The FCC has issued proposals that would set aside legislation designed to ensure equal access to the internet in favour of a rulebook allowing operators to charge more for access to selected areas of the internet and for individual websites.
Under the banner of the restoration of internet freedom, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the internet had thrived under the light touch of President Clinton, perhaps significantly, the Republican congress. “… in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet. That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.”
Pai said his proposals would enable the FCC to “once again police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition”.
Chairman @AjitPaiFCC proposes to end heavy-handed Internet regulations and restore light-touch approach under which Internet thrived prior to 2015.
— The FCC (@FCC) November 21, 2017
The announcement set up a likely debate between the telcos that would like to build on the market of opportunity that could allow them to divide up the internet as if it was a TV package with basic, mini-pay and premium tiers and players such as Amazon and Google who claim to be defending the right to free speech.
“Make no doubt, the circulation of this order will bring the ‘sky is falling’ crowd to the fore, and they will foretell a day when websites will be blocked, content censored and internet access controlled by ISP overlords,” said Joan Marsh, AT&T Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs. “Such claims, while great for fundraising, are as nonsensical now as they were a decade ago when they were first prophesied. The internet was an open environment for innovation and inclusion prior to intrusive government intervention and will continue to remain open after this order is adopted.”
The draft will be voted on December 14 by a committee of three Republicans and two Democrats.