US regulators today voted to rollback 2015 "net neutrality" rules of the erstwhile Obama administration that require internet providers to treat all traffic equally. The Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, adopted a proposal by Republican appointed chairman Indian-American Ajit Pai.
The decision gives internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds.
The critics say that the move is against the interest of the consumers and favours big corporate companies.
The decision restores the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years, the FCC said in a statement after the voting.
Following detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders, the Commission reversed the FCC's 2015 heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem, it said.
In place of that heavy-handed framework, the FCC is returning to the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015, it asserted.
Moreover, the FCC also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct, it said.
"In particular, the FCC's action has restored the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices," the commission said.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi described Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said FCC's radical, partisan decision to dismantle net neutrality "strikes a stunning blow" to the promise of a free and open Internet.
"With this unjustified and blatant giveaway to big providers, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proving himself an eager executor of the Trump Administration’s anti-consumer, anti-competition agenda," she said.
Pelosi alleged that FCC's rule change process was marked by haste, secrecy and technical flaws from the start.
"This arbitrary decision was made without a single public hearing and over the firm opposition of Internet experts and technologists," she said.
"It is deeply disturbing that Pai's FCC has refused to take action to combat the threat of identity theft and fake comments in the agency record, and has refused to comply with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests or requests for information from the New York Attorney General's Investigation," Pelosi said.
Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the decision
House Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the decision. "Despite its unassuming name, the Obama administration's net neutrality regulation threatens the free and open internet that has done so much to advance modern society," he said.
The Trump administration's action to roll back this egregious government overreach into the most innovative space will benefit all users of the internet, he said.
As Chairman Pai outlined today, the way to protect consumers is to put the Federal Trade Commission back on the beat to crack down on those who would abuse open access. This new plan of action will open new avenues for telemedicine, distance learning, and future innovations, Ryan said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the Trump Administration backs the FCC's move but also supports a free and fair internet.