Last month, head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, unveiled plans to repeal the landmark 2015 rules known as "net neutrality," which are Obama-era regulations that prohibit internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content.
Pai argues the rules are too heavy-handed and have stifled innovation and investment in the broadband industry.
Tony Townsend, associate professor of Information Systems at Iowa State University, says it is likely that Pai’s plan will be voted through.
“I think it’s pretty much inevitable at this point,” he says. “It’s been a longstanding goal of the Republican Party to throw this stuff back.”
Net neutrality supporters, like Greg Rice of Cedar Rapids, worry that repealing net neutrality rules will allow larger internet service providers to block or slow down websites they view as competitors. Rice was one of several protesters outside a Verizon Wireless store in Cedar Rapids last week, protesting Ajit Pai’s proposal to repeal net neutrality regulation.
“I believe in the power of net neutrality,” says Rice. “I’m worried about what impact it will have ultimately on small businesses who are just starting out, trying to bring innovative technologies to existing business models.”
On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Townsend, as well as Chad Cleveland, the general manager of a locally-based internet service provider, Laurens Municipal Power and Communications.
Cleveland says he can’t speak for larger internet providers like Verizon or Mediacom, but he says that, “as far as Laurens is concerned, as small as we are, we haven’t been blocking or throttling access. We never have and we never will.”
On Thursday this week, the FCC will vote on whether or not to scrap the net neutrality rules. With Republicans in control of a majority of the FCC’s seats, Pai’s plan is expected to pass.