Any year in review that covers the major events of 2018 should include the repeal of net neutrality laws that were implemented during the Obama administration. Former Verizon attorney and current Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai led the charge in rolling back net neutrality regulations, and on Wednesday he patted Congress on the back for upholding the controversial vote.
Image Source: Flickr via Gage Skidmore
"I’m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation. They did the right thing—especially considering the positive results for American consumers since the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order," Pai said in a statement.
Pai went on to claim that since the rules were reversed, broadband speeds have gone up, with download speeds in the US jumping more than 35 percent last year overall.
"Internet access is also expanding, and the digital divide is closing. For example, a recent report by the Fiber Broadband Association found that fiber was made available to more new homes in 2018 than in any previous year. In short, the FCC’s light-touch approach is working," Pai added.
Net neutrality regulations were designed to ensure a level playing field on the internet. The rules forbade internet service providers and wireless carriers from favoring certain types of internet traffic in most cases, and prevented them from arbitrarily throttling internet traffic in favor of paid fast lanes on the web.
Under the so-called Open Internet Order, ISPs have a broader range of freedom to do as they please, including throttling traffic, so long as they are upfront about it. Those who support net neutrality fear that ISPs will abuse their power, while advocates of the rules roll back claim it's a 'sky is falling' argument.
Advocates of net neutrality have also called into question Pai's claims of faster internet speeds since the rules were reversed.
"As usual, Ajit Pai is full of it," Deputy Director Evan Greer of advocacy group Fight for the Future told Arstechnica. "His claim that broadband speeds are up is the tech policy equivalent of 'it's snowing outside, therefore climate change is a hoax'."
Greer also said the fight over net neutrality is far from over.
"Dozens of anti-net neutrality members of Congress have already lost their jobs, and supporters of the open Internet will soon chair the key committees that provide oversight for the FCC. Ajit Pai won't be laughing long when he has finally has to answer questions like why his agency lied to the media about a DDoS attack that never happened," Greer added.
While Pai was able to push through a vote to reverse net neutrality regulations, it came amid criticism and pleas to reconsider from some of the web's prominent figures and pioneers. Several of the tech sector's biggest names added their names to an open letter to the FCC, including Vinton G. Cerf (co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol and one of the fathers of the internet), Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web), and David P. Reed (designer of the user datagram protocal, or UDP).