Internet service providers not only want to collect your data, they also want to sell it.
The Trump administration is making sure that it happens sooner rather than later.
But the one thing that isn’t getting much attention is the fact that Trump’s administration wants to kill net neutrality laws.
It has already eliminated a handful of those laws.
And on May 18, 2017, the United States Federal Communications Commission continued its march towards annihilating more net neutrality laws.
By voting, two to one in fact, to initiate the process of killing more net neutrality laws.
The vote will also affect one other thing:
Mainly the classification of mobile internet service providers along with home ones as common carriers.
Some of our readers might already know that under the Title II of the Communications Act, both home and mobile ISPs are categorized as common carriers.
The actual process is called Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
What does it propose?
It proposes, first, to eliminate Title II classification of home and mobile ISPs.
Moreover, it also calls for a comment on how and what (assuming there is anything at all) should take the place of existing net neutrality laws and rules.
The chairman of FCC Ajit Pai isn’t sure about how end-users will get affected though.
To put it another way, he hasn’t said anything that gives us the impression that he cares about reinstating net neutrality rules that were put in place two years ago.
Most of these net neutrality rules banned internet service providers from restricting or even outright blocking legitimate online content.
These net neutrality laws also barred internet service providers from prioritizing online content in return for an extra amount of payment from the end-user.
In fact, Ajit Pai has taken up a stance that seems to go against all that is holy in net neutrality laws.
One of the Aji Pai’s proposals contends that controlling (and hence suppressing) online websites along with applications may lead to the end user’s benefit.
We’re not exactly sure how that will work, but according to Ajit Pai, it will not only work but also work to the benefit of the end-user.
The FCC Net Neutrality Plans
As of this moment in time, all we know is that the FCC will look into the comments made on its new plan and will keep taking it into consideration until August 16.
You can check out the full calendar here for yourself if that is something that interests you.
The FCC has also said that it will make the final decision only after August 16.
Needless to say, the FCC has not set a specific date for the final decision.
Current net neutrality rules were passed back in February of 2015.
Back then though, the republicans (as opposed to now) formed a minor percentage of the commission.
Today, the situation is different.
On May 18, 2017, Ajit Pai along with his associate republican Michael O’Rielly did something pretty horrific if we really think about it.
Both voted for the new plan which will kill the net neutrality rules.
Democrat Mignon Clyburn, as expected, voted to conserve these same net neutrality rules.
According to Ajit Pai (that is, the version of Ajit Pai before the vote), the internet was pretty much fine even before 2015 when these net neutrality rules came into existence and/or were imposed.
He also said that people today were not living in a digital dystopia.
Furthermore, he added, the FCC even back then succumbed to partisan pressure from the White House and change course.
As mentioned before, the new existing net neutrality rules are particularly troubling for the likes of internet service providers, small and big.
Because these net neutrality rules impose new regulation on these internet service providers.
Ajit Pai, thinks, that these regulations acted more like burdens rather than actual regulation as far as internet service providers were concerned.
But the Title II rules were important from another aspect as well:
Mostly that they gave birth to the idea of having rules that would possibly regulate broadband rates throughout the country, Ajit said.
He further added that these rules consequently made internet service providers a bit hesitant about building and expanding their networks throughout the country.
Is Ajit Pai Right?
Of course, he is not.
Well, at least, for the most part, he is not.
What we mean to say is that the fear of broadband rate regulation isn’t real.
It is mostly based on hypotheticals rather than reality.
Consumer online broadband services remain the same.
Because the Federal Communications Commission has not pressed any broadband rate regulation.
That holds true for both mobile and home broadband rates.
All of this should lead us to one question:
Is Ajit’s pal O’Rielly aware of what he is doing?
He may be.
But we’re not so sure.
Because recently he said that he held back from the previous net neutrality vote (which took place in 2015) because of one reason.
That reason was that he was not persuaded based on the record before him that there was evidence of harm to businesses or even consumers that warranted the adoption of the net neutrality rules, much less the imposition of heavy-handed Title II regulation on internet service providers including broadband providers.
But even with the net neutrality laws in place, internet service providers haven’t exactly stayed on course as far as the law is concerned.
Why do we say that?
We say that because of a very particular list.
This list, which is updated regularly, contains incidences where ISPs allegedly violated net neutrality rules in the past several years.
Free Press, which is a pro-net neutrality group, publishes and updates the list from time to time.
Ajit Pai certainly doesn’t care about the list because according to him this is just the beginning of the process and not the end.
As indicated earlier, the FCC will take public comment for a period of up to 90 days.
Ajit said that after the required period, the fCC will follow the facts and law wherever they take them.
Furthermore, he added the FCC would carry out a credible cost-benefit analysis before it makes the ultimate policy decision.
Pai also pointed out that the FCC would not rely on hyperbolic statements about the end of the internet as people knew it and 140-character argle-bargle.
He said, instead, the FCC will rely on cold hard data.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Is Bad In More Ways Than One
The one thing we know for sure is that the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will overturn the Title II classification.
But that’s not the only aim Notice of Proposed Rulemaking wants to achieve.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also proposes to terminate the catch-all internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order.
That is exactly what the FCC’s official announcement of the May 18 vote said.
Moreover, it also said that because the internet conduct standard was extremely vague and expansive, internet service providers were forced to guess at that they were permitted to do.
The statement from the FCC further read that the elimination of internet conduct standard will be beneficial.
It will be beneficial because it will (the FCC expects) encourage creativity and innovation along with network investment.
And the only way that is possible is if all regulatory uncertainties are eliminated.
Which is exactly what the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will do if it goes through.
Some of our readers might legitimately ask, what does the internet conduct standard exactly do?
Well, all it does is give special powers to the FCC.
To put it another way, the FCC (with the help of internet standard conduct) can become a just judge.
Because it can then judge internet service providers on an individual basis (the judgment can obviously vary from case to case) whether their actions have harmed consumers or any of their competitors in an unfair manner.
The FCC does that by requiring broadband rates along with practices to be just and reasonable.
Will Internet Freedoms Eventually Get Destroyed?
Here is an interesting little story.
Ajit Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality rules was titled Restoring Internet Freedom.
Which is, of course, funny since the plan aims to do exactly the opposite of that.
Democrat Mignon Clyburn recognized this fact and appropriately gave Ajit’s plan an alternative name in her dissenting official statement.
She said Ajith’s plan should be more accurately called Destroying Internet Freedom.
Clyburn further added that Ajith’s plan contained a flat and false theory of trickle down internet economics.
She further said that Ajith’s plan suggested that if lawmakers would just get rid of enough regulations from any given broadband providers, they would automatically improve user service and would pass along discounts from those speculative savings and would deploy more infrastructure with haste and (finally) would treat edge broadband providers fairly.
Clyburn also pointed out that Ajit’s plan contained ideological interpretive whiplash which boldly proposed to gut the very same consumer and competition protections that were twice upheld by the US courts.
She ended her comment by saying that if everybody unequivocally trusted that all broadband providers would always put the public interest over their own self-interest or the interest of their stockholders, then the Destroying Internet Freedom Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was for everyone.
But of course, everyone does not think that.
Regardless, that isn’t going to change Ajit’s mind.
Aji asserts that net neutrality rules present a problem in more ways than one.
He says that these decrease the total amount of investments made in broadband networks.
On the other hand, Clyburn disagrees.
She says that there is no credible analysis that supported Aji’s argument.
Furthermore, she said the FCC plan did not take into consideration the following points,
- What entrepreneurs invest in their internet business
- What risk venture capitalists plow into the internet and telecom market
- And what consumers pay for it
- How consumers use the service
- And how everyone uses broadband services to create economic value
Clyburn’s Most Important Point
Clyburn, obviously, had a lot to say about FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality rules.
But the most important point she raised was this:
Even though Republicans have sought a public comment if the FCC should go ahead with modified net neutrality rules with the exception of Title II, they haven’t proposed (or at least the majority didn’t) the use of some particular legal authority which could compel to adopt such rules.
This is what Clyburn believes.
No One Likes FCC. At least Not At The Moment
The net neutrality vote took place in Washington DC at FCC headquarters.
And that gave net neutrality supports the perfect opportunity to make their voices heard.
They did that in the form of a protest just outside FCC’s Washington DC headquarters.
The protest took place just before the vote.
Moreover, the members of the protest came from all sorts of pro-net neutrality groups.
Groups such as,
- Common Cause
- Free Press
- Fight for the Future
- National Hispanic Media Coalition
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- American Civil Liberties Union
took part in the protest.
We also know that some congressional Democrats are against and have objected to FCC’s anti-net neutrality proposal as well.
Senator Edward Markey, who is a Democrat from the state of Massachusetts, also showed his support by joining the protest which took place outside FCC Washington headquarters on the morning of the vote.
In an official announcement, Free Press said that supporters against the FCC proposal had gathered more than one million signatures.
The announcement also pointed out that these one million signatures along with comments called on the FCC to preserve the net neutrality rules which the agency itself adopted back in the year 2015.
United States Republican Frank Pallone, a Democrat from the state of New Jersey, said that President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission had already taken the first step to destroy net neutrality rules.
He further added that the FCC’s proposal of dismantling net-neutrality rules would sabotage the free and open internet and hand its control over to a few powerful corporate interests.
Will Advertisements Matter?
Some of you might have missed it altogether but a cable industry’s powerful lobby group paid for a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post.
The advertisement pledged that cable industry members would not hinder, throttle or impair user online activity.
Of course, it did not mention any details on how it would make sure that it will not charge online websites for providing prioritized access to the end user.
As some of our readers may already know, the act of “prioritized online content” is an activity that is strongly condemned by net neutrality groups.
According to net neutrality supports, such as activity would break up online services into lanes.
A fast lane for the rich and a slow lane for the future.