FCC Commissioners Rosenworcel and Clyburn against Chairman Pai’s plan to undo Obama-era net neutrality rules

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, announced plans for a Dec. 14 vote to remove net neutrality protections put in place by the previous FCC administration, and place policing internet service providers under Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction rather than under Title II rules.

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler led a 3-2 partisan vote that installed the current net neturality rules back in 2015 with Pai voting against the move. The crux of his argument is that the Title II regulations are dated and have the effect of stifling investment in broadband networks. The counter-argument is that removing Title II regulations will allow ISPs to throttle or otherwise impede access to website and content sources to improve their own competitive market position, which is increasingly poignant given the ongoing trend of consolidation between communications service providers and content producers.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece published Nov. 21, Pai wrote that the “burdensome regulation regulation has failed consumers and businesses alike. In the two years after the FCC’s decision, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6%—the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession. 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.”

In a post on the Brookings Tech Tang blog, former Chairman Wheeler said Pai’s move “raises hypocrisy to new heights. They are ‘protecting consumers’ by disavowing responsibility to do just that. They are providing for ‘better regulation’ by giving authority to the FTC which has no regulatory authority. They are walking away from the clear statutory mandate to oversee telecommunications services by cleverly saying local internet delivery is not a telecommunications service.”

FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, both part of the 3-2 vote that passed net neutrality rules, have taken a hard line against Pai’s move.

Rosenworcel, on Twitter, wrote, “I’m going to give it all I’ve got. Our Internet economy is the envy of the world. It was built on a foundation of openness. We’re going to have to fight to keep it that way–for all of us. Make noise. Make change. Let’s save .”

Clyburn, pointing out the FCC pre-Thanksgiving news dump that including plans for the December repeal vote, wrote on Twitter, “@FCC Majority’s “Pre-Holiday News Dump” would dismantle #netneutrality. This most unwelcome #ThanksgivingFail is simply a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies at the expense of #consumers & #innovation.”

To the extent that Reddit is indicative of the opinion held by very active internet users, head on over to r/all for a taste of the prevailing sentiment. Caution: Your computer might explode. Stay tuned.

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