Today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai formally unveiled a plan to eliminate existing net neutrality protections. The commission is slated to vote on the proposal on December 14, seven months after the chairman announced that the FCC would be reviewing the 2015 rules.
Pai’s proposal will rescind bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, a change that will place all Internet users at the mercy of the handful of major Internet service providers (ISPs) that control virtually all online traffic.
The following statement can be attributed to Engine’s Executive Director, Evan Engstrom:
“Chairman Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order offers freedom only to Big Telecom. For companies that do business on the Internet, this change in regulation will bring increased uncertainty in their ability to access their users as they have under the current rules. Startups have been able to grow and innovate under the assumption that they would have continued access to their core constituencies. Now, these companies have to worry about increased operating costs, competing against incumbents with entrenched ties to cable companies, and a decline in investor interest.
The 2015 Open Internet Order enshrined strong, bright line protections against ISP discrimination that have governed the Internet’s functioning for years. Pai’s plan rejects the longstanding consensus that ISPs should not be allowed to use their gatekeeper power over Internet users to distort competition and hurt consumer choice, abandoning the FCC’s role in protecting against ISP discrimination. Even though a vast majority of Americans have at most one option for high-speed Internet access, Pai believes that nonexistent competition will keep ISPs in check. In reality, ISPs have the incentive and capacity to harm startup innovation to the benefit of the richest incumbents.
Over 1,200 startups have already made their voices heard on this issue. In April 2017, companies from all 50 states wrote a letter to Chairman Pai that rejected the notion that the current rules placed a heavy regulatory burden on Internet users. Instead, they argued, ‘our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers.’ Engine echos that sentiment and encourages all citizens and consumers to continue to call for true Internet freedom.”