After months of tension and a variety of smaller milestones, the FCC order voiding 2015’s net neutrality rules and instating its own, much weaker ones will finally take effect on June 11, the agency’s chairman Ajit Pai said today.
Although the rule was approved in December, entered into the Federal Register in February, and under ordinary circumstances would have taken effect in April, “Restoring Internet Freedom” had one extra step that needed to be taken.
The Office of Management and Budget needed to take a look at the rule because it changed how the industry reported information to the government, and under the Paperwork Reduction Act that authority had to approve the final version.
That approval was granted on May 2, the FCC explained in a news release, and June 11 was picked as the effective date “to give providers time to comply with the transparency requirement.”
The Congressional Review Act paperwork filed yesterday means the Senate will soon be voting on whether the rules can stay in place, but the likelihood of that bill passing the Senate and House and getting signed by the President is pretty much nil. Still, the votes will put proponents and opponents of net neutrality in the open and potentially make it an election issue.
Lawsuits alleging various flaws in the process or rule itself may eventually cause it to be rolled back, but that will take months, if not years, and lacking evidence of direct harm judges are unlikely to take the rules out of effect while considering the case.
Don’t expect much to happen immediately should the new rule take place; the industry is too savvy to blast out some new, abusive rules under the far more permissive framework established by this FCC. But as before, consumers will often be the first to spot shady behaviors and subtle changes to the wording of marketing or user agreements, so keep your eyes open and tip your friendly neighborhood tech blog if you see something.
In a statement accompanying Pai’s announcement, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel made her position clear:
The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land. The agency turned a blind eye to serious problems in its process—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in its files.
The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed. I raised my voice to fight for internet freedom. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too.