FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today released a draft order (via Wired) that would roll back rules put in place during the Obama administration, which were intended to ensure equal access to all content on the internet — commonly referred to as net neutrality.
Called the "Draft Order To Restore Internet Freedom And Eliminate Heavy-Handed Internet Regulations," the move comes ahead of a planned December 14 vote on the issue. With majority Republican control of the FCC's five commission seats, the vote is expected to pass.
From the draft order:
Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices 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.
The order would also move some ISP policing power to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If passed, the move would allow internet service providers (ISP) choose which content to prioritize on their network, opening up concerns that ISPs could choose to block or throttle speed to certain websites, or provide faster access to websites and services that agree to pay a fee. The concern among net neutrality advocates is that this would create an unfair landscape, with smaller services and websites being drowned out in favor of larger competitors that could afford to pay providers a fee.
The ACLU has already come out against Pai's proposal. "Internet rights are civil rights," said Jay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst. "Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online. Without it, gateway corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information."
The FCC plans to vote on the rollback of net neutrality rules on December 14.