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US brings an end to net neutrality regulations

The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has ended net neutrality rules which regulate access to the Internet and which required Internet Service Providers to treat all Web traffic equally.

In a 3-2 vote on party lines on Thursday (US time), the FCC voted to dismantle the Obama-era regulations put in place in 2015 and, simultaneously, also voted to eliminate the legal foundation that gives it oversight over ISPs.

Some media reporting in the US suggests the FCC’s killing of the net neutrality regulations has handed the broadband and wireless industries a big victory in their fight against government oversight of the Internet.

And, as iTWire reported last month the repeal of the regulations could see ISPs given the power to charge websites large sums in order to be granted fast Internet access, whilst websites that do not pay the fees will have access to users slowed considerably.

But FCC chairman chairman Ajit Pai and other Republicans had argued that the Obama-era FCC overstepped its authority with the regulations by reclassifying the ISPs as common carriers.

Following Thursday’s vote to repeal the regulations, Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr is reported as calling it "a great day for consumers, for innovation and for freedom." – and saying that the vote returns the FCC to a light regulatory regime that had worked for 20 years until they were changed in 2015.
 
On the flipside of the public debate in the US, supporters of net neutrality have said the protections are insufficient because the FTC only considers harm to consumers after it occurs, rather than trying to prevent harm, as the rules were designed to do.

The FCC’s proposal comes just months after President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing ISPs to use or sell user information without requiring permission from users.

And, while 93.6% of House Republicans voted in favour of the bill, it only had a 6% approval rating – with Republicans, as well as ISPs overwhelmingly praising the FCC proposal.

The FCC’s decision to repeal the net neutrality rules is somewhat contrary to a global trend to ensure all internet content is treated equally.

The EU has had net neutrality protections since 2015 and he Netherlands and Slovenia have adopted their own rules – while countries like Chile and India have adopted some form of net neutrality, and others are considering what to do.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

 

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