The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has offered a new proposal that would roll back regulations on the Internet, giving service providers broad authority to set fees and services, rather than being regulated like a public utility.
Ajit Pai's plan, “Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which was circulated to his fellow commissioners Tuesday and will be publicly released today, will be voted on at the FCC’s open meeting on Dec. 14. The changes are expected to be supported by his fellow GOP-appointed commissioners, who hold a 3-2 majority.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai said. “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Pai, appointed as FCC chair after previously serving as a commissioner, said that his proposal would also allow the Federal Trade Commission to be able to police ISPs (internet service providers), protect consumers, and promote competition, as it did before existing rules were enacted in 2015.
“Notably, my proposal will put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy.”
One of the two Democratic FCC commissioners criticized Pai's proposal. In a tweet, Jessica Rosenworcel said, "Our internet economy is the envy of the world. It was built on a foundation of openness," adding, "We're going to have to fight to keep it that way, for all of us."
Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, said the Pai plan would be "an enormous loss for consumers. Repealing the net neutrality rules would give internet service providers more power and control over the websites we can visit, and it would make it harder for small businesses and innovators to compete online."
Pai’s proposal would remove current rules, which prohibit companies from selectively blocking or slowing websites, or speeding up websites that agree to pay a fee. It relies more heavily on Internet providers to be transparent about consumer choices and options.
In April, Pai first called for a repeal and the Republican-controlled FCC voted 2-1 along party lines a month later to begin a formal rule-making process.