The US Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will vote next month to rollback rules adopted in 2015 that require Internet service providers to treat all online traffic equally, a media report said. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Tuesday that the so-called net neutrality rules “imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations” upon the Internet that have “depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks”, Xinhua news agency reported. “Today I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades,” Pai said.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet.” The FCC will vote on the proposal, known as Restoring Internet Freedom Order, at its December 14 open meeting. Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat FCC Commissioner, lashed out at Pai’s proposal as “ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the Internet every day”. Mignon L. Clyburn, another Democrat FCC Commissioner, criticized the plan as “simply a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation”. However, Pai’s proposal is almost certain to pass, with Republicans controlling three of the commission’s five seats. Under the rules adopted in 2015 under former President Barack Obama, internet service providers may not block or degrade access to legal content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.

They also may not favour some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for payment. In addition, the Obama-era rules ban providers from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. In the past two years, AT&T Inc. and other broadband providers have asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the net neutrality rules. Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of Internet Association, a trade association that represents Internet companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, said that Pai’s proposal, if implemented, “represents the end of net neutrality as we know it and defies the will of millions of Americans”. Jonathan Spalter, CEO of the industry group USTelecom, welcomed the move as a critical step towards “closing the digital divide and ensuring net neutrality protections for all”.