WASHINGTON (CN) – Targeting an Obama-era regulation that bars internet service providers from offering slower connection speeds to different customers, the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday it will soon unveil a proposal killing net neutrality.
Ajit Pai, whom President Donald Trump appointed as chairman of the five-member FCC in January, called it a mistake this morning to impose what he called “heavy handed, utility-style regulations” on the internet.
“It's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation,” the commissioner said in a statement. “Today, I’ve shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades.”
Pai is slated to unveil the full proposal Wednesday with a final vote scheduled for Dec. 14. It is expected to pass with ease.
Overturning net neutrality means companies that are willing to pay more can deliver content more quickly.
As previewed by the FCC, the full proposal will demand “transparency” from ISPs on their delivery of services so that “consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Pai said it will also empower the Federal Trade Commission to “police ISPs, protect consumers and promote competition just as it did before 2015.”
Chairman Pai has said reversing the rules spurs innovation; his critics say it simply means large providers like Verizon – Pai’s onetime employer - could pay for the privilege of slowing down the broadcast of their video-streaming competitors, like Netflix or Amazon.
Ending net neutrality could also make it easier for companies to slow down messaging apps like Skype.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the FCC’s two Democrats, slammed Pai’s announcement Tuesday, saying the “preholiday news dump” delivered a “cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey.”
“This most unwelcome #ThanksgivingFail is simply a giveaway to the nation’s largest communication companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation,” Clyburn wrote. “It’s not only bad public policy but is legally suspect. I hope my colleagues will see the light and put these drafts where they belong: in the trash heap.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a fellow Democrat, echoed Clyburn’s frustrations, saying Pai’s proposal will wipe out a “decade’s work in order to favor cable and telephone companies.”
“Our Internet economy is the envy of the world because it is open to all,” Rosenworcel added. “This proposal tears at the foundation of that openness.”
Rosenworcel described the rollback as giving providers the unfair advantage of choosing “what voices to amplify.”
“It throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content,” she said. “It would be a big blunder for a slim majority of the FCC to approve these rules and saddle every Internet user with the cruel consequences.”
Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Trump nominee to the FCC sworn in this past August, touted Pai’s proposal as restoring internet freedom.
“Prior to the FCC’s 2015 decision, consumers and innovators alike benefited from a free and open Internet because the FCC abided by a 20-year, bipartisan consensus that the government should not control or heavily regulate internet access,” he said.