In a new proposal issued last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set out a plan to eliminate net neutrality protections, ignoring the voices of millions of Internet users who weighed in to support those protections. The new rule would reclassify high-speed broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service” (remember, the FCC is forbidden from imposing neutrality obligations on information services). It would then eliminate the bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, and pay-to-play (as well as the more nebulous general conduct standard) in favor of a simplistic transparency requirement. In other words, your ISP would be free to set itself up as an Internet gatekeeper, as long as it is honest about it.
This is a bad idea for many, many reasons. Here are a few.
Net Neutrality Has Been a Pillar of the Open Internet
The FCC’s decision to gut net neutrality protections isn’t just partisan business as usual; it’s a withdrawal from over a decade of work to protect Internet users from unfair practices by Internet service providers. While the FCC’s approach has changed over the years, its goal of promoting net neutrality did not. Two years ago, it finally adopted legally enforceable rules, most prominently bright-line prohibiting ISPs from blocking, throttling, and creating Internet “fast lanes” that would favor some sites and content over others. But, as the saying goes, “elections have consequences.” One consequence of the 2016 election is that the FCC has new leadership that feels free not just to change the rules, but to get…