US Agency to Vote on Overturning Obama-Era 'Net Neutrality' Rules

Ajit Pai Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission testifies before a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Governm

The dismantling of hard-fought net neutrality regulations is all but certain, as the FCC on Tuesday revealed its plan to repeal the rules passed under the Obama administration.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) called existing net neutrality rules "heavy-handed, utility-style regulations" that have "depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation".

The action marks a victory for big internet service providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc that opposed the rules and gives them sweeping powers to decide what web content consumers can get and at what price. The rules, which the commission is expected to vote on at its December 14 meeting, would replace those Open Internet or Net neutrality rules, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling legal content users sought to access, as well as preventing ISPs from accepting payment to prioritize some data.

Instead, the FCC, under Pai's suggestion, would return to the "light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world", the chairman said in a statement.

"Businesses large and small will have a clearer path to invest more in our nation's broadband infrastructure under Chairman Pai's leadership", the post continued.

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet".

The announcement by Federal Communications chairman Ajit Pai marked the latest twist in a decade-old political dispute with both sides claiming to represent a "free and open" internet. However, the new rules are highly expected to pass since Pai's party is controlling three of the Commission's five seats.

The new regulations will more business-friendly, giving ISPs more leeway in their business practices than the Wheeler-championed rules against prioritizing some content over other content, possibly for payment.

A USA appeals court previous year upheld the legality of the net neutrality regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit led by telecommunications industry trade association US Telecom. Internet and tech companies stand in stark opposition to the move - wanting people to have access to all internet sites, without having to pay extra.

The days of net neutrality are numbered. The FCC granted initial approval to Pai's plan in May, but had left open many key questions including whether to retain any legal requirements limiting internet providers conduct.

Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chairman of the FTC, has said that the agency's expertise in data security and privacy issues will make it a powerful defender of US consumers. It received millions of comments during a review period, with the majority supporting the current protections.



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