With the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of network neutrality rules set to go into effect in 2018, attention is turning to the pledges internet service providers have made to consumers about how they'll handle web traffic. Many are taking a fairly hard line against blocking or slowing down the delivery of content. It gets more complicated when it comes to whether internet companies will allow a website, such as Netflix, to pay for a "fast lane" to prioritize its content over sites' content. Comcast says it won't block access to content or slow down its delivery.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has rewritten the rules of the information age so thoroughly that there's no mode of communication under his control where the rules aren't looser than they were a year ago. Here's a look at what he's done.
Rep Ro Khanna (D-CA) -- who represents parts of Silicon Valley -- defended a controversial statement he made in a conversation with his local paper last week that pointed to Portugal as an example of what happens when regulations don't protect network neutrality.
A big year of wins for the broadcasting industry is about to get even bigger with a pair of votes at the Federal Communications Commission on Nov 16. One proposal would lift rules that say one company can't own a television station and a newspaper in the same market and a similar rule for owning both radio and television stations in a market. It would also allow the FCC to waive a prohibition against owning two of the top television stations in a market on a case-by-case basis.
Facebook hired the former top aide to a lawmaker investigating how Russians may have used its platform to subvert the 2016 election to lobby on its behalf in Oct. Facebook is bolstering its forces in Washington amid unprecedented investigations into the power of its platform and a new bill that would create new disclosure requirements for online political ads. Facebook hired Luke Albee to lobby on, among other issues, "election integrity," per the form.
House Communications Subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill that would apply privacy rules to internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast and web companies such as Google and Facebook. The bill would require the companies to get their users' permission before sharing their sensitive information, including web-browsing history, with advertisers.
Chairman Blackburn's proposal differs from the FCC's rules (which she voted to overturn) in two important ways: 1) The legislation would also apply to web companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Snap — known as "edge providers" — which were not subject to the FCC's rules. 2) The Federal Trade Commission (as opposed to the FCC) would be the enforcer of the rules. They would require internet providers and the web firms to make users opt-in to the sharing of "sensitive information" such as the content of communications, "precise" location data and web-browsing and app-usage history, with some exceptions.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has been lining up the conservative base to support him in the looming network neutrality fight. "The ask was, 'We would like for you to get engaged, it's up to you to decide what to say, but here's our view,'" according to a source who was in the room during Chairman Pai's meeting with conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks. If Chairman Pai can can gin up the support of vocal conservatives to defend him — liberal-leaning advocates have been able to mobilize millions of consumers to file comments and arrange headline-grabbing protests during these battles — he'll have more momentum to push his proposal over the finish line.
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the lone Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission, is skeptical of the idea floated by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to replace the agency's sweeping 2015 network neutrality rules with voluntary commitments from internet service providers not to block, throttle or prioritize web traffic. Commissioner Clyburn said she's worried in theory that a voluntary regime would give major Internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, Charter and Comcast too much power. "You've heard me say this dozens of times, about the internet and broadband being one of the greatest equalizers of our time, and what it enables. And something that important, for a handful of entities saying this is how it's going to be done, I'm a little bit uncomfortable [with] that. I haven't seen anything, but just the promise of that makes me feel a little uncomfortable."
Here's a look at some of the possible the contenders for the third Republican seat for Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission:
Roslyn Layton: an American Enterprise Institute scholar. She served on President Donald Trump's FCC transition team, and was opposed to many of the signature rules adopted under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, including network neutrality, broadband privacy and opening up the set-top box market.
Ben Moncrief: a lobbyist for C Spire, a wireless company based in MS. Moncrief would potentially be good news for smaller companies like C Spire and could be a tough break for the big dogs like AT&T and Verizon. That makes him a tough sell for some Republicans who are close to the large telecommunication companies.
Michelle Connolly: served as the FCC's top economist under its last Republican chairman, Kevin Martin. Her tenure overlapped with Ajit Pai's time as a staffer in the general counsel's office. It's pretty clear why big telcos would approve of Connolly: She referred to the FCC's net neutrality rules as "net neutering," per a Breitbart report at the time, and is listed as a policy fellow for the American Conservative Union's foundation. She would also be the first economist to be on the dais since Harold Furchtgott-Roth during the Clinton administration.
Indiana State Sen Brandt Hershman: He's seen as an ally of Vice President Mike Pence and has been considered a leading candidate for some time, though some sources say he may not longer be the frontrunner. Hershman's biggest resume line when it comes to tech policy is that he was instrumental in the passage of a bill deregulating the telecom sector in Indiana. He also supported AT&T while the FCC was reviewing its purchase of DirecTV.
The bottom line: No matter who President Trump picks, it won't change the commission's deregulatory trajectory that puts it on a collision course with Silicon Valley — particularly when it comes to net neutrality rules.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has made himself into an indispensable player in debates over the future of technology policy and its ripple effects around the economy.
His education on technology issues began when he unexpectedly became the committee’s ranking member after then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) left the Senate to become the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation. When he became chairman in 2014, Thune said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute that lawmakers should work to free up government-owned spectrum — the invisible frequencies that carry signals to mobile devices — for private use. Chairman Thune released a bill to carry through that pledge, though it did not make it out of Congress. He’s found bipartisan ground on a bill to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission, which would give Congress another chance to weigh in on the goings-on at the agency. That bill, however, also failed to make it through Congress. “He knows the facts, he knows the background, he knows where the policy challenges are and he knows what needs to be done,” said Andy Halataei, senior vice president for government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council. “And I think the other thing that gives us confidence is the way he conducts the debate is that it’s usually pretty open, transparent, it’s pretty thoughtful and it lends itself to a bipartisan result.” Even some who disagree with Thune sing his praises.