Net neutrality regulations now offline

Ian Bush
June 10, 2018 - 10:00 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Net neutrality regulations put in place during the Obama administration are in the recycle bin as of Monday, officially rolled back by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission.

The "Open Internet" rules, approved by Democrats in charge of telecom policy in 2015, were designed to keep companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against legal broadband traffic. Now, the policy on the federal rulebooks is known as "Restoring Internet Freedom," an order crafted by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Net neutrality supporters fear it will allow broadband providers to tip the scales in favor of websites and services that pay for the privilege. Those who fought for repeal say those companies will invest in new technology, and consumers could save money.

"Most everyone agrees that we don't want Internet Service Providers blocking legal traffic or slowing down websites to shake down payment," says Doug Brake, the director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. "We think the answer should be a new section of law that's designed for the Internet as it is today -- to lock in real protections for net neutrality that don't get flip-flopped every four or eight years."

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‘Lock in noncontroversial bright-line protections, end the absurd back-and-forth on FCC jurisdiction, and secure funding to help close the digital divide’ 

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Brake believes there's room for compromise between Democrats and Republicans on legislation that would prohibit blocking and throttling of legal Internet traffic, which net neutrality regulations ensured before today; allow the FCC "reasonable but bounded" oversight of broadband; fund rural access and digital literacy programs; and allow some paid prioritization ("fast lanes") -- not for general Internet traffic, but for emerging technologies.

"We're talking about applications that require very low delay, low latency from the network but also have relatively high bandwidth requirements," he explains. "The closest we thing we have to it today is real-time telepresence. We think these are potentially important applications for the future."

Democrats in the House are pressing for their colleagues to follow the Senate in voting to undo the repeal but are short of support needed to force members to take a stand. Democratic state attorneys general, including those from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s FCC in an attempt to restore net neutrality rules.

Without legislation, net neutrality will remain a political football.

"There's no reason to think that we can't have simple rules that allow for experimentation -- which we think could unlock valuable new services -- while at the same time preventing anti-competitive practices or anything that harms consumers and the general open character of the Internet,” Brake says.