Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Federal Regulators Seek To Ease Rules For Internet Providers

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai during a hearing on net neutrality on Feb. 26, 2015.
Associated Press
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai during a hearing on net neutrality on Feb. 26, 2015.
Federal Regulators Seek To Ease Rules For Internet Providers
Federal Regulators Seek To Ease Rules For Internet Providers GUEST: Art Neill, executive director, New Media Rights at California Western School of Law

> The debate over net neutrality is back. The idea that Internet service providers shouldn't block or slow down our access to specific websites or allow individuals lights to pay for fast lanes work federal regulators want to undo some of the rules put in place under Obama that treated Internet providers like utilities. They say they support of net neutrality but they argue the rules were too much of a burden. Joining with more on how these discussions could impact our online browsing is art Neil. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Give me a net desk a quick -- give me a quick refresher. They can't prioritize data? There are of IR -- variety of ways to prioritize data. What they are getting at is of push for access providers to prefer their own services over that of others. A few years ago for instance Comcast had been accused of throttling Netflix and slowing it down a bit, making it not work quite as well. If you are Comcast customer you may have found that they have a competing service called X affinity. Maybe that will work a little bit better for me. Maybe I will just decide, Netflix doesn't work very well for me through this provider so I will use a different service that works better. That is how that works. It is the idea that by slowing certain services down and making other services work a little bit better, the provider can extract a little bit more money from the process. The chairman of the federal communications commission, they say this makes it harder for broadband companies to invest in infrastructure. He cited 22 small Internet providers that had 1000 customers are less who told the FCC that this made it harder for them to get financing. What is the argument against the current net neutrality rules? Internet access providers basically say two things. First, the rules aren't really necessary. They use terms like these rules may be heavy-handed. And they make claims that the rules somehow decreased investment. So they don't want to regulate the Internet like a utility. He wants to federal trade commission to take charge. You work with startup companies what is their concern about these changes and the way the Internet might function if these roles does rules -- rules are rolled back. You hear lot about consumer access to content in the open Internet debate. What doesn't get talked about enough is the fact that the open Internet rules are also about protecting the next generation of innovators. Originally with social networks there was a site called friend stirs. Then people went to MySpace and then people went to Facebook. All without the nudging, pushing, or forcing by Internet access providers. What this means is that for San Diego startups who are starting new kinds of websites, applications the very delivering services through the Internet means that they are on eight level playing field. That is really important. We are smaller competitors. We have some large fish also but a lot of people are just getting started. It makes a huge difference for them to be able to compete on a level playing field. They should not have the access provider involved in making their job harder to compete with larger companies. This is actually the second Obama Internet access rule that has been targeted. President Trump signed a low to remove the rules so it will go into effect at all. What does that rule mean for us as Internet users and what do these two things tell us about how our online interaction might be changing in the next few years? That rule was a significant -- step for the United States to take. It required providers to get explicit permission from you to use, share or sell information regarding your browsing. Even to use it in terms of personalize advertising. It is important to know that there were a lot of posts and efforts on the Internet after repeal that were a little bit off base. In terms of the idea that your Internet browsing history could be sold, that is not really how that works. That particular concept wasn't accurate. On the other hand, with those privacy rules, when you look at them in the bigger picture, I think that on the privacy side, at the very least you have some date privacy laws. You have the FTC who has some authority to step in if Internet access providers directly lie about what they are collecting and how they are using it. On the net neutrality side, in terms of its benefits for consumers and new types of companies, when you pull away any oversight from the Federal Communications Commission, you get these words from the administration and the FCC saying we still one and open Internet. We want you to be able to access freely the services you want to be able to access, but there is absolutely no teeth and no authority for the FCC to make sure that happens. I have been speaking with art Neil. Art, thank you so much. Thank You.

The debate over net neutrality is back.

That’s the principle that internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon should not block or slow down user access to specific websites, or allow individual sites to pay for faster access to customers.

Federal regulators want to undo some of the rules put in place under President Barack Obama that treated internet providers more like utilities. While they say they support the idea of net neutrality, they argue Obama’s rules from 2015 were too much of a burden.

Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai said last week that 22 small internet providers told the agency that the utility-like regulations had affected their access to financing.

"They said 'it had slowed, if not halted, the development and deployment of innovative new offerings which would benefit our customers,'" Pai said.

Pai would rather allow the Federal Trade Commissions to take the lead on protecting consumers. The FCC will vote May 18 on Pai's proposal to rollback net neutrality rules. If approved, there will be a months-long public comment period.

Art Neill, executive director of New Media Rights at California Western School of Law, joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about the impact these changes could have on consumers and startups.