Federal regulators yesterday unveiled a plan that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use. The Washington Post reports this now sets the stage for a crucial vote next month at the FCC that could reshape the entire digital ecosystem. The agency’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai has made undoing the government’s net neutrality rules one of his top priorities, and Tuesday’s move hands a win to big broadband companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.
As The Post ominously notes, “Pai is taking aim at regulations that were approved just two years ago under President Barack Obama that sought to make sure all Internet content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.” This crucial decision will be put to a vote at the agency’s Dec. 14 meeting in Washington. It is expected to pass, as the GOP controls three of the commission’s five seats.
In a release, Pai said his proposal would prevent the government from “micromanaging the Internet.” In place of the existing rules, he added, the FCC would “simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices.” The proposal would also shift some enforcement responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission, which can sue companies whose actions do not reflect the commitments or statements they have made to the public.
Not surprisingly, those aforementioned giant Internet providers welcomed the FCC announcement — in a statement, Verizon said, “We’re very encouraged by Chairman Pai’s announcement today that the FCC will move forward next month to restore the successful light-touch regulatory framework for internet services.”