FCC Shake-up Could Kill Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has confirmed he’ll leave the commission on January 20. It guarantees a Republican-leaning majority on the commission and could spell doom for net neutrality rules.

The political make-up of the FCC’s board of commissioners has been a significant issue during Wheeler’s time in office, with many votes being a straight 3-2 split in favour of Democrat appointees. The period included two significant rulings, the first being the formal adoptions of specific rules to enforce the principle of net neutrality.

That sparked furious debate about whether the FCC had the authority to make such rules in the first case when it came to Internet issues. In turn that led to the FCC formally reclassifying broadband as a “common carrier” service, meaning the FCC can regulate it in the same way as fixed-line telephone services. While that decision prompted some legal challenges, it has so far held up.

Both of those rulings could now be under threat of reversal. The FCC’s commissioner board had already been changed to a 2-2 split when the Senate refused to appoint Jessica Rosenworcel for a new term.

Although Wheeler’s term of office as a commissioner runs until 2018, the President has the right to select which of the five commissioners will serve as chairman. While it seemed virtually inevitable Donald Trump would replace Wheeler in that role, it remained possible Wheeler would continue on as a commissioner.

Now he’s confirmed he won’t do so, the commission will now begin Trump’s office with two Republicans and one Democrat. That leaves two slots to fill, with the most likely names tipped as Mark Jamison and Jeffrey Eisenach. Not only are both former lobbyists (for Sprint and Verizon) respectively, but Eisenhach has previously spoken out against net neutrality.

4 Responses to FCC Shake-up Could Kill Net Neutrality

  1. “[it] could spell doom for net neutrality rules.”

    You offer that prediction as if it would be a bad thing.

    You want to run the argument by me one more time? Why is it okay for the US post office to charge different rates for different sized “packets” traveling along different modes (air or ground, for instance) and at different speeds (overnight, three days, whenever it gets there…)
    and in particular at different, cheaper, prices for “bulk mailing” — but each and every virtual electronic packets must be treated exactly the same, regardless of mode or urgency or number of packets introduced to the system at once? This makes sense to you? And differentiating the loads on the system, with a pricing allocation auction, is bad, you think?

    You think that this principle has been contentious the past several years because all the good arguments are on one side, and all the evil stupid greedy slothful gluttonous and otherwise sinful representatives of the evil stupid (etc) portion of the voting public oppose good ideas solely for evil’s sake? That there can be no reasonable debate and so no bright side to a change?

    You think discussing the prospect of change using terms like “threat” is helpful to civil discourse?

  2. Net Neutrality is literally just a restatement of the dumb pipe principal with the added technical specificity of a prohibition against reading packet data out of layer protocol. It’s not about keeping the internet free or open at all. Frankly I can’t understand how anyone thinks banning entire classes of emerging technologies could possibly lead to better outcomes for internet users. Sure, it’s possible those technologies could be used in some shady ways, but I have good news for you: we have an entire branch of law devoted to curtailing shady business practices
    It’s called anti-trust and hasn’t had a major update since the 80’s. Why don’t you stop trying to make sure the internet never gets faster or more convenient than it is today and instead focus on getting Congress to bring anti-trust law into the 21st century?

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