FCC Vote First Step in Net Neutrality Repeal Process

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As expected, the FCC voted 2-1 along party lines in favor of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) toward “Restoring Internet Freedom” at its May Open Commission Meeting on Thursday, officially opening the debate on how to repeal the FCC’s 2015 decision to regulate broadband service as a utility.

The NPRM is a preliminary vote, and its passage makes the proposal a matter of FCC consideration. The proposal under consideration does not specify new rules to be used in place of the current net neutrality measures.

The proposal, which the commission voted to make official on Thursday, would “reinstate the information service classification of broadband Internet access service and return to the light-touch regulatory framework first established on a bipartisan basis during the Clinton Administration,” according to an FCC fact sheet released ahead of the vote.

See also: FCC Claims DDoS Attack Crashed Net Neutrality Comment System

It would also return the role of policing internet privacy concerns to the Federal Trade Commission, and eliminate the internet conduct standard, among other reversals.

The Internet & Television Association (NCTA), which includes cable internet service providers Comcast and Charter, published an advertisement in Wednesday’s Washington Post, pledging support for an open internet.

“As providers of broadband internet service in many communities across America, we’ve always been committed to an open internet that gives you the freedom to be in charge of your online experience. And that will not change,” the ad says. “An open internet means that we do not block, throttle, or otherwise impair your online activity. We firmly stand by that commitment because it is good for our customers and good for our business.”

Telecommunications lobby group USTelecom welcomed the vote in a statement. “The FCC is moving the conversation beyond the merits of net neutrality to how best to safeguard this universally embraced value with a modern, constructive policy framework,” said Jonathan Spalter, USTelecom CEO. “This rulemaking wisely focuses this debate and puts a pro-consumer, pro-innovation and pro-investment policy trifecta within our reach. The internet is a central, driving force for our modern economy, and there is a smarter path forward to unlocking the full, abundant promise of broadband for our nation.”

“Pretty much everyone says they are in favor of net neutrality–the idea that service providers shouldn’t engage in data discrimination, but should instead remain neutral in how they treat the content that flows over their networks,” wrote Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Corynne McSherry in a blog post Thursday. But actions speak louder than words, and today’s action by the FCC speaks volumes. After weeks of hand-waving and an aggressive misinformation campaign by major telecom companies, the FCC has taken the first concrete step toward dismantling the net neutrality protections it adopted two years ago.”

Public comment on the proceedings remains open until mid-August, and comments have surpassed 1.6 million following a campaign by television performer John Oliver and an alleged DDoS attack which temporarily disrupted the FCC’s comment system. Some of those comments have included racist remarks and threats directed against FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, while some appear to have been submitted by spam bots.

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