Net Neutrality in Jeopardy

On May 18th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote to issue Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking(“Restoring Internet Freedom”) for public comment.  The Notice text currently is under discussion at the Commission. The Notice lays out the specifics of a plan to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, many of the regulatory protections set out in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order which established the current “net neutrality” rules, mandating that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide consumers with access to legal content and services on an equal basis irrespective of their source. 

In particular, the 2015 Order reclassified ISPs as common carriers (like the telephone companies) and required the ISPs to be transparent as to service plans and practices; to refrain from blocking or throttling legal content or offering paid prioritization; and to avoid otherwise discriminating against third party legal content and services. 

While Chairman Pai has stated repeatedly that he agrees with the underlying concept of “open access,” he seems convinced that the 2015 Order is stifling investment in broadband infrastructure.  The current proposal has already triggered substantial public opposition and will generate a contentious proceeding, with major ISPs on one side and Silicon Valley start-ups, content companies, public interest and consumer groups on the other.

IFTA has been a long-standing advocate of net neutrality and remains committed to the effort to ensure that obligations of non-discrimination and open access are extended to and enforceable against broadband service providers.  For more information, please contact Susan Cleary (scleary@ifta-online.org) or Eric Cady (ecady@ifta-online.org).