April 27 is Next Net Neutrality Rule Rollback Milepost

The long, long trail winding from the FCC's Dec. 14, 2017, decision to eliminate net neutrality rules and the actual rollback of those rules continues to wind through Washington, with April 27 the next red-letter day.

While some were reporting earlier this week that April 23 was the effective date of the Restoring Internet Freedom order, that was not the case, or at least not the case with the overwhelming majority of the order, which still awaits the turn of another government wheel or two.

The rule rollback will not happen until the FCC sets an effective date, which will not happen until the Office of Management and Budget rules on whether the information collection portions of the transparency portion of the FCC's order do not violate the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Related: INCOMPAS Says FCC Ignored Key Info In Net Neutrality Decision

That can't happen until at least Friday (April 27), which is the deadline for final comments on the specifics of that information collection. If there are no comments--as there were not in the initial comment period, the decision on when the rules against blocking, throttling, paid prioritization and more go into effect could come relatively quickly.

There was a two-month initial comment period for that OMB review, which closed March 19 without any comments being filed according to an FCC spokesperson--the FCC receives those comments as well.

There was a second 30-day comment period on the FCC's summary of the info collection, which opened March 28 and closed April 27. Those comments, if any, are not yet publicly available, but after April 27, the FCC will make any changes to the summary based on those comments and, if OMB approves that, the FCC will publish the supporting statement and comments--again, if any--and can finally release a public notice setting the effective date of the network neutrality rule rollback.

Related: Appeals of Net Neutrality Order Move to D.C. Circuit

If OMB does not approve the new reporting requirements, which is unlikely, the rollback would not go into effect until that was resolved.

The FCC made it clear that its deregulatory move must await OMB approval of that new information collection regime. That is because the information the FCC will be collecting is on how ISPs are managing their networks, or prioritizing traffic in new business models or, theoretically, blocking and throttling traffic, though ISPs have pledged not to do the last two, so it is central to the new net neutrality enforcement regime envisioned by the commission--and derided by its critics.

In order for the Federal Trade Commission or Justice Department to enforce ISP pledges about how they conduct their business, and determine whether those are unfair or anticompetitive, the FTC must have the information on just how they are doing that.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.