December 15, 2017

Widespread criticism and concern over FCC's decision to end net neutrality

Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, sharply criticized Thursday's vote by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to scrap net neutrality rules. King stated the ruling "will make it harder for regular people to use the internet, plain and simple."

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to scrap Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibited Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down websites, applications and content.

Thursday's vote by the Republican-led agency was along party lines, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and two commissioners backing the repeal and the two Democratic commissioners voting against it and issuing dissenting opinions.

The vote occurred under a cloud of controversy over allegations that Russian hackers used the public comment period to submit hundreds of thousands of fake comments supporting the repeal, and the meeting itself was briefly adjourned amid a security threat as protesters gathered outside.

After the meeting, the FCC said in its press release that it had voted to restore the "long-standing, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness and freedom for nearly 20 years."

It also said the new framework "will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules."

While it would take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, it is likely to be held up for longer by calls for investigations into hacking, damage-control efforts by legislators on Capitol Hill and a multi-state lawsuit that's being led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Reactions to FCC ruling

Here are some of the reactions to the FCC's controversial decision:

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, in a press release: "Disastrous isn't strong enough of an adjective to describe today's decision. This ruling will make it harder for regular people to use the internet, plain and simple … While I'm confident that the new rules (or lack thereof) will be challenged in court, I'm also open to pursuing a permanent legislative solution to protect a truly free and open Internet for all Americans."

U.S. Rep Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, District 1, in a press release: "Despite millions of faked public comments and overwhelming public outcry from individuals and elected officials, FCC Chairman Pai pressed forward with a razor-thin, partisan vote to determine the future of the internet." She also said she was "sickened" by the lack of transparency in the process and called on the courts to block what she called a "major overstep" by the FCC.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills announced her opposition to the FCC's plan to reverse net neutrality rules in November, and put out a statement on Thursday before the vote saying that she was "reviewing the proposal and discussing options with other attorneys general to protect consumer rights." She and 17 other states attorney general had written to the FCC asking it to delay the vote because of falsified comments made to the agency.

Rob Souza, president and CEO of OTT Communications: "OTT Communications does not and never has participated in throttling or paid prioritization," he said in a statement emailed to Mainebiz. "This ruling will not change that. However, we are concerned about the impact on our customers should larger providers engage in those activities, and we're concerned about our own ability to compete if larger carriers decide to use this ruling to restrict our use of their networks to deliver our competitive voice over IP Services."

He added: "We felt that there were enough irregularities in the public comment process to warrant open hearings and delay the vote. Now that the vote has taken place, we'll continue to work with our congressional delegations in Maine, Missouri and Alabama to clarify the FCC's obligations with respect to protecting an open internet."


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