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FCC balances neutrality without a net

by Lou Venditti - News Editor
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 10:00 pm

The Federal Communications Commission, headed by President Trump’s appointee Ajit Pai, unveiled its plan to roll back Obama-era net neutrality regulations on November 21. Pai formerly worked as a lawyer for Verizon before being appointed as the chairman of the FCC. The plan aims to dismantle regulations that allow for equal access to the Internet by all parties using it. 

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. “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.”

However, the regulations Pai and the FCC are aiming to do away with have the potential to change the way internet service providers charge for their services. The main policy the FCC is targeting with these repeals is the rule prohibiting internet service providers from slowing service depending on what websites are being used. The overturning of this rule would be a huge win for telecom companies and internet service providers, but a mess for citizens.

A repeal of FCC net neutrality rules would make it so internet service providers can charge more for access to specific websites. For example, an internet service provider could charge an extra $10 per month for access to social media sites, along with fees for any other genre of website one might peruse. This practice is also known as throttling. Even more alarmingly, internet service providers would be able to block content as they see fit, such as pornography or websites that host torrent files. 

There are a handful of countries around the world without net neutrality laws set up to protect internet users. Portugal, for one, is without net neutrality laws, forcing internet customers to pay an extra monthly subscription for different kinds of services. The services, such as a video package with Netflix and Hulu access and a social package with Facebook and Twitter access, cost €4.99. If the fee isn’t paid, internet subscribers cannot access the websites.

While Portugal may be a far fetched example of what the future of the internet may hold, United States based telecommunication companies have been coming out in strong support of net neutrality. Comcast, the largest broadband provider with 25.5 million customers, said in a corporate blog post that the company would not be blocking or throttling lawful content. AT&T posted a page to their website with “we support an open internet” headlining the page. 

Verizon posted a video to YouTube to explain their stance on net neutrality. The video, which features one of Verizon’s top legal aides, states that the FCC is not trying to destroy net neutrality, but rather reclassify how internet service providers are regulated. Much of the video proves deceptive and tricky, and the information in it can be found as plain false. 

One of the more striking details to emerge from the FCC’s pillage on net neutrality is how they arrived at the conclusion to repeal it. The Washington Post reported that many of the comments the FCC received from individuals were fakes. The FCC then used the fake feedback to influence how they made their policy to repeal the regulations. Essentially, the FCC relied on fake bot comments and signatures in support of the repeal to make the decision. It’s unclear who paid for the bots, but the damage has been done, nonetheless. 

The FCC will vote to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations on December 14. Until then, comments can be sent to openinternet@fcc.org to urge the FCC to not repeal the regulations.

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