FCC Reveals Plan to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules

Ajit Pai FCC Chairman - Getty - H 2017
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The plan to undo Obama-era internet regulations is set for a Dec. 14 vote.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, on Tuesday morning unveiled a broad plan to repeal the net neutrality rules previously put in place to create equal access to the internet. 

Under Pai's new plan, rules first introduced in 2015 to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling online traffic would be undone, and ISPs like AT&T and Verizon would be given substantial authority to prioritize traffic from certain websites. 

"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, noting that new rules put in place under President Barack Obama "imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet." 

He continued, "Today, I have 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's proposal would require ISPs to be transparent about their practices. 

The plan is set for a December 14 vote and is expected to pass given that the FCC's is currently controlled by Republicans. 

The dismantling of net neutrality rules would be seen as a win for the cable companies and wireless firms that control internet service for most American homes. These companies would now be able to charge companies like Netflix or Google that take up significant bandwidth for faster internet speeds. The ISPs would also be able to prioritize internet traffic from their owned-and-operated sites and apps. 

Verizon released a statement from senior vp Kathy Grillo, who serves as deputy general counsel of public policy and government affairs, in support of the proposed repeal, that calls the plan a "much-needed return to the approach that fostered so many years of internet openness and innovation."

Netflix responded to the proposal by reiterating its stance in support of net neutrality. "We oppose the FCC's proposal to roll back these core protections," a spokesman said in a statement. Netflix executives have long supported net neutrality, but CEO Reed Hastings admitted last spring that the streaming giant is "big enough to get the deals we want" to ensure that it receives priority with ISPs. In July, the company filed statements with the FCC that made its stance on the subject known. "Failing to protect the internet's openness is the equivalent of shutting down Main Street, Wall Street and the public square, all rolled into one," reads the company's statement. 

Google has also come out against Pai's plan. In a statement, a Google spokeswoman said, "The FCC's net neutrality rules are working well for consumers and we're disappointed in the proposal announced today."

10:45 a.m. PT Updated to include a statement from Netflix.

11:04 a.m. PT Updated to include a statement from Google.