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FCC Takes First Swing at Net Neutrality with Transparency Rules Order

Tyrone Stewart

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and its new chairman Ajit Pai, has taken its first steps toward the dismantling of net neutrality. An FCC order has exempt more internet service providers (ISPs) from a transparency rule that requires them to publicly share information about data caps, fees, and network performance.

Previously, only ISPs with 100,000 or fewer broadband subscribers were exempt from the ruling. This latest order increases that number to 250,000 subscribers.

“We are taking action to exempt small businesses from these burdensome requirements—requirements that impose serious and unnecessary costs on small providers,” said Pai. “Our decision will help the country’s smaller providers—namely, those with 250,000 or fewer broadband subscribers—better serve their communities.  For I firmly believe that these ISPs should spend their limited capital building out better broadband to rural America—not hiring lawyers and accountants to fill out unnecessary paperwork demanded by Washington, DC.”

The Commission has twice, in the past, found 100,000 to be right number of subscribers to apply the ruling to. Despite this, the vote was passed 2-1 along party lines – Republicans Pai and commissioner Michael O’Rielly voting in favour, Democrat commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn opposing.

“The Order runs roughshod over past precedent, with no discussion as to why the Commission is changing its mind,” said Clyburn. “These rules were adopted to prevent broadband providers from blocking, throttling, favoring or discriminating against traffic, or extracting tolls from any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

“And at a time when the majority on this Commission is talking about gutting these broader rules, I cannot in good conscience support this vastly increased exemption without knowing what core protections will remain in place for consumers and small businesses in the years to come.”