The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday unveiled plans to repeal a 015 order that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing down consumer access to web content.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, presented a draft "Restoring Internet Freedom Order," which was circulated to his fellow Commissioners this morning and will be voted on at the FCC's Open Meeting on December 14.
The so-called net neutrality rules, championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama, imposed utility-style regulation on ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to prevent them from favoring their own digital services over their rivals.
With three Republican and two Democratic commissioners, the move is all but certain to be approved. U.S. President Trump expressed his opposition to net neutrality in 2014 before the regulations were even implemented.
"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 $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world, said Pai.
"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's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation. Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. 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 added.
"Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 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.
"Speaking of transparency, when the prior FCC adopted President Obama's heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC's vote. This time, it'll be different. Specifically, I will publicly release my proposal to restore Internet freedom tomorrow - more than three weeks before the Commission's December 14 vote.
"Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world," Pai added.
The FCC's planned action represents a victory for internet service providers including AT&T Inc, Comcast and Verizon Communications Inc, which had urged the FCC to revoke the rules. The companies have said that repealing the could lead to billions of dollars in additional broadband investment and eliminate the possibility that a future presidential administration could regulate internet pricing.
In July, a group representing major technology firms including Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc had urged Pai to drop plans to rescind the rules.
A federal appeals court last year upheld the legality of the net neutrality regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit led by a telecommunications industry trade association.