What to know about the FCC’s upcoming plan to undo its net neutrality rules

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In earlier drafts of the network neutrality proposal, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has asked whether the agency should be involved in regulating Internet providers at all. “We … propose to relinquish any authority over Internet traffic exchange,” read the FCC's initial proposal, which was released in May. In other remarks, the Republican Pai has argued that the regulations discourage Internet providers from investing in upgrades to their infrastructure and that the rules are an example of government overreach. But supporters of the rules say they are a necessary consumer protection as Internet providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have sought to control a growing chunk of the country's media and information economies. Since 2010, the three firms have explored or successfully completed purchases of major media entities such as NBC Universal, Yahoo and Time Warner, respectively.

Many of the specifics of Chairman Pai's plan remain unclear, but a central part of the effort will involve undoing the FCC's decision to declare Internet providers as telecommunications service providers. The legal designation allowed the FCC to more strictly regulate broadband firms than when the companies were known merely as providers of an “information service.” Chairman Pai's deregulatory proposal will likely reverse this decision, according to analysts, setting off a chain of consequences for the industry and how it is regulated. If the move is approved — and it likely will be, given that Pai and the Republican Party control three of the FCC's five seats — responsibility for regulating Internet providers could flow away from the FCC and toward the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. Some consumer groups fear that leaving net neutrality to the FTC could result in weaker enforcement, as the FTC's power in that area may be limited to policing truth in advertising and other commitments that Internet providers make to the public.


What to know about the FCC’s upcoming plan to undo its net neutrality rules