Delaware delegation opposes FCC effort to end net neutrality

DOVER — The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote to repeal net neutrality Thursday, an action opposed by Delaware’s congressional delegation.

Net neutrality, as defined by supporters of the concept, means the internet is for everyone and companies cannot require users to pay extra for access to certain websites. That concept has existed in its current form since 2015.

Under President Barack Obama, the FCC reclassified the internet, giving the government greater oversight and, supporters of net neutrality claim, Americans more access.

However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was selected to head the agency by President Trump this year and confirmed in October, has painted the end of net neutrality as returning the country “to the bipartisan, light-touch regulatory framework under which a free and open Internet flourished for almost 20 years.”

But opponents see it differently.

Sen. Chris Coons

“The FCC, under the Trump Administration, recently acted to dismantle consumer protections that ensure equal access to the Internet, effectively clearing the way for Internet service companies to create an Internet slow lane, charge users more to see certain content and even to curb access to some websites,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a statement.

“That is wrong, plain and simple, and I oppose any actions that put corporations in charge of providing equal access to the internet. The Internet provides people throughout the world unprecedented opportunities to communicate, share ideas and collaborate freely. The free exchange of ideas over the Internet supports innovation, commerce and creativity. Equal access to online content without censorship must be upheld, period.”

Mr. Pai, in a speech two weeks ago, said greater regulation of the internet has led to providers investing less in infrastructure and new features.

“Much of the problem stems from the vague Internet conduct standard that the commission adopted in 2015 — a standard that I’m proposing to repeal. Under this standard, the FCC didn’t say specifically what conduct was prohibited,” he said.

“Instead, it gave itself a roving mandate to second-guess new service offerings, new features and new business models. Understandably, businesses asked for clarity on how this standard would be applied. My predecessor’s answer, and I quote: ‘We don’t know, we’ll have to see where things go.’ That’s the very definition of regulatory uncertainty.”

But Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., sees the end of net neutrality as harmful to average Americans.

“I opposed Chairman Pai’s nomination to head the Federal Communications Commission because I was deeply concerned by his interest in rolling back net neutrality rules,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, my fears were well-founded.

“His move to repeal these protections threatens to deepen the digital divide in this country that already controls which communities, businesses, schools and consumers have access to the internet, and at what speed. The internet is a portal to communication and commerce that has changed the way we learn, make a living and keep up with loved ones, so it must be a place where everyone has equal access.”

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., sounded a similar note, saying the country must “preserve and protect net neutrality and internet freedom for our small businesses, entrepreneurs, every day Americans and our collective future.”

A June poll conducted by Mozilla and Ipsos that defined net neutrality as “the principle that internet service providers providing consumer connection to the Internet should treat all data on the internet the same, not giving specific advantages or penalties in access by user, content, website, platform or application” saw 76 percent of participants express support for keeping it.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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