As expected the US Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to push through the controversial repeal of its net neutrality framework.
The final phase was put in motion last month and there was a supposed consultation, but since there are an odd number of FCC Commissioners and the majority of them, including Chairman Pai, are republican, it was only ever going to go one way. As with so much public discourse in the US, this partisanship has spread to the rest of the country and there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
You can spend the rest of your life reading an endless sequence of rants, polemics and thinly-disguised on the matter if you want, but because it’s a Friday afternoon and the pub beckons, we’ll restrict ourselves to the dispute within the FCC.
“This decision was a mistake,” said Pai in his supporting statement, in reference to 2015 decision he had just reversed. “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.
“Not only was there no problem, this ‘solution’ hasn’t worked. The main complaint consumers have about the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet service provider is blocking access to content. It’s that they don’t have access at all or enough competition. These regulations have taken us in the opposite direction from these consumer preferences.”
“This is a great day for consumers, for innovation, and for freedom,” said Commissioner Brandan Carr. “We are reversing the Obama-era FCC’s unprecedented decision to apply Title II regulations to the Internet. I am proud to help end this two-year experiment with heavy-handed regulation – this massive regulatory overreach.”
“For those of you out there who are fearful of what tomorrow may bring, please take a deep breath,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “This decision will not break the Internet. What we are doing is reverting back to the highly-successful, bipartisan, governmental approach that existed before.”
“I dissent, because I am among the millions outraged,” said Commissioner Mignon Cyburn. “Outraged, because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to protect the nation’s broadband consumers. Some may ask why are we witnessing such an unprecedented groundswell of public support, for keeping the 2015 net neutrality protections in place?
“Because the public can plainly see, that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC, is handing the keys to the Internet – the Internet, one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime – over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations. And if past is prologue, those very same broadband internet service providers, that the majority says you should trust to do right by you, will put profits and shareholder returns above, what is best for you.”
“Net neutrality is internet freedom,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “I support that freedom. I dissent from this rash decision to roll back net neutrality rules. 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.”
There you have it. The only unanimity seems to be that the internet is important. The Republican view seems to be that this means it should be free from state control and the Democrat view seems to be that it should be protected from the market by the state. Of those two we find the former more compelling, but only if there is real competition in the US ISP market, which remains up for debate.