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FCC Plans to Scrap Net Neutrality Rules in a Boon to Telecom

Federal+Communications+Commission+Chairman+Ajit+Pai%2C+second+from+right.+
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, second from right.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, second from right.

Lance Cheung via Flickr

Lance Cheung via Flickr

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, second from right.

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The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote, along party lines, to repeal net neutrality rules.  Following the lead of its Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai, the commission will take a major step in dismantling the framework under which the net currently operates. Net neutrality prohibits internet providers from slowing down or blocking website connections and prohibits them from charging more for delivery of content. In addition to abolishing these rules, the F.C.C. will likely reverse the Obama administration’s decision to treat broadband as a utility, a decision which permitted more regulatory oversight of internet providers.

These proposed changes, which have long been sought by the major broadband providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Time-Warner, could allow them to charge higher rates to consumers who want to connect to certain websites. The changes, according to some critics of the plan, might even allow the providers to censor content just as governments do in countries like China.

The battle over net neutrality rules has pitted internet service providers against tech companies such as Amazon, Google, and Netflix. The broadband companies say that net neutrality rules interfere with their business plans and hamper their profits. On the other hand, tech companies predict that abolishing these rules will allow the internet providers to control the web by controlling accessibility.

Smaller companies might be put at a particular disadvantage if broadband providers were to charge them higher prices for faster delivery of their content online. For example, Walmart or Facebook, billion-dollar companies, could easily afford to pay a premium to reach their customers, but newer start-ups such as Etsy or Snapchat might be hard-pressed to even get off the ground if they had to pay the same rates to keep up with their competitors.

Although the FCC has the authority to rewrite its rules, there are many observers who believe its decision will be reversed by the Federal courts. They say that, according to the Supreme Court, federal commissions are not free to revise their rules only on the basis of ideology; they must have good reason to do so.  Ultimately, the two other Republicans on the FCC are expected to uphold Pai’s decision to repeal net neutrality when it comes to a vote on December 14th.

Sources: New York Times, Save the Internet, the Atlantic, Wired, Forbes, FCC

Photo Source: Lance Cheung via Flickr

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FCC Plans to Scrap Net Neutrality Rules in a Boon to Telecom