The Federal Communications Commission's proposal to dismantle net neutrality deletes the past two years of regulatory progress and essentially thrusts the internet back into the mid-1990s. Under chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC plans to remove the current ban on throttling, blocking or prioritization schemes, and revoke the internet conduct standard, which allows the commission to investigate zero-rating plans. Pai's proposal strips the internet of its status as a "common carrier" under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, drastically reducing regulation for internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T.
As the FCC tears down the rules that sustain a free and open internet, it's placing an incredible amount of faith in the honesty of for-profit ISPs. To offset decreased oversight, the FCC is relying on a new brand of transparency: ISPs will be responsible for publicly disclosing whether they're blocking, throttling or prioritizing any online content. Remember, these practices aren't prohibited in the new proposal.
"We return, with minor adjustments, to the transparency rule adopted in the 2010 Open Internet Order, which provides consumers and the Commission with essential information while minimizing the burdens imposed on ISPs," the FCC writes.
The idea here is that public disclosure of these historically banned practices -- and a reduction in other, more technical reporting obligations -- will allow consumers to make informed decisions about their internet provider. Of course, this only holds up if customers have more than one provider to choose from. Many Americans have just one or two ISPs in their area.