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Trump's FCC gets ready to take a chainsaw to net neutrality

A hidden document reveals FCC Commissioner Pai's secret plan to gut net neutrality.

Video: Next on Trump's to-do list: Kill net neutrality

We've known all along that Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai planned to wreck net neutrality. If you looked closely at what the Trump-dominated FCC said publicly, it might not have looked that bad. A semi-hidden FCC policy document, Restoring Internet Freedom, however, reveals that the FCC net neutrality plans are just as awful as we feared.

In this document, unlike the May 23, 2017 official government EDOCS document for Docket 17-108 on the FCC proposed rule changes, which was innocuous, Restoring Internet Freedom spells out exactly how Pai plans on ruining net neutrality.

The ironically named Restoring Internet Freedom document doesn't have a date, but internal evidence strongly suggests that it's the policy statement Pai will adopt at the Dec. 14 FCC meeting on net neutrality.

This is contrary, as ZDNet's David Gewitrz points out, to how the FCC is supposed to present documents to the public. The FCC, as it spells out on its Rulemaking Process page, should have made this document public in the EDOCS or ECFS document repositories. But, as you may have noticed, if you've been paying attention to, say, how Congress has dealt with the new tax bill, Republicans aren't much into revealing what they're doing to our laws and regulations.

Here's what Pai's FCC plans on doing:

  • Restore the classification of broadband internet access service as an "information service." This moves the ISPs from being "common carriers" under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which subjected them to utility-style regulation under the FCC to Title 1 Information Services.
  • Reinstate the private mobile service classification of mobile broadband internet access service. This would remove mobile networking from FCC regulatory authority.
  • Clarify the effects of the return to an information service classification on other regulatory frameworks, including the need for a uniform federal regulatory approach to apply to interstate information services like broadband Internet access service.

The real meat is this dry-as-dirt, but deadly, line: "Remove and delete in their entirety sections 8.2, 8.3, 8.5, 8.7, 8.9, 8.11, 8.12, 8.13, 8.14, 8.15,8.16, 8.17, 8.18, and 8.19" of the FCC Code of Federal Regulations concerning Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.

Let's walk down these: First, with 8.3 gone, ISPs will no longer have to "publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services."

Sure, we can bring you 300Mbps to your log cabin in Wyoming! What, you're only getting 3Mbps? Oh well! That's life!

Next, with 8.5 in the junk pile, ISPs could "block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices."

So, you want Netflix? Too bad! You can only have Hulu, or, more realistically, pay an extra $20 for premium video services. Peer-to-peer file sharing à la BitTorrent? Sorry, that's not allowed at all. And, oh, by the way, you can use Big ISP cable modem/routers on your connection.

With 8.7 history, ISPs can throttle your network bandwidth as they see fit. So, for instance, if you want to watch 4K video, you must not only pay for top-tier bandwidth, you must pay even more for access to "premium" video speeds.

And, with 8.9 in the dumpster, your ISP, say, Comcast, which owns NBC, may give you access to its streaming for free with zero-rating, while charging you more if you want to watch, say, CBS All Access.

Under the new rules, with 8.11 gone, ISPs may interfere with or "disadvantage end users' ability to select, access, and use broadband Internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice, or edge providers' ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users."

So, yes, if your ISP decides porn is bad for you, it could block access to all such sites. Or, block, say, access to all but Fox News or other Rupert Murdoch media properties. Or, say, it doesn't want to let you buy your own cable modem, it can insist that you rent from it instead without this rule.

I could go on, but let me just note with 8.16 gone, your ISP can cheerfully sell your web-browsing history plus any other proprietary information to anyone willing to pay its price.

In short, the FCC is giving your local ISP permission to do whatever it wants to you. And, since 50 million Americans have access to only a single broadband ISP, many of you will have no choice but to take it.

Oh, and 3G/4G/5G? Chairman Pai plans on leaving mobile broadband free of FCC supervision. I can feel my Verizon data bill rising already.

Now, usually, I'd say something like "call your Congress-person" at this point. I don't think it will do any good. Even though net neutrality is really not a partisan political issue, per se, the Republicans have adopted killing it as one of their policies, and I see little chance of it being stopped by Congress. If you want to try, you can contact your senators and representatives through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Good luck. We're all going to need it.

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