FCC Downplays Net Neutrality Changes In New Document

Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed its plans to remove net neutrality regulations. The vote isn’t until December 14, but the group, led by chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to quell concerns with a new document that poses to debunk claims about the upcoming plan.

The document, titled “Myth vs. Fact: Setting the Record Straight on Chairman Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” lists multiple claims with accompanying “facts” about the topics. However, the explanations aren’t comforting, to say the least. Take a look at one of the bullet points below.

“Myth: This [“Restoring Internet Freedom Order”] will result in ‘fast lanes’ and ‘slow lanes’ on the Internet that will worsen consumers’ online experience.

Fact: Restoring Internet freedom will lead to better, faster, and cheaper broadband for consumers and give startups that need priority access (such as telehealth applications) the chance to offer new services to consumers.”

The response doesn’t speak exactly to the original statement. It only tells consumers that once the order is passed, there could be faster and cheaper broadband options from internet service providers (ISPs). There’s no guarantee that ISPs will follow that plan, but the FCC hopes that companies will provide “better, faster, and cheaper broadband.”

Another example from the document covers the topic of additional premiums for accessing specific content. Once again, the explanation isn’t reassuring.

“Myth: Broadband providers will charge you a premium if you want to reach certain online content.

Fact: This didn’t happen before the Obama Administration’s 2015 heavy-handed Internet regulations, and it won’t happen after they are repealed.”

If only wishing were true. In this case, the FCC is making the argument that premiums for specific content won’t happen because they didn’t appear in the past. However, an earlier version of this practice is already in place.

In 2016, the FCC conducted an investigation on zero-rating offerings, which according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation allow companies to “exempt particular data from counting against a user’s data cap, or from accruing any excess usage charges.” This allows companies to favor the use of specific services or apps because they own the product. One example is AT&T’s “Sponsored Data” program, which it says allows consumers to “browse websites, stream video, and enjoy apps on your wireless device without impacting your personal data plan.” The FCC concluded that AT&T offered a chance to join the Sponsored Data package to third-party content providers “at terms and conditions that are effectively less favorable” than those offered to DirectTV (an AT&T affiliate). The report also looked at similar practices with T-Mobile and Verizon.

Ready for more? Here’s another topic from the sheet, which concerns the blocking of specific websites.

“Myth: Internet service providers will block you from visiting the websites you want to visit.

Fact: Internet service providers didn’t block websites before the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed 2015 Internet regulations and won’t after they are repealed. Any Internet service provider would be required to publicly disclose this practice and would face fierce consumer backlash as well scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will have renewed authority to police unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.”

The FCC again hopes that ISPs won’t block specific websites when the new plan is in effect. However it can happen, and when it does occur, the explanation says that customers and the FTC will voice their concerns, which should persuade companies to change their policies (right?).

The goal of the entire document is to play down the major impacts that would occur if the proposal is put into practice. This includes the prevention of states from creating their own net neutrality laws. Gamers would also have to pay even more not just to play online, but to download digital copies of and patches for their library of titles. Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now binge watchers might even have to pay more to catch up on some of today’s most popular shows.

You can take a look at the full list of “Myths vs. Facts” sheet on the FCC website, and you can continue to call your local and state representatives to voice your concerns about this gutting of net neutrality.

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