Major plans concerning the future of the internet are set to be unveiled by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday, with reports suggesting net neutrality regulations will be completely dismantled.
Pai first outlined his intentions to undo net neutrality in April and has since faced a considerable backlash from public interest groups. Repealing the Obama-era regulations is seen as a major victory for the telecom industry but is also viewed as a catastrophic loss for internet users.
Net neutrality—the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally, and not create “fast lanes” for certain companies—is considered by advocates to be fundamental to a free and open internet.
“Those in Congress who voted to confirm Ajit Pai did so against the demands and interests of their constituents,” Candace Clement, the campaign director at Free Press Action Fund, said in a statement shared with Newsweek in October.
“Pai stands against an open internet, online privacy, local control of local media and affordable access for everyone. Team Internet will continue to remind Congress that you can’t do harm to the people you represent without hearing from us every day and everywhere. You can’t sell out our rights in Washington without consequences.”
In 2014, Donald Trump described the Obama-era regulations in a tweet as an “attack on the internet” and “another top down power grab.” At the time, a similar effort to end net neutrality was underway but was eventually ended after the BattleForTheNet campaign resulted in four million public comments to the FCC and the passing of the landmark 2015 Open Internet Order.
The FCC argues that rolling back net neutrality would in fact “restore internet freedom for all Americans,” though this was said by campaigners to be an “insult to the intelligence of internet users.”
Leading digital rights group Fight for the Future described net neutrality as the “First Amendment of the Internet” when Pai first revealed his plans to scrap the measures earlier this year. In an email to Newsweek, the group’s director Evan Greer said slashing net neutrality rules would allow ISPs to discriminate against, censor and slow down websites.
“By ignoring what the public wants and attacking open internet rules, the FCC is playing with fire and potentially opening the floodgates to widespread censorship,” Greer said.
“Paving over the internet into fast lanes for those who can afford to pay and slow lanes for the rest of us will turn the web into a place where the wealthiest and most powerful can be heard, while ordinary people and alternative voices are drowned out.”
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