Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has announced his intention to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, according to The Washington Post.
“For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress,” Pai said in a statement. He argued that the rules instituted under President Obama in 2015 “imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet.”
Pai and fellow opponents of net neutrality say the current regulations have led to “higher broadband prices, slower broadband speeds, less broadband deployment, less innovation, and fewer options for consumers.”
However, net neutrality advocacy groups believe such a scenario would occur only after regulations are reversed, as internet service providers would be free to create a two-tier pay-to-play internet, where websites are charged extra fees for faster load speeds and other preferential treatments. ISPs could also slow down its competitors’ websites, block content it disagrees with, and impose data limits on users.
Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler calls Pai’s decision “tragic,” adding that “the job of the FCC is to represent the consumer. If you like your cable company, you’ll love what this does for the Internet, because it gives Internet service providers the same kind of control over content and price as cable operators have today.”
Many major tech companies and websites, including Facebook, Google, and Amazon, have long stressed the importance of net neutrality. In anticipation of Pai’s announcement, more than 800 startups signed an open letter asking him to protect current regulations. On the other hand, ISPs like Verizon lauded the decision, saying, “We’re very encouraged by Chairman Pai’s announcement today that the FCC will move forward next month to restore the successful light-touch regulatory framework for internet services,”
A vote on the plan is set for December 14th. With Republicans controlling a majority of the FCC’s seats, it’s likely that Pai will get everything he wants, and then some.
Ending net neutrality would have far-reaching implications for just about everyone. With assistance from Ted Leo and Amanda Palmer, Lior Philips recently detailed the impact facing independent musicians. John Oliver also offered a pretty great primer during a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, which I strongly suggest you watch below.