Net Neutrality Repeal Delayed


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The Net Neutrality symbol

On December 14th, 2017, chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai officially voted to repeal a 2015 principle called “net neutrality” in order to, as stated by Pai, “restore internet freedom”. The premise of net neutrality is that all internet service providers should enable access to content and applications while remaining impartial to products and websites. And so, by removing net neutrality, internet users can have wireless carriers blocking messages, intentionally slowing device speed, and, overall, causing issues only able to be avoided by the highest paying consumers and companies. The final removal of net neutrality in America was to be on April 23rd, 2018, but it has been weeks since this time. Though studies have shown the majority of Americans want the continuation of net neutrality, many are confused as to why the net neutrality repeal Ajit Pai had portrayed as so critical and urgent has not yet taken place.

The FCC addressed this concern by stating that the delay allows the Office of Management and Budget to sign for the replacement of current net neutrality laws. Then, once this has been signed, the FCC will create a new document making these regulations concrete. According to vice president of special interest group Public Knowledge Harold Feld, however, this conduct is abnormal. In response to the FCC, Feld released a public statement explaining: “There is absolutely no reason for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to have stretched out this process so ridiculously long. It is especially puzzling in light Pai’s insistence that he had to rush through repeal of net neutrality over the objections of just about everyone but the ISPs and their cheerleaders because every day — nay every minute! — ISPs [internet service providers] suffer under the horrible, crushing burden of Title II is another day in which Princess Comcast Celestia, Princess Twilight Verizon Sparkle, and all the other Broadband Equestria Girls must endure the agonies of a blasted regulatory Hellscape rather than provide us all with wonderful new innovative services at even lower cost than they do now. Because Broadband Is Magic.” Along with this statement, Feld exposes the FCC for stalling their submission to submit the new repeal of net neutrality, as it turned in the rule unnecessarily late on March 27th; Boy Genius Report theorizes that this may be due to bureaucratic incompetence or strategy to place more pressure on Congress.

Feld expands on his theory of there being a strategic delay by discussing how the slower repeal allows Congressional Republicans to create new laws that would help corporate interests. These “weaker” rules on net neutrality would be a increase of consumer protection on the surface, but the inherent intentions would be to follow corporate interests. This would encourage non-supporters of net neutrality to compromise on these new rules, as it would seemingly be a better alternative to removing net neutrality completely. However, there is still the possibility that the setback was inadvertent, because, as stated by Ars Technica, the repeal process is “kind of confusing”. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, must approve all the changes to be made, including changes on blocking, paid prioritization, and internet speed. These three factors are labelled core rules, making them the foundation of net neutrality. Without changes to these core rules the repeal could have taken place on the 23rd, but, as these changes are being made, they require approval from the OMB, causing more time to be taken for the repeal.

Given this background, net neutrality now confirmed to be removed on June 11th, though it may be further delayed now that the majority of states have created legislation intended to protect net neutrality. For instance, Washington has already passed a law to preserve net neutrality, though the Federal Communications Commission will likely sue the state for opposing the decision. This is because the commission is using all its authority to dispute the states attempting to avoid the new laws, as, as stated by the program, it will block any regulations that, “…effectively impose rules or requirements that we have repealed or decided to refrain from imposing in this order or that would impose more stringent requirements for any aspect of broadband service that we address in this order.” The commission also believes that certain states should not continue net neutrality because it would only cause more confusion to maintain the rule by state.

Those who support net neutrality have still not lost hope however, because the FCC has lost on a past ruling to prevent individual states from banning certain internet service providers, proving that states may still be able to win the rights for their individual laws. Governor Jay Inslee explains, “The states have a full right to protect their citizens.”