From The Editors Technology

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Tie-Breaker Vote Kills Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality supporters’ worst fears were realized on Thursday when FCC voted to kill net neutrality.

Despite the build-up of huge opposition over the past few months against Ajit Pai’s agenda to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules, Republican FCC Commissioners Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Carr, as well as the chairman himself, outvoted Democrat Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel 3-2 in favor of Pai’s much-criticized proposal.

In his speech preceding the formal voting, Pai tried to make it sound as if stifling net neutrality was in the best interest of all concerned.

Speaking in favor of the status quo that existed before the net neutrality laws came in to force, he said:

“What is responsible for the phenomenal development of the Internet? It certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation.

Quite to the contrary: At the dawn of the commercial Internet, President Clinton and a Republican Congress agreed that it would be the policy of the United States ‘to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation’.

He went on to say that prior to the 2015 move, “entrepreneurs and innovators guided the Internet far better than the clumsy hand of government ever could have.”

On the contrary, the entire country believes – barring those with vested interests in killing it – that the 2015 decision to enforce net neutrality was the best thing to have happened to internet users – it was a law that ensured equality for all in terms of internet access.

Sadly, that’s not how Mr. Pai sees it and he did not hold back from maligning the previous administration’s law.

“On express orders from the previous White House, the FCC scrapped the tried-and-true, light touch regulation of the Internet and replaced it with heavy-handed micromanagement. It decided to subject the Internet to utility-style regulation designed in the 1930s to govern Ma Bell.”

He forgot to mention, though, or conveniently chose not to, that the Obama-era ruling effectively put a stop to internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from monopolising the internet; from setting up a tiered internet, whereby they could determine and control what consumers could see online, and at what price and speed.

“This decision was a mistake. For one thing, there was no problem to solve. The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the Internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success,” he said.

Further justifying his ridiculously audacious proposal to roll back all the goodness of net neutrality, he said:

“So what is the FCC doing today? Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the Internet for most of its existence. We’re moving from Title II to Title I. Wonkier it cannot be.

It’s difficult to match that mundane reality to the apocalyptic rhetoric that we’ve heard from Title II supporters. And as the debate has gone on, their claims have gotten more and more outlandish. So let’s be clear. Returning to the legal framework that governed the Internet from President Clinton’s pronouncement in 1996 until 2015 is not going to destroy the Internet.”

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, obviously, opposed the reversal of net neutrality with everything she had.

“I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” she said. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you. But what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today. This agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness.”

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, also a Democrat, was as scathing in her condemnation of the rollback.

“I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules,” Rosenworcel said. “I dissent from the corrupt process that has brought us to this point. And I dissent from the contempt this agency has shown our citizens in pursuing this path today. This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”

While Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have maintained relatively low profiles, other tech companies came out all guns blazing against the apocalyptic decision.

“We are incredibly disappointed that the FCC voted this morning – along partisan lines – to remove protections for the open internet. This is the result of broken processes, broken politics, and broken policies.” Mozilla said in its blog post. “As we have said over and over, we’ll keep fighting for the open internet, and hope that politicians decide to protect their constituents rather than increase the power of ISPs.”

The post further said that the fight wasn’t over and that along with the company’s allies and users, Mozilla would “turn to Congress and the courts to fix the broken policies.”

“We’ll keep fighting. We’re encouraged by net neutrality victories in India and elsewhere. Americans deserve and need better than this.”

Mark Bergen tweeted Google’s take on the issue.

Twitter said that the FCC move “to gut #NetNeutrality rules is a body blow to innovation and free expression. We will continue our fight to defend the open Internet and reverse this misguided decision.”

Netflix expressed its disappointment in the FCC decision saying that net neutrality protections had “ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.”

“This reckless decision will threaten the next generation of innovative companies and technologies, and even more importantly it will limit the internet as a platform for free speech and civil engagement,” CEO Ray Morris of Creedo Mobile – a San Francisco based Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that operates off Verizon’s network – said in a statement.

“CREDO Mobile, the only national telecom fighting for net neutrality, and the 5 million-member CREDO activist community will continue fighting for meaningful Title II net neutrality for as long as it takes,” Morris added.

Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels tweeted his disappointment in the “FCC decision to remove the #NetNeutrality protections,” saying that Amazon would “continue to work with our peers, partners and customers to find ways to ensure an open and fair internet that can continue to drive massive innovation.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman‏ called the FCC’s rollback illegal, saying that he would sue. “New Yorkers and all Americans deserve a free and open internet.”

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