Comcast Rejoices as FCC Moves to Ditch Net Neutrality Rules

Here’s how the proposed rollback could change the Internet.

Comcast Center in Philadelphia, PA against clouds and a blue sky. andrewhuynh265 | iStock

It looks like Comcast’s net neutrality Twitter campaign and stream of blog posts on the controversial topic will actually pay off. On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai announced his plan to repeal net neutrality protections, queuing the chagrin of broadband advocates and concerned consumers across the country.

The net neutrality regulations were created in 2015 under the Obama administration to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon treat all companies equally online. The rules specifically helped to maintain an open Internet by preventing providers from blocking or slowing content online, for example.

In a news release, Pai said his proposal, which goes up for an official FCC vote on December 14, would allow the federal government to “stop micromanaging the internet.” Instead of “heavy-handed, utility-style” regulations, Pai says, 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.” So if Comcast, for example, chooses to block a website online for whatever reason, it simply needs to inform consumers of its practices.

On Tuesday, Comcast swiftly threw its support behind Pai’s announcement. In two blog posts — one written by Comcast Senior VP and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen and the other by Comcast Cable president and CEO Dave Watson — the executives say they commend Pai’s efforts to repeal the regulations. According to Cohen, the rules, specifically Title II classification, have harmed broadband investment and innovation.

In an enthusiastic tone, Cohen applauded the idea that ISPs would remain transparent about their net neutrality practices, though the Obama-era rules would be lifted. “It is paramount that consumers know what their ISPs are doing,” he said. And Watson emphasized that the proposal to change the rules will not change Comcast’s customer protections. “The FCC proposes to require us to continue to keep customers clearly informed on our net neutrality practices,” he wrote. Comcast maintains that it does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.

Pai’s proposal also moves some regulatory power to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has the ability to take legal action against companies that breach commitments they’ve made to the public. Cohen welcomed the restoration of the FTC’s role in overseeing information services. “The [FFC and FTC] together will have the authority to take action against any ISP which does not make its open internet practices clearly known to consumers, and id needed enforce against any anti-competitive or deceptive practices,” he wrote.

Many people are unhappy with the Pai’s proposal and aren’t buying statements from Comcast and other ISPs.

Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler who created the 2015 rules called Pai’s decision “tragic” and “only for the benefit of the largely monopoly services that deliver the Internet to the consumer.”

One FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny said on Twitter that the FCC is “upending the Internet as we know it, not saving it.”

Companies like Google and Netflix came forward on Tuesday to denounce the proposal.

In July, broadband advocates and web giants like Facebook and Amazon, rallied together on the Internet’s Net Neutrality “Day of Action.” Some organizers are now rallying for countrywide protests on December 7 outside of Verizon stores and lawmakers’ district offices.

The official December 14 FCC vote will likely repeal current net neutrality rules as the five-member agency has a Republican majority, including Pai. A draft of the chairman’s plan titled Restoring Internet Freedom Order will be released to the public on Wednesday, November 22.