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FCC Announces Plan to Repeal Net Neutrality

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Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at the federal agency's headquarters in Washington, June 23, 2017. - ERIC THAYER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Eric Thayer/The New York Times
  • Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at the federal agency's headquarters in Washington, June 23, 2017.

By CECILIA KANG
© 2017 New York Times News Service

The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark net neutrality regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the path for new experiences for consumers who could find content harder to reach or be charged more to access it.

The proposal, put forward by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers.

The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

The plan to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules also reverses a hallmark decision by the agency to declare broadband as a service as essential as phones and electricity, a move that created the legal foundation for the net neutrality rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service to the nation.

The proposal is widely expected to be approved during a Dec. 14 meeting in a 3-to-2 majority vote along party lines.

The actions by Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, is the centerpiece of a deregulatory agenda that has also stripped television broadcasters, newspapers and telecom companies of a broad range of regulations meant to protect the public interest.