FCC Marks A December 14 Death Sentence Date For Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules

It's official. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially penciled in December 14th as the date that it will roll back the net neutrality provisions that were ushered in under former Chairman Tom Wheeler. A procedural vote was held earlier this year paved that the way for this dramatic action to be taken by the FCC.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that dismantling net neutrality rules is a pro-business move that will be boon for innovation and in fact, he calls his plan the "Restoring Internet Freedom Order". In his opinion, regulation of the internet should be handled with a "light touch" with fewer, rather than more regulations.

ajit pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (Image Source: Department of Agriculture)

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," said Pai. "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 says that the FCC will once again cede power of overseeing internet regulations -- including consumer privacy -- to the Federal Trade Commission. “The Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015," added Pai. "Notably, my proposal will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy."

Net neutrality rules were put in place to make sure that all internet traffic was placed on a level playing field and treated equally. Companies like Netflix wouldn't be forced to pay more money or "tolls" to prioritize their data, which in effect would have caused “slow” and “fast” lanes for internet traffic. These rules were applied to traditional wired and wireless internet service providers, and were put in place to protect smaller companies who could be disadvantaged on slow lanes, while more financially-able companies could afford to have fast lane access.


For example, a startup streaming video service might not have the financial capital to access fast lanes that companies like Google (YouTube) and Amazon (Prime Video) could absorb easily. Likewise, companies like Comcast and AT&T -- which also provide internet access to millions of Americans -- could provide faster streams for their original content (i.e. HBO in the case of AT&T) or allow for their content to not count against dreaded data caps.

In essence, proponents of net neutrality say that rolling back the rules could lead to chaos in the marketplace that favors big companies and squeezes out smaller players. This is exactly what FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn fears, which she expressed in her heated response to what she calls Pai's "Pre-Holiday News Dump".

"But as we learned today the FCC majority is about to deliver a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey," said a scathing Clyburn. "Their Destroying Internet Freedom Order would dismantle net neutrality as we know it by giving the green light to our nation’s largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic, and paid prioritization of online applications and services.

“Tucked away in this ‘Pre-Holiday News Dump’ is yet another proposal that reportedly seeks to allow even greater media consolidation. Ignoring federal law, it could open the doors to a single company reaching in excess of the 39% national broadcast audience cap set by Congress more than a decade ago."