which it owns, to consumers any faster than it delivers competing content from Google. It also isn't permitted to actively slow down or block Google services. Under current rules, broadband companies such as Verizon and Comcast must treat all websites and online services equally. Verizon, for instance, isn't allowed to deliver content from Yahoo, which it owns, to consumers any faster than it delivers competing content from Google. It also isn't permitted to actively slow down or block Google services. But the FCC is likely to change all that, analysts say, relaxing the Obama-era rules that required providers to behave like legacy telecom companies who must carry all phone calls on a nondiscriminatory basis. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai “will try to shrink the footprint of the rules,” said Daniel Berninger, a telecom engineer who has opposed the regulations. The FCC declined to comment. The FCC typically releases the agenda for its monthly open meetings three weeks in advance, giving the public a look at the items the agency is expected to consider. Under Pai, a critic of the current net neutrality rules, the regulatory body has also released the full texts of its proposed resolutions ahead of its meetings.
The FCC's deregulatory push
In earlier drafts of the net neutrality proposal, Pai has asked whether the agency should be involved in regulating Internet providers at all. “We … propose to relinquish any authority over Internet traffic exchange,” read the FCC's initial proposal, which was released in May. Pai, a Republican, has argued that the regulations discourage Internet providers from investing in upgrades to their infrastructure and that the rules are an example of government overreach. But supporters of the rules say they are a necessary consumer protection as Internet providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have sought to control a growing chunk of the country's media and information economies. Since 2010, the three firms have explored or completed purchases of major media entities, such as NBC Universal, Yahoo and Time Warner, respectively. Net neutrality rules “recognize the importance of maintaining a level playing field for all Internet content — regardless of the creator or owner — to be enjoyed by all users, regardless of their Internet provider,” wrote the mayors of 65 cities in a recent letter to Pai. This week's anticipated update to Pai's proposal comes after months of public debate, including a controversy this summer over fraudulent comments filed in the agency's docket by automated systems that, according to critics, threatened to skew the policymaking process. Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic FCC commissioner, said the bot-driven filings were cause for several public hearings on the matter before any net neutrality vote. “We must have direct public input before we consider any net neutrality policy that will have a direct impact on our families, our communities, and our economy,” Rosenworcel said Monday in a statement to The Washington Post.
What the rollback could mean for future regulation
Many of the specifics of Pai's plan remain unclear, but a central part of the effort will involve undoing the FCC's decision to declare Internet providers as telecommunications service providers. The legal designation allowed the FCC to more strictly regulate broadband firms than when the companies were known merely as providers of an “information service.” Pai's deregulatory proposal will probably reverse this decision, according to analysts, setting off a chain of consequences for the industry and how it is regulated. If the move is approved — and it probably will be, given that Republicans control three of the FCC's five seats — responsibility for regulating Internet providers could flow away from the FCC and toward the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. Some consumer groups fear that leaving net neutrality to the FTC could weaken enforcement, as the FTC's power in that area may be limited to policing truth in advertising and other commitments that Internet providers make to the public. “The FTC is not equipped, and lacks jurisdiction, to resolve issues with Internet service providers,” the National Hispanic Media Coalition wrote in a regulatory filing last summer. The FCC proposal does not require President Trump’s signature, but Trump criticized the net neutrality regulations during his campaign as a “top-down power grab” by the government. Republican lawmakers have also criticized the FCC rules supporting net neutrality, with some, such as Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), calling for congressional legislation to supersede the regulations. Creating political pressure on Democrats to negotiate a legislative compromise is a key aspect of Pai's proposal, according to people familiar with the FCC’s thinking. Thus far, Democrats have resisted discussing any net neutrality legislation that could replace the current FCC rules. But with the agency poised to weaken the regulations substantially, Republicans at the FCC hope to create a policy vacuum that could bring Democrats to the bargaining table in Congress, the people said.
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