Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has confirmed that the watchdog plans to vote on the repeal of so-called ‘Net Neutrality’ rules at its open meeting on 14 December. Unveiling the plan via his ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Order’, Mr Pai commented: ‘For almost twenty years, the internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest USD1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world. But 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 has depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.’
The move is likely to face fierce criticism within the agency itself, with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel immediately releasing the following statement: ‘Today the FCC circulated its sweeping roll back of our Net Neutrality rules. Following actions earlier this year to erase consumer privacy protections, the Commission now wants to wipe out court-tested rules and a decade’s work in order to favour cable and telephone companies. This is ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the internet every day.’
Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs must treat all data on the internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently depending on user, content, website or application.