FCC CTO worries about a world without net neutrality

Ahead of Thursday's historic vote to repeal the Obama administration's open internet rules, the Federal Communications Commission's CTO Eric Burger penned concerns over whether internet providers would throttle and block access to websites.

Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

Net neutrality is dead.

The Obama administration-era policy that re-categorized the internet from an information service to a common carrier to give the Federal Communications Commission legal regulatory authority over internet providers was reversed in a 3-2 party-line vote Thursday.

The controversy around the decision and its effects, however, aren’t over.

Ahead of the vote, FCC CTO Eric Burger warned the repeal could damage the public interest.

In an internal email, Burger said the decision to repeal net neutrality didn’t account for internet service providers throttling or blocking access to websites -- legally and even if it’s paid for.

"Unfortunately, I realize we do not address that at all," Burger wrote in the email first reported by Politico.

"If the [internet service provider] is transparent about blocking legal content, there is nothing the [Federal Trade Commission] can do about it unless the FTC determines it was done for anti-competitive reasons," the email reportedly stated. "Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest."

One of the major defenses of the repeal was that the FCC didn’t need authority under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to regulate internet access because the FTC would.

The FCC told Politico that Burger’s concerns were “fully addressed” and written as part of the editing process.

The final report and order summarizing the FCC’s decision addresses Burger’s concerns, saying the agency “requires that [internet service providers] disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission, including any blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or affiliated prioritization.”

The FCC also wrote: “transparency, combined with market forces as well as antitrust and consumer protection laws, achieve benefits comparable to those of the 2015 ‘bright line’ [net neutrality] rules at lower cost.”

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