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FCC Releases Draft Order Repealing Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC Wednesday released the draft order eliminating most network neutrality rules, which provided yet another opportunity for foes of that move to express their displeasure and vow to fight it to the last ditch.

It still must be voted at the Dec. 14 meeting, and could theoretically change in the interim, but the three Republicans are expected to approve it pretty much as advertised, against the vociferous objections of the Democrats.

The item suggests Title II was an overreaction to nonexistent harms. "Because of the paucity of concrete evidence of harms to the openness of the Internet, the Title II Order and its proponents have heavily relied on purely speculative threats. We do not believe hypothetical harms, unsupported by empirical data, economic theory, or even recent anecdotes, provide a basis for public -utility regulation of ISPs," it says. "Consequently, Title II regulation is an unduly heavy-handed approach to what at worst are relatively minor problems."

The Restoring Internet Freedom item is actually a tripartite document, comprising a declaratory ruling, a report and order, and an order.

The first is a declaratory ruling that restores the classification of internet access as an information service per the Supreme Court Brand X decision upholding that classification. It would also reinstate mobile broadband as a private mobile service and clarify that internet access is an interstate service.

The report and order eliminates the bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and the general conduct standard under which the FCC could look case-by-case at potential threats to 'net openness and declare them off limits. It adopts transparency requirements similar to those in the 2010 compromise net neutrality rules, with the addition that ISPs, if they choose to block or throttle--they say they won't--or paid prioritize--some might--must report to the FCC that they are doing so, and provide specifics on how.

Then the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission can take action against any anticompetitive effects or false and deceptive practices.

The order part would hold that the public is not served by adding any more comments to the net neutrality docket, including material from other proceedings--there are already over 22 million submissions.

Net neutrality rule backers had already hammered Pai after he announced the vote Tuesday (Nov. 22), but they used the release of the actual document to double down.

“The right of Americans to travel and connect anywhere on the Internet without big corporate ISPs regulating their access will be infringed and diminished by Pai’s plan," said Computer & Communications Association President Ed Black.

"The wonder and success of the internet has flourished based upon the foundation and principles of net neutrality.

“As other countries including Europe seek Open Internet rules and the entrepreneurship that comes with them, our FCC Chairman is giving them up. The order the Chairman released paves the way for a full FCC vote in December rescinding net neutrality. It may be a great holiday gift for AT&T and Comcast, but it will be a real loss to the rights and pocketbooks of millions of Internet users and thousands of businesses.”

“The draft order released today is yet another step along Chairman Pai’s path towards total corporate control of the Internet," said the Writers Guild of America West. "His intention to gut net neutrality rules has been evident since day

one, and the rulemaking process has completely ignored the overwhelming public support for these rules and the unequivocal benefits of an open Internet. In what is quickly becoming a hallmark of this administration, this order will benefit powerful corporations at the expense of the general public and a competitive, free market. Without the rules, ISPs will be free to decide what content is available to Americans and on what terms, striking a blow to consumers and content creators alike.”

“With the agency releasing their order to kill net neutrality this morning, I want to be clear that this is far from over," said FightfortheFuture campaign director Evan Greer. "There’s no doubt that the order confirms that Ajit Pai is leading a full-throated repeal of Title II net neutrality. But if yesterday was any indication, small business owners, grassroots organizations, and Internet users are are willing to fight this to the bitter end. Congress needs to know that this is on them now. The entire Internet is watching, and if they don’t do their jobs and rein in this corrupt FCC, they’ll incur its wrath.”

"In the past 24 hours, net neutrality advocates made more than 200,000 phone calls to Congress through the," said Greer."

A protest at Verizon retail stores (Pai is a former Verizon lobbyist) is also planned for Dec. 7, a week before the FCC vote.

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.