The end of Title II protections mandating that internet service providers treat all traffic equally has been plotted.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has drafted an order to revoke the application of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to said ISPs and the commission will vote on it December 14. On the five-member panel, it is expected that the three Republican members will carry the order to ratification.
Pai has long argued that regulators’ lassiez-faire approach to the internet has made growth of e-commerce and the trade of many ideas possible and that the Open Internet Order of 2015, implemented under the Obama administration, has hurt telcos in advancing network reach and performance.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Pai has made rural internet service a focus of his leadership at the commission — before even the Open Internet Order, there has been an established dearth of competition of wireline companies.
The full proposal will be released to the public tomorrow.
One of the keystones to the Open Internet Order being drafted in the first place was that Verizon and Comcast had slowed down traffic from movie streaming site Netflix, which was surging in subscribership. Even after it had paid the providers for preferential server access, Netflix customers still complained of slow speeds and poor quality streams. The company had lobbied for equal service for equal speeds.
Worse yet, as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have started bundling products from its media properties on its service packages, the concern is that other sources may get slowed down. Material that the networks deem objectionable may be blocked from access altogether.
Ironically, it was former telecom industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler — who was appointed by then-President Obama to chair the FCC in 2013 — that brought about the Open Internet Order, applying Title II common carrier protections that were previously put to telephony, an industry plagued with surcharges and price runs prior to regulation.
What Pai would replace Title II with would be more generic transparency measures that would require ISPs to disclose what they are doing with traffic and would put consumer protection responsibilities on the back of the Federal Trade Commission.