Commentary

FCC Republicans Vow To Scrap Net Neutrality 'As Soon As Possible'

Scrapping the net neutrality rules appears to be a priority for the two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission.


This week, FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly vowed to revisit those rules "as soon as possible."

What's more, even while the rules remain in effect, the GOP commissioners apparently have no intention of fully policing them. Pai and O'Rielly said as much in a letter sent to five industry trade groups: the CTIA, NTCA -- The Rural Broadband Association, Competitive Carriers Association, American Cable Association and WISPA -- Wireless Internet Service Providers.

Those groups had urged the FCC to permanently exempt small ISPs from a net neutrality rule requiring providers to transparently inform subscribers about broadband policies, including prices, speeds, surcharges, data caps and network management practices. (Other net neutrality rules include a prohibition on blocking or degrading traffic and on charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.)

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The FCC first passed disclosure rules -- also known as "transparency" rules -- in 2010, when the agency enacted an earlier version of net neutrality regulations. In 2015, when the FCC voted in favor of a new set of net neutrality rules, the agency beefed up the transparency mandate by requiring providers to disclose items like promotional rates, surcharges, and data caps as well as network management practices that can affect service.

The FCC recently accused two companies -- T-Mobile and AT&T -- of violating transparency requirements by allegedly failing to disclose that customers with "unlimited" data plans could nevertheless be throttled if they exceeded a monthly cap.

Last year, the FCC granted Internet service providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers a one-year exemption from a net neutrality rule requiring carriers to disclose information about their practices to consumers. That exemption expired on Dec. 15.

But this week, Pai and O'Rielly told the trade groups that "small" ISPs need not worry about the disclosure requirements. "Although the exemption has technically lapsed, we note that the new requirements are not in effect and are not enforceable until January 17," the commissioners wrote. "We want to assure you and your members that we would not support any adverse actions against small business providers for supposed non-compliance."

Pai and O'Rielly don't define "small," but note in their letter that they supported a failed compromise that would have extended the exemption to ISPs with fewer than 250,000 carriers.

The commissioners added that they will "seek to revisit" the transparency rule as well as the entire net neutrality rules as soon as they can. Theoretically, that could happen as early as next year, given that the FCC will have a Republican majority after Chairman Tom Wheeler steps down next year.

What's more, even while the rules remain in effect, the GOP commissioners apparently have no intention of fully policing them. Pai and O'Rielly said as much in a letter sent to five industry trade groups: the CTIA, NTCA -- The Rural Broadband Association, Competitive Carriers Association, American Cable Association and WISPA -- Wireless Internet Service Providers.

Those groups had urged the FCC to permanently exempt small ISPs from a net neutrality rule requiring providers to transparently inform subscribers about broadband policies, including prices, speeds, surcharges, data caps and network management practices. (Other net neutrality rules include a prohibition on blocking or degrading traffic and on charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.)

The FCC first passed disclosure rules -- also known as "transparency" rules -- in 2010, when the agency enacted an earlier version of net neutrality regulations. In 2015, when the FCC voted in favor of a new set of new net neutrality rules, the agency beefed up the transparency mandate by requiring providers to disclose items like promotional rates, surcharges, and data caps as well as network management practices that can affect service.

The FCC recently accused two companies -- T-Mobile and AT&T -- of violating transparency requirements by allegedly failing to disclose that customers with "unlimited" data plans could nevertheless be throttled if they exceeded a monthly cap.

Last year, the FCC granted Internet service providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers a one-year exemption from a net neutrality rule requiring carriers to disclose information about their practices to consumers. That exemption expired on Dec. 15.

But this week, Pai and O'Rielly told the trade groups that "small" ISPs need not worry about the disclosure requirements. "Although the exemption has technically lapsed, we note that the new requirements are not in effect and are not enforceable until January 17," the commissioners wrote. "We want to assure you and your members that we would not support any adverse actions against small business providers for supposed non-compliance."

Pai and O'Rielly don't define "small," but note in their letter that they supported a failed compromise that would have extended the exemption to ISPs with fewer than 250,000 carriers.

The commissioners added that they will "seek to revisit" the transparency rule as well as the entire net neutrality rules as soon as they can. Theoretically, that could happen as early as next year, given that the FCC will have a Republican majority after Chairman Tom Wheeler steps down in January.

2 comments about "FCC Republicans Vow To Scrap Net Neutrality 'As Soon As Possible'".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, December 21, 2016 at 6:35 p.m.


    Commissioners? ... How about "accomplices"?

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, December 21, 2016 at 8:05 p.m.

    Commissars?

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