The Federal Communications Commission initiated rolling back the Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which forces Internet providers to treat all internet, specifically speeds, equally. Although the 2015 rule is expected to be repealed in August officially, the U.S. lost the web likely forever in October 2016 when it ceded control of the Internet to an international organization which consists of adversaries like Russia and China.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in an interview with Red Alert Politics that though the Commerce Department enacted the move, “I did have concerns about that process precisely because the light-touch model we had by the Department of Commerce seemed to work.”
“We’re certainly wondering how new things develop in this new era of Internet governance,” he added. “But for better or worse, we at the FCC don’t have a direct role in deciding how it proceeds.”
In 2014, Pai warned that the U.S. surrendering control of the Internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would have long-term consequences. “The current model of Internet governance has been a tremendous success. It’s allowed the Internet to remain free and operate reliably,” he wrote. “If America steps back, foreign governments will be all too eager to step forward.”
“The United States should not apologize for its leadership in promoting a free Internet. And we should not hesitate to tout the benefits of American stewardship,” he added. “When it comes to protecting the Internet as we have known it — an unprecedented platform for free expression, innovation, and democratization — the United States can’t afford to lead from behind.”
Regardless, Pai and the FCC proceeded with the process to undo net neutrality with opposition from telecommunication firms like Comcast and AT&T. They say that the rule, which treats the Internet as a utility like water and gas as opposed to an information service, stymies innovation and higher costs.
Over the next three months, the commission will collect comments from stakeholders and others before drafting a specific order and voting on whether to reverse the 2015 rules.
Historically, before 2015, the Internet was treated like an information service. However, net neutrality advocates say that without such a regulation, firms like Verizon would benefit at the expense of smaller providers who can’t cut deals with Internet giants like Netflix, Google, or Amazon.
Even as the U.S. lost ultimate control of the Internet under the Obama administration in 2016, by scaling back its net neutrality rule the following year, Pai and the Trump administration are determined to ensure American consumers won’t lose online anymore.