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FCC's 'Net Rule Rollback Roils Foes

The FCC's sweeping order sweeping away most net neutrality regs in favor of a heightened transparency requirement enforced by Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, has drawn equally sweeping statements in opposition.

Writers from both coasts clobbered the decision.

"“The FCC has delivered a death blow to the Internet as we know it," said Writers Guild of America East in a statement, using the past tense to describe the open net they suggested will now be closed. "a place where culturally and economically diverse voices shared equal opportunity and where wealthy, powerful gatekeepers didn’t get to decide what people read and watch. Millions of Americans spoke in strong support of net neutrality and the FCC has ignored them all.”

“Chairman Pai’s plan to end net neutrality is yet another step on the path towards total corporate control of the Internet," said the Writers Guild of America, West. "[FCC Chairman AJit] Pai’s 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.”

FCC officials speaking on background told reporters that many millions of those were duplicates and that if they simply expressed and opinion rather than raising new facts, they weren't generally much use anyway.

"The reckless wrecking ball strikes again," said Mike Copps, former FCC chairman and currently a special advisor to Common Cause. "FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s scorched-earth plan for net neutrality displays callous disregard for both process and substance. The Chairman’s plan to do away with net neutrality will be a disaster for consumers and yet another handout for big business."

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, whose 2015 Open Internet Order is on the chopping block, also weighed in. Wheeler, now a Brookings Institute fellow, said Pai's proposal "raises hypocrisy to new heights," explaining: "They are 'protecting consumers' by disavowing responsibility to do just that. They are providing for 'better regulation' by giving authority to the FTC which has no regulatory authority. They are walking away from the clear statutory mandate to oversee telecommunications services by cleverly saying local internet delivery is not a telecommunications service."

“A Net Neutrality repeal would remove one of the very few most important first amendment protections communities of color have today, at a time when free speech protections are more important than ever," said Malkia Cyril, executive director at the Center for Media Justice. "The right to speak and be heard; the ability to seek opportunity, stay connected, and protest injustice -- these are core civil rights. In a digital age, protecting core civil rights means enforcing, not repealing, Title II Net Neutrality.”

“This Order is a full-scale repeal of net neutrality," said Sarah Morris, director of Open Internet Policy for New America's Open Technology Institute."

The order repeals bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, replacing them with an enhanced transparency regime via which ISPs would have to declare whether they were doing any of those things and then the Justice Department could decide if they were anticompetitive and the Federal Trade Commission could sue them if they did not do what they said they were doing, or not doing.

"If passed, the FCC will be stripping away critical protections that give people the freedom to access the entirety of the internet, effectively letting internet access be sold away to the highest corporate bidders," said Morris. "If you hate the cable model of content distribution, or think your current internet bills are too high, hold on tight because the internet is about to become more like cable with more hidden fees stemming out of pay-for-play deals for content delivery, and sneaky tolls on certain companies. The repeal of net neutrality will impact every aspect of the internet, from the way we access content and consume news, to the way we organize against and engage in the democratic process."

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.