Internet service providers cheered Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to revoke a key piece of the net neutrality rules -- the decision to classify broadband access as a utility service.
But advocacy groups are vowing to fight Pai's proposal, arguing that it may not be possible to preserve any of the open Internet rules if broadband is no longer considered a utility service.
"We fully support reversal," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in statement Wednesday afternoon. Roberts added that the previous FCC's decision to classify broadband as a utility service -- regulated under Title II of the Communications Act -- "harms consumers by creating a cloud over broadband investment decisions and innovation."
The industry lobbying group USTelecom also praised Pai's plan, arguing that repealing the utility classification would boost innovation and investment.
Comcast's Roberts says the company supports "legally enforceable net neutrality protections" and does not "block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content delivered over the Internet." (That wasn't always the case. In 2007, Comcast was caught throttling peer-to-peer services; the company stopped doing so the following year.)
The 2015 net neutrality rules reclassified broadband as a utility, and imposed some common carrier regulations on providers. Among others, the new rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or degrading traffic, and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.
Pai said today that he wants to revoke the decision to classify providers as utilities, and seek comments on the portion of the rules that prohibit ISPs from blocking or degrading traffic and creating paid fast lanes.
But the advocacy group Public Knowledge warned that Pai's proposal "would throw all of the current net neutrality rules into doubt."
Public Knowledge adds that the FCC only classified broadband as a Title II utility service after the federal court ruled that the agency couldn't enforce any neutrality principles until it did so.
"Pai’s proposal will transfer power from consumers to the broadband monopolies, giving them more room to act as gatekeepers, standing between internet users and their choice of online applications and services," Public Knowledge general counsel Ryan Clough said today in a statement.
Advocacy group Fight for the Future vowed to oppose any rollback of net neutrality rules. "Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet. By ignoring what the public wants and attacking Title II open Internet rules, the FCC is playing with fire and potentially opening the floodgates to widespread censorship," the group Fight for the Future stated.
That organization pointed out that it previously helped organize protests against the failed Stop Online Piracy Act -- an anti-piracy bill that could have had an impact on numerous Web sites that host user-generated content.