The US FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order came into effect yesterday, effectively ending the net neutrality protections that were enacted by the former FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, at the behest of President Barack Obama.
The Ajit Pai-led agency had voted along party lines last December to accept the new proposals that its supporters claim will provide citizens with unrestricted access to online content without the burden of regulation, but critics argue will make it difficult for internet startups to flourish.
In a press release, the FCC gave itself a congratulatory pat on the back, claiming that the repeal of the government regulations will promote growth in the sector. According to the agency, the new regime will “protect the open Internet that consumers cherish while paving the way for better, faster, cheaper Internet access”.
Describing the Obama-era protections as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘heavy-handed’, the agency further claimed that the new “common-sense regulations … will promote investment and broadband deployment” because of the “strong consumer protections (and) increased transparency”. While the new regulations have been supported vociferously by the cable and telecom industry, it has faced fierce resistance from consumer advocacy groups and civil rights activists in the country.
The US Senate in May voted to approve a resolution that would repeal the controversial new regulations, with the Senators using a law known as the ‘Congressional Review Act’ to pass their resolution. However, the outcome wasn’t of much consequence in the larger scheme of things, given that the House majority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy, never allowed the bill to be even presented for a vote in the House.
At last count, 22 Attorneys General from around the country had filed a lawsuit to stop the Ajit Pai-led FCC from implementing its highly-controversial policies. It will be interesting to see how that lawsuit turns out, as it’s the final legal barrier to stop the end of the free and fair internet that we’ve known and loved since its inception more than three decades ago.