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By Eric Lieberman
Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 2-1 Thursday in favor of unrolling net neutrality regulations put in place under the Obama administration.
The decision continues FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s push to fully repeal certain rules over the internet. The final results came as no surprise, as the two Republican commissioners, including Pai, voted for the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, and the one Democratic commissioner dissented.
Net neutrality is the vague principle that internet service providers do not have exclusive rights to discriminate against certain forms of traffic (including spam), nor to offer faster speeds to higher paying customers. Supporters praise it for allowing various kinds of traffic to get equal treatment. Critics, however, claim that net neutrality is a government takeover of the internet, which has thrived under highly restrained oversight.
“For nearly two decades, the internet flourished under a bipartisan, light-touch regulatory framework,” Pai said in an official statement. “This success wasn’t an accident. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and established a national policy ‘to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet…unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”
Multiple organizations, from policy shops to advocacy groups and corporations, emailed The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF) to voice their support for Pai’s decision.
“This is an important step towards protecting innovation and investment in developing the internet of the future,” says FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon. “Obama’s internet regulations were basically a government takeover of the internet that threatened to replace the permissionless innovation that has worked so well with a new set of internet conduct standards designed and approved by the FCC.”
Ryan Radia, Research Fellow and Regulatory Counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees.
“The FCC’s net neutrality rules are the opposite of what American consumers want and need online and there is little evidence of the harms these regulations claim to prevent,” says Radia. “If the FCC rule is left intact, it will prevent you from getting free stuff like sponsored data from your wireless provider. Just think, if you like unlimited HBO with your AT&T plan or unlimited music streaming from T-Mobile, then you should demand that these net neutrality regulations be eliminated.” (RELATED: America’s Favorite Cell Phone Perk Is Back, FCC Head Says, Because Of Obama Regs Roll-Back)
Not everyone is pleased, though. Activists in favor of net neutrality have been staking out Pai’s home for the past week.
The protesters explicitly told TheDCNF that they were demonstrating against the FCC’s then-imminent decision to officially unroll net neutrality rules implemented under Democratic control in the past couple of years. (RELATED: Net Neutrality Activists Tied To Violent Groups, Convicted Al-Qaida Terrorist)
“Net Neutrality rules ensure that consumers can control what they say and do online, but Chairman Pai prefers to give that control instead to Comcast, AT&T, Charter and Verizon,” said Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “That is an outcome that no American wants regardless of party or ideology.”
Certain lawmakers, though, applauded Pai’s intentions after he gave a speech in April further indicating his plan to undo internet regulations. (RELATED: FCC Chair: ‘Hysterical Prophecies’ Led Dems To Almost Break The Internet In Just Two Years)
“We have long said that imposing a Depression-era, utility-style regulatory structure onto the internet was the wrong approach, and we applaud Chairman Pai’s efforts to roll back these misguided regulations,” Republican Sens. John Thune, Roger Wicker, Marsha Blackburn and Greg Walden said April 26 in a joint statement. “Consumers want an open internet that doesn’t discriminate on content and protects free speech and consumer privacy.”
The senators call on a bipartisan legislative response to the FCC’s decision in order to create a solidified policy.