The FCC Is Trying To Destroy The Internet

Today, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled its plans to roll back net neutrality regulations, and if those plans are successful, we can say goodbye to the internet as we know it.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai (Chip Somodevilla / Getty)

Right now, as in Australia, paying for internet in the United States guarantees you free and open access to any website or service you'd like. You don't have to pay extra for access to your favourite websites, and you don't have to subscribe to additional services if you want more bandwidth for Xbox Live.

This parity doesn't happen because ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable are kind, charitable organisations - it happens because of net neutrality, or the principle that everything on the internet should be equally accessible. In 2015, after a long and protracted battle, the FCC implemented regulations that would prevent internet companies from violating net neutrality. Without those regulations, companies such as Verizon could bundle together internet websites like broadband plans, charging customers more for access to what they see as premium sites and content.

The Trump administration, never one to shy away from supporting billion-dollar corporations, wants to make that OK. Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC and a former counsel at Verizon, today unveiled a plan to repeal those net neutrality rules, writing the following:

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2017 - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released the following statement on his draft Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which was circulated to his fellow Commissioners this morning and will be voted on at the FCC's Open Meeting on December 14:

"For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.

"But in 2015, the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet. That decision was a mistake. It's depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation.

"Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. 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.

"Additionally, as a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Notably, my proposal will put the federal government's most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers' online privacy.

"Speaking of transparency, when the prior FCC adopted President Obama's heavy-handed Internet regulations, it refused to let the American people see that plan until weeks after the FCC's vote. This time, it will be different. Specifically, I will publicly release my proposal to restore Internet freedom tomorrow -- more than three weeks before the Commission's December 14 vote.

"Working with my colleagues, I look forward to returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world."

The plan will go to vote on December 14, and is expected to pass thanks to a GOP-controlled commission. From there, perhaps there will be months and months of court battles, and perhaps everyone will be screwed. This could have global implications.

If you'd like to help fight this, even from Australia, here's a good place to start.

WATCH MORE: Gaming News


Comments

    Would this change impact us here in Aus at all? I don't imagine it will, but worth asking.

      Given our current approach to internet access (e.g. data plans) and the existence of companies which already do this with other services (Foxtel) I'd say there is a risk of it happening here, with eyes on the US to see how well this turns out.

      Potentially, yes. The 'premium site' mentality could extend to hosting services as well, and mean less bandwidth is available at the other end. That could impact everyone, not just US users.

      It will most definitely impact Australia, remembering how much we already bend over to their demands.

      It'll impact stuff like particular ISP gaining speed rights to particular internet activities. Imagine if 1 provider was able to throttle Youtube or Netflix from other companies, or a provider partnering with Sony so if you wanted to play PS4 online you might have to be with a particular provider, or pay rights to a particular provider to get that service at speeds you need.

      If you use a US website they may have to raise prices for all users to cover the premium, or apply more advertising or sell your data more ruthlessly. The change also gived the US ISPs the right to farm your data direct from traffic

      Also Australian ISPs could be charged for premium services to for their data usage across the state also... cause this change gives them the right to charge anyone anything they feel like.

      This will in general effect all global internet users directly or indirectly accessing US content, and if profitable will be a model pushed into other countries like how private health insurance or energy markets ruined Australia

      I hope not, but I think it is highly unlikely.

      Australia has never actually had the concept of net neutrality anyway - think of all the free services that don't come out of your data cap offered by some providers. Because of competition here, it tends to work in our favour. Any negative prioritisation of content would probably be considered anti-competitive and any move to do so would likely end up in court. Despite them messing some things up from time to time, the ACCC is, generally speaking, a pretty good organisation for protecting our consumer rights here in Australia.

      One of the effects of killing net neutrality in the US will be the chilling of entrepreneurship and innovation in the most valuable market in the world. With ISPs able to impose speed tiers on companies the big incumbent players will become even more entrenched. In that case, the effects will be felt around the world.

    Restore Internet freedom by removing the freedoms we currently have, that country is freaking insane.....

      If it has the word "Freedom" in the draft then it'll pass because you know.. Americans & their freedom .

        I do no think this word means what they think it means.

    Meanwhile Belgium just ruled that paid random loot packages in games are in fact a form a gambling, pretty clear example of corrupt politics vs representative politics.

    What's insane is that you already pay more to access premium content on the net, so you will potentially be paying twice to access the same content. If that ain't highway robbery I don't know what is.

      Maybe even more. Think of Foxtel, which has its basic package, then a further paywall for their premium content. That's already two times you're paying to access premium content, and now this adds that potential third level.

      If you want to toss in the cost of a VPN as well, that's a 4th cost.

      Not all, but plenty of media companies follow this sort of path, and as a business, I can see many of them being very comfortable in providing a better 'service' for the 'convenient' cost of $5 more per month. Particularly those aligned with the big ISP's like Comcast.

      And eventually it becomes the norm.

    Service providers need to abandon the US and go off-shore. Host Netflix, Amazon, gaming servers, etc in a country with a more efficient, reliable infrastructure that's not affected by corporate greed. Or at least anywhere that's not America.

      No they just need to abandon Washington DC. If they just disconnected DC saying they refuse to pay the Telcos exhorbident fees they will be chaos cause Trump will be tweeting fix this... and he will get No Twitter Service available due to FCC ruling.

      Even if they abonden the US. Their traffic is still bound to this stupid FCC ruling... and so is our traffic. This effect Australian users too.

        The worry is that the Trump government is allowing this with the hopes of controlling (buying with money or political favours like this one) communication channels. If White House unabashed propaganda is granted completely free of charge while accessing independent or opposing sources costs a premium, you are basically controlling the masses, especially the very same lower income working class that put him in power and may do it again in 2020.

      It wouldn't be long before they would launch an 'International' pack. This means that for a low, low price of $x/mo you can get access to sites and content not hosted in the United States!

      That is seriously what would happen if those services moved overseas, no matter what they do the ISP's can decide who or what is considered premium content. These changes don't screw services more than they screw the consumer who is trying to access it.

      I love how in the US a lot of these anti-consumer/community changes are dressed up as restoring freedom. It seems like they aren't giving the people more freedom, they are giving business more freedom to take advantage

    We are already moving to the models that the US are trying to introduce, it's called the NBN. You pay for the speed you want and the data limit you want.

    Now yes the US decision will impact Australian and worldwide users, but not one single person can answer the question of "how?". The American model can only be made law in the US, meaning that if you have an American IP address then you will be filtered under their laws. Internationally the US cannot restrict or change usage of other countries and their users. So with that in mind, can anyone out there answer HOW their changes are going to effect us without using the unproven and tin-foil-hat "Well if the US do it then the rest of the world will follow suit" bullshit.

      The NBN is nothing like this. You pay for the service upgrades. Just like moving from dial up to ADSL. You get a bandwidth quota and it pays no mind to what you're downloading just the raw volume of what's coming in and going out.

      Seeing as we access US servers every day it has heaps of potential to cause trouble here. Beyond the simple normalisation of the concept allowing anti-net neutrality groups to make a stronger argument, there's the issue of what 'standard' access means. This whole system works around the idea that you get a throttled connection to a server as the 'standard access' in order to create a sellable unthrottled fast lane.
      There's no reason why an international connection would have to default to the fast lane. In fact it would probably cause problems for the US providers if we don't have to pay the tolls. So we would default to the standard/slow lane and I'm willing to bet that there would be plenty of times where didn't even have the option of paying to get into the fast lane.
      Historically American companies have been really lazy, almost resistant, to the idea of taking Australian money. It's never really mattered how easy it would be on a technical level so I don't see any reason why they'd go out of their way for this.

      You might see a lot of tin foil hat stuff here but regardless of whether you see them there are massive global consiquences here.

        Beyond the simple normalisation of the concept allowing anti-net neutrality groups to make a stronger argumentOh no! Someone with a different opinion would be allowed to speak and MAYBE influence something. We wouldn't want that would we?

        This whole system works around the idea that you get a throttled connection to a server as the 'standard access' in order to create a sellable unthrottled fast lane.Australia surprisingly has no Net Neutrality laws. The most thats come from it is that some ISP owned or partnered sites, while loading a bit faster, are counted as free content if you are with that ISP.

        There's no reason why an international connection would have to default to the fast lane.US laws cannot change the way international business is conducted. Just like Australian laws (eg. IP site blocks) cannot affect any other international consumers.

        Historically American companies have been really lazy, almost resistant, to the idea of taking Australian money. It's never really mattered how easy it would be on a technical level so I don't see any reason why they'd go out of their way for this.Because there would be a raft of lawsuits brought upon them by other countries. It becomes too costly to not allow free access to international connections.

        You might see a lot of tin foil hat stuff here but regardless of whether you see them there are massive global consiquences here.Not so much tin foil hat, but a lot of "they might", "they possibly could", "maybe they will" type stuff here with no proof at all.

          We don't have protection because it won't be an issue here until it's an issue in the US. There's no point in doing it with Australian content.
          The laws can't change the way internatinal business is conducted but the reverse of that is true too. I'd like to see where Australians are guaranteed unrestricted access to American networks.

          I don't understand why you're digging in so hard on this. I can understand not caring but you seem to be aggressively against people having negative opinions about this. What has given you such massive faith that they might but won't, could but wouldn't or will not? You're right, there's no evil roadmap, but why do you think people have an interest in having net neutrality laws dismantled? Why do you want American ISPs to be free to screw people over?

            I don't understand why you're digging in so hard on this. I can understand not caring but you seem to be aggressively against people having negative opinions about this. What has given you such massive faith that they might but won't, could but wouldn't or will not? You're right, there's no evil roadmap, but why do you think people have an interest in having net neutrality laws dismantled? Why do you want American ISPs to be free to screw people over?
            I just prefer people be worried over FACTS, not insane over the top imaginary threats that more than likely will not come to pass due to there being protections in place in other areas. The change in AMERICAN Net Neutrality laws is going to open up not only their Government, but the companies that might plan to do these evil things everyone believes they are going to do to lawsuits that'll tie this shit up in court for decades to come. You think Google is going to sit back and allow Comcast or whoever throttle their traffic and hold them to blackmail? Hell no.

            All I'm saying is rather than going with all the American over-reaction stuff on the Internet, step back, do some research, ask questions, Google things and learn what there is out there protecting Australia. At the moment it's an AMERICAN only problem, and if it comes over here, then there's reason to worry and fight it.

              The problem is not Google. It's the little guys who can't afford to pay for court battles that rage on for decades.

              Also what does international business have to do with anything?

              Does TPG have an agreement with Comcast to allow me to access anything I want on their network at full speed? If Comcast did not have to provide that by law, why would they? They are not a charity.

              If the US government specifically creates laws to make this legal then what grounds would Google have to sue?

          Because there would be a raft of lawsuits brought upon them by other countries. It becomes too costly to not allow free access to international connections.

          Show me them. This is your rationalisation for something that is already happening. So show me them.

            Look up American Anti-Consumer laws.

              Every time I've discussed the subject with Americans it sounds like they have very few consumer protections compared to Australia, but beyond that you're the one making the claim surely you should do the effort of backing it up?

              Besides there's numerous accounts of Geoblocking for commercial reasons in media that go unchallenged, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and most other licensed streaming sites can and do block connections.

              I'm unaware of any lawsuits against them for doing so, despite it literally breaking Australian laws around grey importing.

              You get annoyed at people for supposedly putting on tin foil hats but it really just seems like those who are worried are more knowledgeable on the issue than you.

                America does have horrible consumer protections but (and this is not a defence of the lack) most places will do returns with no questions asked. It is not abnormal to go to the shop, buy 10 things, take them home, whomever at home chooses the 5 they like the most, then the other 5 are returned on the next trip.

                I bought a bunch of blu rays during an INSANE black friday sale (police stationed in the store and everything). Went back to relatives place, got online and looked up which ones were region free then returned the rest. About 50%.

              Why would I look up something completely unrelated to your argument? Or don't you understand what you are saying?

      Anyone that host content in the US will be affected, and since Australian's have to access content hosted there, it's going to suck.

        No proof that there is. Plus US laws, under current international conventions, cannot be forced on people outside the USA. Same way Australian laws are not applicable to USA citizens while they are in the USA. The laws in a single country can only be enforced in two ways:
        1 - An international offender is in the country
        2 - An international offender is extradited to the country in which the law was broken

          Man you're having a real issue understanding a key point about this law change... This law isn't making something illegal which as you say would have a limited effect on international countries, instead this removes laws companies in the US currently have to follow.

          If they do in fact start prioritising lanes (Which of course they will, why else lobby to remove protections?) then there would be nothing stopping them adding international access into any tier they feel like as @dogman said. They don't need to pass a law here, that law doesn't need to affect us for the businesses practices to.

          Then if say the Australian government didn't like being locked out of that digital economy by that and made a law basically preventing that... Well then your argument would be right and it would do pretty much nothing, because that law wouldn't affect US companies unless they did business directly with us.

          Now the only point you're right on is that we don't have net neutrality laws, and the few things businesses have done that would contravene such laws are relatively benign. It seems likely that if they tried to be the first to implement something like what the US companies are aiming for the backlash would be damaging and potentially spark regulation.

          I'd assume they want to avoid that and so slowly inch forwards to see what consumers will accept.

      Your electric company just mailed you. Your fridge is using too much electricity so they are only going to supply 1/2 the power needed to keep your food cool. If you would like to subscribe to the cool food package, that will be $9.99 a month.
      Also we don't currently offer access to the heater package, that is an optional extra. Contact our awesome sales team for prices.

      Isnt the whole net neutrality thing about ISP's charging external users/customers a fee to access their network?
      Wouldnt it be more like... any Telstra hosted websites are freely accessible by Telstra customers, however, if you come from Optus or anywhere else, you would need to buy a throttled)?

      @mase you claim that it wouldnt affect us in previous posts, but wouldnt a US hosted site be throttled access for anyone trying to access from Australia?
      It would mean that even our ISPs.. would have to actively make deals(which they already do) with the US based ISPs to allow their users to access the data unthrottled, right? And Im sure they would be generous enough to pass on the costs to us, their customers.

      Of course, unless we implement something like that here, we're not going to see the performance decrease with any Australian servers/services. And luckily companies like google/netflix/etc etc all have world wide servers anyway.

    Mate... if people thought the protests and such that came about because of the SSM debate were bad... wait until this starts getting talked about as a possible thing in Aus....

      Australia has no Net Neutrality laws. The worst we have to show for it is that some ISP owner or partnered sites are counted as "free content" and yes, do load faster as they are hosted locally.

        I understand that, i was going on from the article and what many comments here have already explained.

        What America does or tries to do, we follow suit... so if this goes ahead in America fully, its only a matter of time before our backwards pollies, and Telstra, get in on it

    Is it just me or does Ajit Pai have such a punchable face?

    Where do the big tech companies (Google, Apple, Netflix, Facebook, etc) stand on this? Assuming they're supportive of net neutrality, it would be amusing to see them turn these rule changes around on the ISPs campaigning for them.

    If an ISP says they're going to charge their customers more to access these (or any other) services, I'd like to see them turn around and say that they'll completely block all users from ISP's that don't fully support net neutrality. Customers would abandon in droves any ISP that couldn't give them access to Google, Netflix, Facebook, mobile app stores, etc.

    We might end up with a situation where net neutrality isn't the law, but is still ubiquitous simply because breaking from it would be commercial suicide for any ISP.

      Except portions of the US have access to only a single provider as they don't have regulation in place like we do in Australia to give ISP's the chance to compete with Telstra, so Google et al could block that provider and all of those customers have to grin and bear it because the alternative is to not have the internet

        Same principle still applies, though - if those people can't access the services they want on the internet, they're going to stop paying for it. How long is that sole ISP going to stay in business? They're hardly going to drive themselves out of business trying to cling to the principle of net-non-neutrality (or whatever the opposite of net neutrality is called).

          I disagree. Building the necessary infrastructure takes time, and like it or not many people view internet access as a necessity rather than a luxury. Sure, you could go without internet for a few years and wait for another ISP to build a network that reaches you, but 99.99% of people probably won't and will continue to pay, making their ISP even more profitable.

    The internet is overrated anyway... when the Aliens come and take over I'm sure their internet will be better anyway...

    The Trump administration, never one to shy away from supporting billion-dollar corporations, wants to make that OK.

    Isn't that just an extra bonus?

    Seriously, I think Trump is happy for the abolition of Net Neutrality so he doesn't have to see any "fake news" pointing out that he's a Skeleton Warrior.

    The plan will go to vote on December 14

    Am I being overly snarky or did they pick that date in hopes it would be buried under the Christmas rush?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now