FCC Votes to Dismantle Net-Neutrality Rules

from The Wall Street Journal,

Agency approved new policy that would unwind Obama-era regulations on internet traffic as part of regulatory rollback.

The Federal Communications Commission Thursday voted to roll back far-reaching rules governing how internet-service providers treat traffic on their networks, a move expected to empower cable and wireless providers and transform consumers’ online experience. The 2015 “net neutrality” rules were one of the signature regulatory actions of the Obama administration, requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or slowing content, or providing fast lanes for favored sites and services. Republicans say the shift will unwind what they consider to be a regulatory overreach, restoring vitality to the broadband economy and benefiting consumers with more choices as well as lower prices. The commission’s vote was 3-2, along party lines, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the two fellow Republicans on the board backing the change. The dismantling of the Obama-era rules isn’t expected to change the delivery of web content to consumers overnight. But internet-service providers such as Comcast Corp. or Verizon Communications Inc. would be free to begin offering new packages with pricing schemes that deliver some kinds of content but not others. One type of service that could proliferate in the new regime is zero-rating deals, where specific websites or services are exempted from a mobile carrier’s data caps. Mr. Pai, the architect of the new rules, has said the key to their success will be transparency—the idea that consumers will know exactly what they are getting. For instance, a buyer of a monthly cellphone plan would be able to find out if access to a particular streaming-movie service is prioritized over other traffic from a rival service. His plan envisions enforcement of that transparency by both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, whose mission is consumer protection against anticompetitive and deceptive behaviors.

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