RIF Rules, Title I Classification to Take Effect June 11
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

RIF Rules, Title I Classification to Take Effect June 11

The FCC’s restoring Internet freedom (RIF) declaratory ruling, report and order, and order adopted in December, will take effect June 11, according to a notice scheduled for publication in tomorrow’s “Federal Register” announcing that the Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection required by the order’s enhanced transparency rule.

The FCC said in a press release today that it set June 11 as the effective date “to give providers time to comply with the transparency requirement.”

The WC docket 17-108 RIF item reverses most of the actions taken by the FCC in its 2015 open Internet order: It restores the pre-2015 regulatory classification of broadband Internet access services (BIAS) as Communications Act Title I information services, in place of the 2015 classification of those services as Title II common carrier services; it also reinstates the pre-2015 classification of mobile broadband as a private mobile service, thus removing it from Title II regulation as well; it eliminates the 2015 order’s bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, as well as its general conduct standard; and it specifies that BIAS are interstate services and preempts state actions that conflict with the federal regime for Internet service providers (ISPs) (TR Daily, Dec. 14, 2017).

The RIF enhanced transparency requirements direct ISPs to disclose if they engage in blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or prioritization of affiliate content or services.

When the FCC released the text of the RIF item, it said that the entire item would only take effect after the Commission received approval for information collection requirements by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act, on a date to be specified in a “Federal Register” notice announcing the OMB approval.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have been working toward reversing the December RIF action through a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution. Yesterday, Senate Democrats filed a discharge petition to force a floor vote on the CRA resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) (TR Daily, May 9).

In a statement issued this morning, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “I strongly support a free and open Internet. And that’s exactly what we’ve had for decades, starting in the Clinton Administration. The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure and imposed heavy-handed Title II rules on the Internet economy. It doesn’t make sense to apply outdated rules from 1934 to the Internet, but that’s exactly what the prior Administration did.”

He added that after Title I reclassification of BIAS on June 11, “these unnecessary and harmful Internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years will be restored. The Federal Trade Commission will once again be empowered to target any unfair or deceptive business practices of Internet service providers and to protect American’s broadband privacy. Armed with our strengthened transparency rule, we look forward to working closely with the FTC to safeguard a free and open Internet.”

The FTC Act imposes a common carrier exemption on FTC authority.

“On June 11, we will have a framework in place that encourages innovation and investment in our nation’s networks so that all Americans, no matter where they live, can have access to better, cheaper, and faster Internet access and the jobs, opportunities, and platform for free expression that it provides. And we will embrace a modern, forward-looking approach that will help the United States lead the world in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. For months, many politicians and special interests have tried to mislead the American people about the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Now everyone will be able to see the truth for themselves,” Chairman Pai added.

In a statement, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who dissented from the RIF decision along with fellow Democratic Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn, who announced her resignation last month (TR Daily, April 17), called today’s announcement on the effective date of the RIF actions “profoundly disappointing.

“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,” Commissioner Rosenworcel continued.

“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,” she added.

In a statement, acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said, “A free and open internet is critical to New York, and to our democracy. The repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online. This office has proudly led the suit to block this illegal rollback of net neutrality — and we certainly won’t stop now. We look forward to making our case in court.”

In February, the New York Attorney General’s Office, led by Eric Schneiderman who resigned this week in the wake of allegations by several women that he assaulted them (TR Daily, May 8), challenged the order in federal appeals court (TR Daily, Feb. 22). —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

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