Power to the Provider: Repeal of Net Neutrality Threatens Internet Freedom

First it was Obama Care then the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Now the Trump administration has its sights set on another one of the Obama administration’s policy: Net Neutrality.

In 2015, the Obama administration pushed for net neutrality which acted to preserve Internet freedom and prevented the large Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from manipulating it into pay-to-play lanes for web and media companies.

Advocates for net neutrality argue that it is necessary to allow everyone equal access to online-based content. Critics of net neutrality say it is bad for business as it discriminates against broadband Internet suppliers by lumping them together with other common carrier utility providers.

President Donald Trump appointed former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, as the new commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Pai was a minority Republican member of the FCC and voted against net neutrality in 2015.

When he became FCC Chairman, Pai made it known that he would move to either roll back or disregard several regulations that were promulgated by the Obama administration to protect consumer rights. One such regulation is net neutrality.

In a statement released 21 November, Pai outlined his plan to repeal net neutrality:

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead the FCC would simply require Internet Service Providers to be transparent about their practices.”

The current set of rules for net neutrality prevented ISP’s such as Comcast from deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic originating from specific websites and apps.

The idea behind the policy was to allow freedom of choice when it came to content. Big business should not have a say in what types of content Internet users should consume.

Pai also intends to eliminate a rule that prevents ISPs from becoming selective on the content they want to prioritize. If approved, ISPs can highlight their own content or those from third parties they have signed deals with.

In place of these restrictions, the FCC would require all ISPs to publicly disclose all of its decisions that pertain to blocking, throttling or paid prioritization. The FCC would then evaluate on whether the decision had an anti-competition bias.

As expected, Pai’s action on repealing net neutrality was met with praise and approval from telecommunications companies. The same cannot be said for companies in the tech industry and consumer advocacy groups.

Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association, a group that represents Facebook, Google and Amazon believes Pai just killed Internet freedom for Americans:

“The proposal undoes nearly two decades of bipartisan agreement on baseline net neutrality principles that protect Americans’ ability to access the entire Internet.”

Pai’s announcement comes six months after the FCC started the repeal process. During the period, the FCC received millions of comments regarding the repeal with a clear majority supporting the current protections provided for by net neutrality.