Net Neutrality :The FCC Tells How To Protect It Without Rules

net neutrality

The FCC says we don’t really need net neutrality rules.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality doesn’t really need net neutrality rules.

The organization also says that net neutrality will instead rely on the promises of broadband service providers.

And how well they abide by them.

There isn’t much time left, however.

We are about a couple of days away from Thursday.

And the Federal Communications Commission shows no signs of stopping in its tracks to remove net neutrality rules.

If the plan goes as scheduled then the organization will do so on Thursday.

All is not doom and gloom, however.

At least if someone is looking at things from the perspective of the Federal Communications Commission.

To put it another way, the Federal Communications Commission announced today that it had a plan.

A plan that would bring new protections for consumers after the Federal Communications Commission eliminates net neutrality rules.

The Federal Trade Commission along with the FCC (an independent agency) also released a draft MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that described how both the agencies will come together and work to ensure that broadband service providers keep their promises as far as net neutrality rules went.

As we have reported multiple times before, once the FCC (an independent US agency) repeals net neutrality rules, broadband service providers won’t have to worry about any rules which would prevent them from,

  • Throttling
  • Blocking

online internet traffic.

But that’s not all.

Without net neutrality rules in place, things could get a lot uglier.

They could get uglier because, after the FCC repeals net neutrality laws, broadband service providers will have the opportunity to engage in more questionable activities.

These activities would include charging online services and websites for more reliable and faster network access.

To put it in as short terms as possible, nothing could stop broadband service providers from doing whatever they want to do.

broadband service providers will have complete freedom.

But there is one “unless” here.

Unless broadband service providers make promises and then not break them, then consumers may get some privacy protection.

And perhaps this is what broadband service providers should do.

It should not cause them any hardship if one really thinks about it.

All they have to do is to make specific promises.

Promises which would force them to avoid engaging in activities which one would consider anti-consumerist or anti-competitive.

If broadband service providers can ensure people that they can abstain from such behavior then there is hope for a neutral and open internet.

But what would force these broadband service providers from making promises?

And more importantly, what would force these broadband service providers to keep their promises?

The first part is the one we have already answered.

broadband service providers would have to come up with relevant and appropriate promises in order to calm down their customers.

Then, they would have to keep them.

Why?

net_neutrality

Net neutrality without net neutrality rules. Does such a thing exist?

Because the Federal Trade Commission has the authority to punish broadband service providers if they don’t keep their promises.

Yes.

If broadband service providers deceive their customers then the US does have the FTC (an independent US agency) to come in.

And take action.

At least that is what Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC (an independent US agency) wants the public to know.

Maureen Ohlhausen, the Acting Federal Trade Commission is also counting on the same thing.

Ajit Pai along with the Federal Trade Communication said something similar yesterday in a joint announcement.

Ajit said that people should move away from the idea of saddling the internet with extra and heavy-handed regulations.

According to Pai, instead of that, they would like to work together with the FTC (an independent US agency) in order to take targeted legal action against bad broadband service providers.

Mignon Clyburn, the Federal Communications Commission’s Commissioner, also a Democrat, who had previously opposed the net neutrality repeal also felt unimpressed.

Ars Technica got in touch with Mignon Clyburn and she told them that she found the joint agreement that the FTC (an independent US agency) and Federal Communications Commission announced yesterday a bit confusing.

She also found the joint statement lackluster.

And a reactionary afterthought.

Mignon further added that she considered the joint agreement as a failed attempt to paper over the legitimate weaknesses that were present in Ajit Pai’s draft proposal which would repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net neutrality regulations and rules.

Mignon also revealed that the Federal Communications Commission had signed a better and much broader agreement (a pro-consumer one) with the FTC (an independent US agency).

That agreement already covered such issues.

But the Federal Communications Commission did that two years ago.

Hence, according to Mignon, the FCC (an independent US agency) did not need to do it again.

At least, she couldn’t find any reason for the FCC (an independent US agency) to do so.

Therefore, according to Mignon, the FCC did it as an expensive smoke-and-mirrors public relations stunt.

The FCC tried to distract everybody from the organization’s planned destruction of all existing net neutrality rules and regulations which protected the consumer.

And the FCC hasn’t given any signs that it would not do that come next Thursday.

Jessica Rosenworcel, another Democratic Commissioner, agreed with Mignon.

She said that Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement of internet service provider’s promises could not act as a substitute.

Substitute to what?

Substitute for anything that all parties could consider as strict rules to prevent activities such as,

  • Discrimination
  • Throttling
  • Blocking

Jessica also mentioned that the FTC (an independent US agency) would happen too late after the fact.

Around “many months” late.

In fact, Jessica said that the FTC (an independent US agency) could even take years to spring into action.

And that was too long a time for businesses and consumers who might have been harmed by a given internet service provider.

She also told Ars Technica in a statement that the FCC (an independent US agency) must stop itself from relinquishing the organization’s authority.

Apart from that, she considered it even more important for the FCC (an independent US agency) to stick to its responsibility as an organization which would defend the public interest.

If the FCC (an independent US agency) goes ahead with the plan, it would lose all that authority.

Internet Service Providers And Their Promises.

net-neutrality

Internet service providers currently care a lot about net neutrality. No guarantees for the future though.

No one should find it hard to understand that Ajit Pai’s proposal and the approach his proposal takes, only allows broadband service providers to first pick and then choose which of the net neutrality guidelines they would like to follow.

Of course, everybody is just assuming here that broadband service providers would want to follow net neutrality guidelines.

In the real world, they could just come up with an agreement and not follow any of the net neutrality guidelines.

But currently, it is true that almost all major broadband service providers have promised that they won’t,

  • Block
  • Throttle
  • Discriminate

lawful online internet content.

With that said, many media reports have revealed that broadband service providers’ net neutrality promises are slowly but surely eroding away.

We already know that Comcast already has deleted its no paid prioritization promise and/or pledge from the company’s official webpage on net neutrality.

The company did that the very same day the Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Ajit Pai announced his anti-net neutrality plan.

As mentioned before, Ajit Pai’s plan would repeal all existing net neutrality rules.

Many media outlets have talked about the possible ramifications of such action.

You can read more about that here.

Ohlhausen confirmed to the media yesterday as well that the FTC (an independent US agency)’s jurisdiction hinged on one thing:

The promises that broadband service providers make.

As most of our readers can probably imagine, that leaves a huge door open to the possibilities of broadband service providers changing their promises.

They could amend their pledges any time they want to accommodate throttling and blocking activities as well.

Olhausen recently told the media that the FTC (an independent US agency) had a commitment to ensure that broadband service providers kept their promises.

And lived up to their net neutrality pledges that they had made to their customers.

On the other hand, Terrell McSweeny, has another position on the matter.

Terrell McSweeny, a Federal Trade Commission Commissioner and a Democrat isn’t so optimistic about the FTC.

Terrell has recently told the media, many times, that the FTC (an independent US agency) doesn’t have the authority to enforce net neutrality rules as regulations.

At least not as effectively as the FCC (an independent US agency).

Add to that the fact the FTC (an independent US agency)’s own jurisdiction over US broadband service providers has an uncertain future.

In other words, if Ajit Pai’s plan succeeds then the FTC (an independent US agency) would lose its power.

We already know that Ajit Pai’s anti-neutrality is bad news for everybody.

But why?

Firstly because it would shift the relevant authority from the FCC (an independent agency) to the FTC (an independent agency).

How would it do that?

net-neutrality

This message is coming to areas near you very soon.

Simple.

It would simply eliminate the classification of all broadband internet service providers as common carriers.

But here is the problem:

The FTC (an independent agency) itself is currently embroiled in a pending case against AT&T.

This case involving At&T could in fact potentially strip the FTC (an independent agency) off its authority.

That would mean that the FTC (an independent agency) could no longer regulate internet service providers in the US.

Moreover, the FTC (an independent agency) would have no authority over internet service providers which also operate as common-carrier phone networks.

But perhaps some of our readers have already heard this story.

It is true that AT&T had won its case against the FTC (an independent agency) about a year ago.

In other words, the company managed to eliminate the FTC (an independent agency)’s authority over any and all of the company’s businesses.

How did AT&T succeed initially?

Well, it did so thanks to a number of judges.

Judges who formed the panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

That panel of judges ruled such that AT&T got its wish.

However, the court made a more recent decision.

And as a result, the court actually vacated AT&T’s previous victory.

Interestingly enough the court still has not issued a final ruling on the case.

Of course, that doesn’t make any difference to Ajit Pai.

Despite the unresolved case, Ajit Pai is dead set on not delaying the FCC (an independent agency) vote.
The organization will vote on Ajit Pai’s plan.

And if the vote passes the FCC (an independent agency) will relinquish all of its authority over US internet broadband service providers.

Rosenworcel also told reporters yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission’s authority was indeed in question in the matter at hand.

Moreover, she said, a joint Memorandum of Understanding did nothing to provide answers to those concerns.

Internet Service Providers And Their Public Disclosures.

Ajit Pai isn’t all evil.

But who is?

In other words, Ajit Pai does have some positive clauses in their.

For example, his plan does require all internet service providers to publicly disclose actions such as,

  • Congestion management practices
  • Paid prioritization
  • Blocking
  • Prioritization of internet service provider’s own online content
  • Throttling
  • Limitations that the internet service provider might impose on particular types of devices and/or application

The thing to understand here is that the FTC (an independent agency) and Federal Communications Commission agreement, at least partially, relies on these public disclosures.

The Federal Trade Commission and the FCC (an independent agency) actually did manage to describe some other major parts of the joint collaboration agreement.

The agreement made clear that the FCC (an independent agency) would review all informal complaints against the compliance rate of internet service providers along with their disclosure obligations which are set forth via the new transparency rule.

What are those new obligations?

According to the agreement, those obligations are the ones such as,

  • Internet service providers publicly releasing information regarding their practices with respect to throttling, paid prioritization, congesting management and blocking.
    If any internet service provider failed to live up to the required amount of public disclosures then the FCC (an independent agency) would take a legal enforcement action.
    In other words, internet service providers should not, either partly or wholly, fail to live up to the new transparency rule
  • The Federal Trade Commission would investigate and then take legal enforcement actions in an appropriate manner against all internet service providers concerning the actual accuracy of the required public disclosures.
    The Federal Trade Commission will also investigate other deceptive and/or unfair acts along with malpractices involving all broadband services.
  • Moreover, the Federal Trade Commission along with the FCC (an independent agency) would broadly share their technical and legal expertise.
    These would include the secure sharing of all received informal complaints.
    These complaints would include the ones which relate to the subject matter of Restoring Internet Freedom Order.
    Additionally, both the agencies would also collaborate on industry and consumer education and outreach.

Will The Joint Plan Succeed?

Not according to some consumer advocacy groups.

Public Knowledge, a reputable consumer advocacy groups recently said the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission joint plan would not protect US consumers from their internet service providers.

Chris Lewis, the Public Knowledge VP, said that the FCC (an independent agency) had ill intentions.

How come?

He said that everybody knew that the FCC (an independent agency) wanted to eliminate basic net neutrality laws.

Additionally though, after the joint agreement, now we know that it also wants to join forces with the Federal Trade Commission.

For what?

For making it clear that it would only come into action once an internet broadband service provider deceives the public.

And not before.

According to Lewis, this would give broadband service provider a free rein.

A free reign to deceive customers until the Federal Trade Commission catches them.

Broadband service providers would simply throttle and block their customer’s broadband service.

All that these broadband service providers would have to do is to inform their customers that they are doing it.

The obvious question that arises from this is:

What would make internet service providers promise any net neutrality protections?

The answer to what would go something like:

Fear of real competition from other internet service providers.

 

Zohair

Zohair

Zohair is currently a content crafter at Security Gladiators and has been involved in the technology industry for more than a decade. He is an engineer by training and, naturally, likes to help people solve their tech related problems. When he is not writing, he can usually be found practicing his free-kicks in the ground beside his house.
Zohair

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Net Neutrality :The FCC Tells How To Protect It Without Rules

by Zohair time to read: 10 min
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