The FTC would play a bigger role in overseeing internet practices, and the FCC a smaller one, in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to scrap his agency’s net neutrality enforcement rules — a plan it posted today.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, on the agenda for the May 18 meeting, is designed to elicit public comment about how much — or, perhaps, how little — the FCC should do to ensure that internet service providers treat all content providers equally.
Among other things, Pai’s plan proposes to let the FTC oversee ISPs’ privacy practices, eliminate the FCC’s internet conduct standard, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
A senior official says that the FCC will release a public notice today telling people how they can weigh in — although there’s “no guarantee” that the computer system will be able to handle the expected tidal wave of comments.
But the document makes it clear that the agency begins with a presumption that the FCC made a mistake in 2015 when it decided to regulate the internet as a phone-like common carrier, under Title II of the Communications Act.
For example, the proposal says it would “restore the market-based policies necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom, and to reverse the decline in infrastructure investment, innovation, and options for consumers put into motion by the FCC in 2015.”
The FCC document attributes the growth of the internet to what Pai calls its “light touch” regulations prior to 2015.
And it asserts that the change under previous Chairman Tom Wheeler “has resulted in negative consequences for American consumers—including depressed broadband investment and reduced innovation because of increased regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty stemming from the rules adopted under Title II.”
Those supporting the current system say that investment in broadband has either grown, or been unaffected, since the FCC shifted to the present system.
They add that the Title II rules are needed to give the FCC any meaningful power to protect independent content providers: The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. overturned the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules saying that the agency lacked the authority to act as long as it defined the internet as an information service — the standard Pai prefers.