The Federal Communications Commission released the final draft of a controversial proposal to effectively kill net neutrality on Wednesday.
The proposal, made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, unwinds a multitude of previous internet regulations established under the Obama administration. Internet service providers (ISPs) are now free to tinker with web speed, prioritize traffic, and elbow out certain applications and services.
The final language calls the original ruling a “misguided and legally flawed approach.” The FCC argues that walking back several regulations will allow the agency to “move closer to the goal of eliminating the digital divide.”
But a divide remains within Washington.
Many Democratic lawmakers believe the finalized draft takes the power away from the user and puts it in the pockets of web barons like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
“You’ve got to hand it to Chairman Pai: he really gets the job done for the titans of Big Cable,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement on Tuesday.
Wyden, who sits as a ranking member for the Senate Committee on Finance and the Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, marked Pai as the “most anti-consumer FCC chair in history,” calling into question Pai's loyalty to the American business owner.
“Small businesses and pretty much everyone except Big Cable executives will lose out thanks to this terrible proposal,” Wyden remarked.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) echoed Wyden's remarks, calling the move “a devastating blow to consumers, innovation and competition.”
A Democratic Senate staffer told IJR he believes the Trump administration and the FCC are not “operating in good faith,” explaining that several Democratic lawmakers have grown frustrated with Pai's commission, which they believe continues to “subvert the will of the people.”
One senior GOP aide believes that fear from the Democrats is misguided.
“The internet has been the driving force of our economy and innovation for over 25 years now because it has been the least regulated sector of our economy,” the aide explained.
Rather the aide believes that fear should be directed toward — not away from — government intervention in the world wide web.
“Government stifled innovation and economic progress, and we should be fearful of its intrusion into this sector,” the aide added.
Internet advocacy groups remain unconvinced and disappointed and publicly pushed back against Pai's declaration in the past several days.
“The FCC’s proposed plan adds salt to the wound by interfering with state efforts to protect consumer privacy and competition,” Corynne McSherry, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told IJR.
McSherry emphasized that rolling back net neutrality would only serve to crowd out web-based startups, small businesses and new innovators, as prices to operate their businesses would likely spike by a high margin.
“The FCC today abdicates a fundamental responsibility — but internet users won’t,” McSherry added in an emailed statement.
High-profile critics of this repeal — namely Google and Amazon — cautioned that throwing out the rulebook could grant telecom companies monopoly-level power. Telecom companies pushed back, though, arguing that less regulation meant cheaper and wider access for the average consumer.
Still, the aide believes that despite pushback proposal, confirmation is inevitable.
“The GOP Congress isn’t going to start a Congressional Review Act to stop this,” said the seasoned Republican aide. “So this is what’s going to happen.”
The proposal is slated to be voted on next month during the commission's Dec. 14 meeting.