Net neutrality rollback: FCC chairman Ajit Pai responds to critics

Judy Cobb
June 13, 2018

But supporters of net neutrality-such as big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as consumer groups and pioneers of the internet like World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee-say the internet as we know it may not exist without these protections. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has little reason to celebrate as critics are closely monitoring ISPs and other internet companies to see if they pull any stunts and abuse the laws for corporate benefits.

"Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content", Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat on the commission who voted against the repeal, said in a statement.

I support a free and open internet. However, the internet has been relatively quiet in comparison as the changes went live today.

"I think ultimately it's going to mean better, faster, cheaper internet access and more competition", Pai told the Washington Post.

"Our approach includes strong consumer protections", Pai wrote in his CNET op-ed.

"This was a loss for consumers and a mistake we have reversed".

While the now-defunct net neutrality rules didn't specifically address interchange disputes, they did give the FCC broad latitude to oversee the "general conduct" of broadband providers to determine if the companies were being anticompetitive or interfering with customers' ability to access internet sites and services.

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The flip side is there are many areas where broadband availability is limited to one or two options, giving consumers little or no choice in the matter.

However, companies are likely to drop these self-imposed restrictions; they will just wait until people aren't paying a lot of attention, said Marc Martin, a former FCC staffer who is now chairman of communications practice at the law firm Perkins Coie.

In essence, the rules attempted to ensure a level playing field so that ISPs wouldn't favor their own services (in particular streaming video) over those by third parties by throttling and charging extra for certain traffic.

Some states are trying to ensure that net neutrality is in effect, these states include Washington, Montana, and NY; other states have legislation pending. But those rules don't cover every provider in those states, just those that do business with those states' governments. He says that net neutrality, passed in 2015, "depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation". The industry is moving towards faster internet speeds like never before, while the internet remains open, without any of the kinds of paid priority, zero-rating or service bundling that plagues the cable industry. Consumer advocates are concerned that internet providers plan to extend prioritization to the internet.

A group of 22 states sued the FCC over the repeal.

In November, Farhad Manjoo argued in his New York Times column that the internet had already been dying a slow death and that the repeal of net neutrality rules would only hasten its demise.

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