UPDATE 3/28/2017: Today the House of Representatives also confirmed the repeal of new FCC ISP regulations. All that remains is for President Trump to sign the bill.
ORIGINAL SYNOPSIS: Obama-era Internet privacy regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission were on the chopping block last Thursday, as the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 to approve a resolution that would also prevent the commission from creating similar rules in the future.
This article is one in a series of updates on Net Neutrality.
The FCC rules being overturned haven’t actually gone into effect yet. They require that ISPs notify consumers when their information is being collected, and how it is being used or shared. In some cases, these rules require ISPs to ask for the consumer’s consent to sell their information for advertising purposes.The U.S. Congress voted to repeal FCC's Internet Privacy regulations.Click To Tweet
Republicans and the FCC itself point towards other big data collection companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the FTC, as being on an unfair playing field to ISPs regulated by the FCC.
The NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, which represents major ISPs like Comcast, said in a statement, “The Senate’s action represents a critical step towards reestablishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”
Net Neutrality is defined by the principle that ISPs should enable access to all Internet content regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
Here’s a quick timeline of Net Neutrality regulations in the U.S. Feel free to check out the full timeline:
- October 1st, 2002: “Brand X” FCC declares cable Internet service is an information service and subject to FCC jurisdiction, which leaves cable deregulated.
- January 12th, 2003: Law Professor Tim Wu coins the phrase “net neutrality.”
- 2005: With the Brand X declaration confirmed by the Supreme Court, the FCC moves to deregulate DSL, removing consumer privacy protections from both Internet services.
- June 28, 2006: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens attempts to explain why consumer protections for communication should not be extended to the Internet. He becomes a meme, and makes famous the phrase, “The Internet is a series of tubes.”
- September 1st, 2007: Comcast begins blocking BitTorrent.
- August 1st, 2008: The FCC orders Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic.
- October 22nd, 2009: FCC begins Net Neutrality proceedings, culminating in the Open Internet Order.
- January 14th, 2014: D.C. Circuit court overturns the Open Internet rules.
- June 27th, 2014: Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy ( D-VT) introduce the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act in order to stop paid prioritization.
- November 10th, 2014: President Obama endorses Title II.
- February 26th, 2015: FCC passes Title II Net Neutrality rules.
- June 14th, 2016: D.C. Circuit court affirms the Open Internet Order. The law affirms that no Internet Service Provider should be able to block or throttle your connection to control your online experience.
- March 28th, 2017: Both houses of congress passed the bill repealing the FCC’s new regulations for ISPs. Internet privacy will take a blow with President Trump’s expected signing of the regulation repeal bill.
Throughout this timeline, ISPs like Comcast have fought for the ability to prioritize certain websites in order to gain profits–including having Netflix pay them to solve a streaming connectivity “issue.”
Organizations like Fight for the Future made sure that constituent voices were heard throughout legislative process, as the Open Internet rules and the Title II Net Neutrality proposal garnered over 3 million consumer comments.
What the FTC Regulations Allow
If the FCC regulations are overturned and ISPs are subject to the FTC’s regulations, ISPs will ignore many of the hardfast restrictions placed on them by the FCC. The FTC’s regulations call for slow, methodical review of ISP actions.
Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington remarked, “Now we go back to a place where (ISPs) really have to do something egregious to get caught.”
This Internet was Made for you and me
People are increasingly aware of how their data is being used by ISPs and advertisers and want more control over how their personal data is being used. Over the course of this debate, consumers and ISPs have celebrated minor victories.
With the FCC’s jurisdiction to regulate ISPs hanging in the balance, it seems Net Neutrality is far from being a mainstay of U.S. Internet policy. Now that both houses of congress have voted to repeal the FCC regulations, all that remains is for President Trump to sign the repeal bill into law.