The FCC says removing net neutrality regulations imposed under President Obama will open the internet, rights advocates see it differently.
The FCC says removing net neutrality regulations imposed under President Obama will open the internet, rights advocates see it differently.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today voted along party lines Thursday to walk back net neutrality regulations imposed under the Obama administration.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans for the rollback in late April during a speech at the Newseum in Washington, DC..

At the time, he called the internet regulations adopted by the FCC two years ago, “heavy handed” and politically motivated.

The vote, which had been anticipated and hotly protested by privacy rights groups, citizens, tech companies and even late night TV host John Oliver, drew mixed reactions with rights organizations ruing the likely end of the open internet.

“The FCC is proposing a rule that would reclassify broadband as an “information service” rather than a ‘telecommunications service,'” the Corynne McSherry from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wrote in a blog post. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that this move would protect users, but all it would really do is protect Comcast and other big ISPs by destroying the legal foundation for net neutrality rules. Once that happened, it would only be a matter of time before your ISP had more power than ever to shape the Internet.”

But FreedomWorks sees the FCC's action as a move toward a freer and more open internet, harkening back to the “light touch regulation” that spurred internet development over the past two decades.

“This is an important step towards protecting innovation and investment in developing the internet of the future,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement. “Obama's internet regulations were basically a government takeover of the Internet that threatened to replace the permissionless innovation that has worked so well with a new set of internet conduct standards designed and approved by the FCC.” 

Brandon warned against "a room full of gray-suited bureaucrats running the Internet,” instead putting his “money is on the entrepreneurs and innovators who have built what we have today.”

He contended that “there have been very few problems with the Internet under the years of light touch regulation, and when there were issues, the federal government had ample authority to address them,” eliminating the “need for Obama's Title II regulations that forced the Internet into a regulatory system designed to govern yesterday's technologies.”

The vote also renewed calls for congressional action to establish more definitive guidelines for net neutrality.  “As the FCC is set to once again rewrite the rules governing the internet, it is past time for Congress to enact legislation to finally put the issue of Net Neutrality to rest to give developers and entrepreneurs the certainty they need to support future investment and innovation,” Developers Alliance President and CEO Jake Ward said in a statement. “We should encourage the FCC to make way for congressional action to once and for all set the rules for digital economy and legacy telecom cooperation.”

The “stabilizing value of legislation” should appeal to “both government bodies and both political parties,” Ward said. “After more than a decade, developers would relish the certainty that narrowly and carefully crafted bipartisan legislation could bring to this issue. More years of litigation will simply create uncertainty that will undermine developers' efforts to innovate and invest in our technology future.”

He sounded a call for "Congress to put rules in place that keep the Internet open, encourage investment in networks, and that stick."