FCC proposes to end net neutrality

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The federal government’s abandonment of consumers continues.

In what was an expected move, Federal Communications Commission announced a proposal to repeal net neutrality rules, which were approved in 2015. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all internet content equally.

FCC’s proposal follows other moves by the Trump administration and Congress that would repeal or delay common-sense consumer protections, such as Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule that would regulate prepaid credit cards and consumers’ ability to prevent ISPs from selling sensitive data.

In February 2015, FCC approved a rule that reclassifies wired and wireless ISPs as providing a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. FCC’s rule, thus, banned ISPs from charging content providers for providing faster internet speeds to reach consumers and prohibited ISPs from blocking or slowing internet traffic.

The proposed rule would scrap those limits in favor of the “light-touch” regulation that predated rules that force net neutrality. Oversight of abuses would return to Federal Trade Commission.

In its proposal, FCC says it wants to return to a time when “high-speed internet access proliferated at affordable rates.” Of course, studies have shown repeatedly that the United States has trailed much of the industrial world in high-speed internet access while users are charged more for that access.

FCC will vote on the proposal at its meeting May 18, 2017, but with Republican commissioners—both outspoken critics of net neutrality—outnumbering Democratic counterparts 2-1, that vote is a foregone conclusion. Comments on the proposal will be accepted until Aug. 16, 2017, and a final rule will be determined after that.