April 23 – the day net neutrality officially dies

It’s now official. The signature is on the line. The t’s have been crossed and the i’s have been dotted. The net neutrality flame will be officially extinguished on April 23.

The gloriously named Restoring Internet Freedom Order, an unashamedly aggressive displace of propaganda, has been in the works over the last couple of weeks as various drafts have been released, but now it is official. We get the impression these releases were a strategic move to allow FCC Chairperson Ajit Pai an understanding of what the legal challenges would be, and therefore the opportunity to strengthen the aforementioned order against any lawsuits.

The publication of the new rules mean this is less theoretical and is now real; the lawsuits can officially begin. The chest beating has been loud over the last couple of months in anticipation of the repeal and the threats of legal action has always been there. We expect a few lawsuits to be filed before the end of the week, but you can guarantee there will be more than a couple.

For those who are not aware of the net neutrality debate, or have chosen to ignore it, the new rules are essentially no rules. It a return to the pre-Wheeler, light-touch regulation which essentially gives the telco industry to do what it wants. For some it will remove unnecessary red-tape and bureaucratic complications, keeping lethargic public servants at arm’s length, but for others it gives profit-frenzied executives the opportunity to abuse the consumer and slap the OTTs around.

The telcos are of course putting a friendly face on the situation but how the situation plays out remains to be seen. There are now (or on the 23 April to be more accurate) no restrictions on the telcos if they choose to block, promote, throttle or restrict content should they choose, or a partner is not willing to pay. The telcos are moving back into a position of control and a strangle hold on the digital economy might be just around the corner.

As you can imagine, the Democratic Commissioners still have not come around to Pai’s way of thinking.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:

“Today it is official: the FCC majority has taken the next step in handing the keys to the internet over to billion-dollar broadband providers by publishing the Destroying Internet Freedom Order in the Federal Register. I am both disappointed and hopeful. Disappointed that this is one more anti-consumer notch on this FCC’s belt, but hopeful that the arc of history is bent in favour of net neutrality protections. Whether it is litigation, state action, or some other mechanism that brings it about, I am sure that robust net neutrality protections will prevail with the American public!”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel:

“The FCC’s net neutrality decision is a study in just what’s wrong with Washington. This agency failed the American public. It failed to listen to their concerns and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land. It turned a blind eye to all kinds of corruption in our public record—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in our files. As a result of the mess the agency created, broadband providers will now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. This is not right. The FCC is on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the law and it deserves to have its handiwork revisited, re-examined, and ultimately reversed.”

Of course the industry is not going to change overnight, but you can almost guarantee the industry is going to be different in a couple of years. That said it could all be in vain. In three years’ time the Democrats could be back in the White House, if this is the case it would be a fair bet to assume the net neutrality rules would be back in play.

  • Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies

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