Internet firms winding up for a fight on 'net neutrality'

Posted April 26, 2017

The FCC's 2015 net neutrality, or open internet, rules reclassified broadband as a regulated, telecom-like service - as opposed to a lightly regulated communications service - as the foundation for regulations that prohibited broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing web traffic and services.

New Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly called the regulations a mistake.

Pai is introducing his net neutrality plan during a busy week in DC that will likely overshadow the FCC lead's anti-net-neutrality agenda. The internet industry, which considers net neutrality essential for its business, isn't standing still - and it may be keeping some of its most potent tactics in reserve.

Many internet companies are already running the Washington playbook - lobbying Congress to keep the rules, schmoozing government regulators, and signing letters of protest.

Last week, he met with Silicon Valley companies such as Apple and Facebook, and he met with telecom providers earlier this month.

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Before adopting the current rules, the FCC twice tried to impose net neutrality rules that were struck down by courts as going beyond the agency's authority.

Smaller companies have made the loudest noises so far.

Notably, Pai did not outline his agenda for net neutrality, a topic he is expected to broach Tuesday. Roku, the streaming-video gadget maker, hired lobbyists to set up D.C. meetings for the first time.

Nearly two dozen smaller ISPs have told FCC chairman Ajit Pai that the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order reclassifying ISPs as Title II common carrier telecom services "hangs like a black cloud", a cloud they are urging him to dispel ASAP. Things could get noisier if and when the FCC begins to formally review a rollback. The agency, he added, will also look to abolish the old "main studio" rule, which requires radio and TV broadcasters to maintain a key studio in the markets in which they have a license.

The FCC received about 4 million public comments in the rulemaking proceeding leading up to its 2015 regulations, with the large majority of people supporting strong net neutrality rules. The streaming-video company said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn't hurt it because it's now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere with its service.