FCC pre-cooks its common carrier turkey

22 November 2017 by Steve Blum
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Update: The complete draft has been published:

In the Matter of Restoring Internet Freedom, Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order

It runs 210 pages. I’ll have a summary post up later this morning. Happy Thanksgiving.

The full text of Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai’s draft order declaring that broadband is no longer a common carrier service or subject to network neutrality rules is supposed to be released today. We’ll have three weeks to read, debate, praise, protest and, ultimately, swallow it, since there’s little chance it’ll be changed or delayed significantly. When the vote happens on 14 December 2017, it’ll be on strict party lines, judging by the comments from commissioners.

Jessica Rosenworcel said that Pai’s draft “is ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the Internet every day…it throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content. It would be a big blunder for a slim majority of the FCC to approve these rules and saddle every Internet user with the cruel consequences”.

That’s mild talk, compared to fellow democrat Mignon Clyburn’s critique. She called the proposal “a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey”.

Republican Michael O’Rielly ripped the current common carrier/net neutrality rules, calling them an “unnecessary and harmful regulatory overhang” that “sacrificed decades of precedent and the independence of the agency for political ends while doing nothing to protect actual consumers”. If anything, O’Rielly seems to think that Pai’s draft doesn’t go far enough – he promises “to ensure that the order contains the necessary legal and analytical foundations, including preemption”. Presumably, he means the kind of blanket preemption of state and local laws that’s been urged by Verizon, Comcast and the mobile industry’s lobbying front, CTIA.

Republican rookie Brendan Carr was less colorful but just as direct, saying he looks forward to “casting my vote in support of Internet freedom” and “reversing the Obama-era FCC’s regulatory overreach”.

Over the next three weeks, Pai and his four colleagues will have a chance to discuss changes to the draft, but given their sharp divide there seems to be no room for compromise. With three solid votes declared in favor, there’s also no need.