Why You Should Be Worrying About Your Internet Rights

April 26th 2017

 On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai released a proposal that could jeopardize net neutrality as we know it. 

In 2015, the FCC created net neutrality regulations that established internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. That means they're strongly regulated, like utilities, to keep the playing field level. So, for example, internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T are not allowed to make Google load faster than Yahoo, since that would seriously damage Yahoo's ability to compete.  President Obama supported the measure at the time, and Pai, who was appointed by President Trump in January, wants to see those rules undone.

As The Verge reported, Pai said that he hoped the changes would, "reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light touch framework that served us so well during the Clinton administration, Bush administration, and first six years of the Obama administration." 

Pai's proposal would classify internet service providers under Title I, like local telephone companies, which would mean they're far less regulated. It would also prevent the FCC from creating new net neutrality protections. It's also worth noting that Pai worked as a counsel for Verizon between 2001 and 2003, a company which would be affected by these rule changes.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took to Twitter on Wednesday to explain why he thinks Pai is wrong about net neutrality and what Pai's actions could mean for smaller internet companies.

"Chairman Pai is considering radical measure when it comes to the internet," Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), told ATTN:. "He seems open to undercutting not only the legal authority that protects users but also giving special new privileges to internet providers in how they offer service."

In a defense of undoing net neutrality regulations, Pai has even argued that such measures harm free speech. 

“The First Amendment is one of our most cherished principles because it operates as a restraint on government. It lets ideas compete in the marketplace free from any government intervention or regulation," Pai said in 2015. “It quite clearly has nothing in common with the FCC’s decision to subject the Internet to extensive government control."

As Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told ATTN:, such a defense rings a bit false. 

"Chairman Pai's plan can only be described as the FCC abandoning its obligation to help protect the open Internet and prevent ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from unfairly discriminating against some sites and services in favor of others," he said and added, "and he’s using doublespeak to do it, such as suggesting that the net neutrality rules now in place somehow chill free speech."

Pai said Wednesday that the FCC will have an initial vote on the new rules on May 18th. After this, the public will have the opportunity to comment on the new rules, followed by a final vote several months later. 

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