The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month to repeal its net neutrality rules, chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday.
The vote, set for December 14, would repeal rules from the Obama administration that prohibit a network owner from stopping, slowing or interfering with the flow of web traffic, and require Internet providers to treat all content provided by big or small companies equally for consumers.
Under current rules, for example, broadband company Verizon cannot deliver content from Yahoo, which Verizon owns, to users any faster than it delivers content from a competitor such as Google. But Pai said repealing the rule would keep the government out of the business of managing the Internet.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai said in a statement. “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, a Republican appointed by President Trump, also explained the proposal in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The Obama-era regulation, imposed in 2014, is “burdensome” for both consumers and business, Pai wrote.
“If the current rules are left in place, millions of Americans who are on the wrong side of the digital divide would have to wait years to get more broadband. The effect has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers. They don’t have the time, money or lawyers to cut through a thicket of complex rules,” the op-ed said.
The proposal was immediately met with opposition by Democrats.
Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat on the FCC, called the announcement before Thanksgiving a way to “deliver a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped with a plate of full burnt turkey.”
The move “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,” Clyburn said.
House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr, D-N.J., said the FCC “is choosing to ignore the public and push forward with a harmful plan to kill net neutrality and destroy the Internet as we know it.”
The announcement by Pai comes just a day after the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against the proposed mega-merger of AT&T (a broadband provider) with Time Warner (a media giant), and less than a week after the FCC voted to make it easier for some companies to own numerous news outlets in specific media markets.