Republican FCC commissioners Brendan Carr, Michael Reilly and chairman Ajit Pai voted 3 against 2 to remove Title II regulations on internet service providers and establish a “light-touch regulatory framework.” Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel dissented, calling the vote a rollback on net neutrality — the concept that any traffic should be allowed and treated equally with others.
Telecoms will now be classified under Title I of the Communications Act as an “information service” and also removes Title II’s “public utility” classification of mobile internet access in favor of a “private service” label. Service providers will report to its customers and the commission on its activities on blocking, throttling, paid prioritization or affiliated prioritization — though the exact form of reporting as drafted in the commission’s new rules proposal is ambiguous as to how data points should be reported.
While supporters of the bill agree with the Pai’s notion that action taken today restores “Internet freedom” and allows smaller broadband providers to invest without the burden of the Title II sustained, public outcry has lashed against the vote as the rules also lift bans on traffic blocking and prioritization so that affiliated and paying parties can access faster access lanes and that the service provider can block access to a site if it deems the content on it to be objectionable or against its business interests — as telecoms continue to acquire companies in different industries like media, they may see more competitive conflicts and block sites accordingly.
The new rules supersede ones set by the Open Internet Order, established by the FCC in 2015 under chairman Tom Wheeler. Finalized rules will be drafted and sent to Congress for ratification. Net neutrality proponents are urging allies to call their legislators to oppose the ruling by drafting legislation to overturn it.