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FCC Ignores Net Neutrality Talk At CES As The Policy Is Expected To End Under Trump Admin

William Mansell
With the end of Net Neutrality near, the FCC surprisingly ignored the topic for the most part at CES 2017.

Following Donald Trump’s victory in November speculation has been rampant about what Trump’s actual plans for foreign policy, healthcare, immigration, etc. would be — but there is at least one sure thing when Trump is sworn in Jan. 20, Net Neutrality is dead.

Since Trump was elected the Federal Communications Chair Tom Wheeler has announced he's stepping down, FCC member Jessica Rosenworcel was not reconfirmed by the Senate and its remaining members say the Net Neutrality is coming to an end. Both Wheeler and Rosenworcel were advocates for Net Neutrality. Two of the the three remaining FCC members left are staunchly against the policy.

Noting that, it was a surprise Thursday when FCC members Ajit Pai, Mike O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn failed to mention Net Neutrality by name during a discussion about the FCC and 2017. While mostly dancing around the subject, Clyburn did state her support of the Open Internet Order, which created the rules in place for Net Neutrality.

In a joint op-ed posted shortly before the forum, Clyburn and Federal Trade Commission member Terrell McSweeny stated rolling back the Open Internet Order will hurt consumers.   

“... efforts to roll back the Open Internet Order would be harmful to consumers and to innovators,” the op-ed stated. “Ensuring that the internet remains a fountain of innovation and disruption is at the heart of open internet policy. The elimination of clear rules protecting a free and open internet would put us in uncharted territory and would create uncertainty for ISPs, edge providers and consumers alike.”

Clyburn fears that killing Net Neutrality would leave those already underserved even more at-risk.

“ The decisions that we make should positively impact all (people) and the 50 million+ people that have a disability,” Clyburn said Thursday at CES. “What are the things that we are doing to ensure their experience when it comes to meda, technology and the like, that they are more robust.”

O’Rielly, who could barely keep the smile off his face when the moderator mentioned the new admin and Wheeler stepping down, said (again without mentioning Net Neutrality by name) government needs to regulate businesses less.

For O’Rielly it’s about “economic freedom,” which he said will allow “ providers and equipment manufactures and everybody that’s out on the floor today (to) have a greater opportunity to focus on customers, consumers and business models than everything that’s happening at the FCC.”

What is Net Neutrality?

The Open Internet Order and Net Neutrality essentially do a few main things: Make it illegal for broadband providers to block access legal content, to throttle internet users on the basis of the type of content they are consuming and makes it illegal for paid prioritization. This means ISPs can't create "fast lanes" that would allow them to favor or prioritize certain content over others.

The pro Net Neutrality folks see the policy as a way to even the playing field for all internet users to make sure all data is treated equally. They say Net Neutrality is a way to prevent companies from charging more for certain types of data, like streaming video. If the policy is raveled, proponents say it could negatively impact those in lower tax brackets.

Opponents of Net Neutrality, including FCC member Pai, say the policy is a major government overreach that stymies innovation and hurts consumers. While he didn’t bring it up Thursday at CES, Pai previously said:

“Unfortunately, the FCC lately has been providing Free State’s scholars with plenty of material to criticize. But I’m optimistic that last month’s election will prove to be an inflection point—and that during the Trump Administration, we will shift from playing defense at the FCC to going on offense. Indeed, I believe the new year will bring the best opportunity in the Free State Foundation’s existence for it to advance public policy that reflects our shared principles.

“... On the day that the Title II Order was adopted, I said that “I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered.” Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction will come true. And I’m hopeful that beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility.I’m also optimistic that the FCC will once again respect the limits that Congress has placed on our authority. We can’t simply enact whatever we think is good public policy. We also have to make sure that we have the power to do so. But the Commission hasn’t done a very good job of that recently.”