FCC chairman sets out to scrap open internet access rules

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set out Tuesday to scrap rules around open internet access, a move that would allow giant cable and telecom companies to throttle broadband speeds and favor their own services if they wish.

Posted: Nov 21, 2017 8:46 PM

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set out Tuesday to scrap rules around open internet access, a move that would allow giant cable and telecom companies to throttle broadband speeds and favor their own services if they wish.

Ajit Pai followed through on a pledge to try to repeal “net neutrality” regulations enacted under the Obama administration. The current rules treat internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon as if they were utility companies that provide essential services, like electricity. The rules mandate that they give equal access to all online content and apps.

Pai said those rules discourage investments that could provide even better and faster online access. Instead, he said new rules would force ISPs to be transparent about their services and management policies, and then would let the market decide.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement.

Pai distributed his alternative plan to other FCC commissioners Tuesday in preparation for a Dec. 14 vote. Pai promised to release his entire proposal Wednesday. Although the FCC’s two Democrats said they will oppose the proposal, the repeal is likely to prevail as Republicans dominate 3-2. The vote for net neutrality in 2015 was also along party lines, but Democrats dominated then.

Equal treatment for all web traffic has been a fundamental principle of the internet since its creation but companies have increasingly put their thumb on the scales of access. AT&T, for example, doesn’t count use of its streaming service DirecTV Now against wireless data caps, potentially making it seem cheaper to its cellphone customers than rival TV services. Rivals would have to pay AT&T for that privilege.

Regulators, consumer advocates and some tech companies are concerned that repealing net neutrality will give ISPs even more power to block or slow down rival offerings.

A repeal also opens the ability for ISPs to charge a company like Netflix for a faster path to its customers. Allowing this paid-priority market to exist could skew prices and create winners and losers among fledgling companies that require a high-speed connection to end users.

Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said in an interview on Fox News Radio that Trump did not have any input on his proposal. Asked whether deregulation would result in higher prices and put speedy internet access out of the reach of blue-collar Americans, Pai said “it’s going to mean exactly the opposite.”

“These heavy-handed regulations have made it harder for the private sector to build out the networks especially in rural America,” Pai said.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial published Tuesday, Pai cited a report by a nonprofit think tank, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, that said investment by the dozen largest ISPs fell about 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, to $61 billion. The group didn’t link the drop solely to the stiffer rules introduced in 2015.

The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet companies. A data firm called Emprata that was backed by a telecom industry group found in August that after filtering out form letters, the overwhelming majority of comments to the FCC — about 1.8 million — favored net neutrality, compared with just 24,000 who supported its repeal.

Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said ISPs’ ability to impose monthly caps on data use already act to raise prices and limit access. Repealing net neutrality, she said, “is just erecting more barriers.”

Among those that will be hit hardest are startups that depend on high-speed internet connections for growth, said Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners. He said his own company wouldn’t be dramatically affected in the near term, but the nascent robotics industry overall might.

“The need for these robots to consume bandwidth is certainly on the rise,” Angle said.

Google said in a statement that net neutrality rules “are working well for consumers and we’re disappointed in the proposal announced today.”

Other tech companies were more muted, with some referring instead to their trade group, the Internet Association. Netflix, which had been vocal in support of the rules in 2015, tweeted that it “supports strong #NetNeutrality” and opposes the rules rollback.

But the streaming-video company said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn’t hurt it because it’s now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere.

AT&T executive vice president Joan Marsh said new rules requiring ISPs to disclose their management practices will keep them honest. “Any ISP that is so foolish as to seek to engage in gatekeeping will be quickly and decisively called out,” she said in a statement.

Comcast said its commitment to consumers will remain the same. “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content,” Comcast’s senior executive vice president David Cohen said.

Pai’s plan also restores the Federal Trade Commission as the main watchdog to protect consumers and promote competition.

But Democratic Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said the proposal was “a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies.”

Pai’s proposal on net neutrality comes after the Republican-dominated commission voted 3-2 last week to weaken rules meant to support independent local media, undoing a ban on companies owning newspapers and broadcast stations in a single market.

___

Liedtke reported from San Francisco. AP Technology Writers Matt O’Brien in Boston and Tali Arbel in New York also contributed to this report.

Terre Haute
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 97°
Robinson
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 95°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 96°
Rockville
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 90°
Casey
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 95°
Brazil
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 97°
Marshall
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 97°
Storms Possible
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 150554

Reported Deaths: 7309
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook934964664
Lake10104427
DuPage9454480
Kane7949280
Will7061322
Winnebago3131101
McHenry2179100
St. Clair2089143
Kankakee133565
Unassigned1170210
Rock Island109430
Madison107770
Kendall101122
Champaign99217
Boone62321
DeKalb59520
Peoria58329
Sangamon47333
Jackson34319
McLean29214
Randolph2917
Stephenson2806
Ogle2794
Clinton24417
Macon24122
LaSalle23717
Whiteside19915
Union19519
Grundy1855
Coles18417
Iroquois1685
Tazewell1588
Knox1490
Warren1470
Monroe14113
Adams1391
Cass1367
Williamson1344
Morgan1323
Jefferson11117
Lee1042
McDonough10415
Henry1031
Vermilion822
Pulaski790
Marion730
Macoupin613
Montgomery591
Perry591
Douglas540
Livingston532
Jo Daviess491
Christian474
Jasper477
Ford411
Woodford392
Jersey371
Franklin360
Bureau312
Menard260
Mercer250
Washington250
Cumberland240
Fayette243
Mason230
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Johnson210
Piatt200
Effingham191
Hancock191
Moultrie190
Shelby191
Clark180
Crawford180
Logan180
Bond171
De Witt160
Edgar160
Fulton160
Massac150
Wayne151
Schuyler130
Marshall120
Brown100
Saline100
White90
Greene80
Henderson80
Lawrence80
Richland70
Hamilton60
Stark60
Pike50
Gallatin40
Clay20
Edwards20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 49063

Reported Deaths: 2732
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11760689
Lake5276246
Elkhart340255
Allen2835133
St. Joseph200169
Cass16429
Hamilton1608101
Hendricks1425100
Johnson1296118
Porter76738
Tippecanoe7359
Clark66844
Madison66764
Bartholomew59145
Vanderburgh5876
LaPorte58326
Howard58058
Kosciusko5624
Marshall5016
Noble48528
LaGrange4779
Jackson4733
Boone45443
Delaware45252
Hancock45236
Shelby43125
Floyd38444
Morgan32731
Monroe30928
Montgomery29720
Grant29626
Clinton2902
Dubois2886
Henry28216
White26610
Decatur25432
Lawrence24825
Dearborn23823
Vigo2388
Warrick22729
Harrison21622
Greene19032
Miami1862
Jennings17712
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess14817
Wayne1436
Orange13623
Perry1359
Steuben1302
Franklin1268
Ripley1247
Jasper1232
Wabash1142
Carroll1102
Fayette1037
Newton9910
Gibson982
Whitley975
Starke943
Randolph804
Huntington782
Jefferson762
Wells751
Fulton721
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Owen501
Adams491
Benton480
Posey450
Sullivan451
Spencer441
Brown421
Blackford392
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio180
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193