The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote on net neutrality will not be until 14 December at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, but all signs point to its eventual repeal.
The days of net neutrality were numbered the moment Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Although President Trump has not made his official position on net neutrality clear, his appointment of Ajit Pai as the new FCC Chairman essentially meant its repeal was just a formality.
Pai was a commissioner on the FCC in February 2015 when the Obama administration established the provisions of net neutrality which categorized the big telecommunications companies as Title II or “common carriers”. This meant they were not allowed to discriminate content that flowed through their traffic.
However Pai voted against net neutrality because he believed fewer regulations would encourage the big telcos to invest more in technologies that would advance the evolution of the Internet.
With Pai at the helm of the FCC, he will push for the reclassification of broadband service providers from utilities to information companies. If the repeal is passed; which is generally a foregone conclusion, then the big telcos would have more control over online activity including content that passes through their network.
The battle may seem over but that has not stopped last ditch efforts by concerned parties to turn the tide.
One day before the vote takes place, 18 state attorney generals collaborated and sent a letter to the FCC for a delay in the proceedings. The basis for the plea is evidence fake comments used real people’s names to propagate anti-net neutrality sentiments on the FCC’s website.
A section of the statement read as follows:
“A careful review of the publicly available information revealed a pattern of fake submissions using the names of real people. In fact, there may be over one million fake submissions from across the country. This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale – and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning.”
Other groups that have sent letters voicing support for net neutrality include Democratic senators, 40 advocacy groups, the Internet Association, tech and internet pioneers in the industry.
Americans are overwhelmingly in support of net neutrality but their voices and opinions may not be enough to sway an FCC Chairman who appears hell-bent on pushing through with the repeal.
What should we expect once the smoke has cleared in the aftermath of the repeal of net neutrality? We should expect lawsuits and more protests. Reports have alluded to at least four groups that have their lawyers ready to execute the legal options. These groups include Common Cause, Free Press, the Internet Association and Public Knowledge.