The head of the Federal Communications Commission will announce a plan to overturn net neutrality on Wednesday, while most Americans are distracted by the day before Thanksgiving.
FCC head Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, wants to overturn President Obama’s landmark regulation of the internet as a public utility, preventing internet-service providers from blocking, slowing or charging more for access to content of their choosing. On Wednesday, Pai will set a final vote on the matter for Dec. 14, reports Reuters.
Net neutrality advocates find the timing to be suspect. “There’s a reason that Pai is releasing a plan that he knows will be overwhelmingly unpopular with voters from across the political spectrum on one of the busiest travel days of the year when many journalists are out of the office,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, told Mashable.
The principle behind net neutrality is that all data is equally accessible, preventing big companies from paying more for preferential treatment and squeezing consumers and small businesses. Pai is an outspoken opponent of net neutrality, claiming it amounts to government control of the internet.
He opened a public-comment period in May, which drew more than 22 million comments and stoked allegations that the field was tainted with automatic submissions. The FCC ignored requests to disclose records and is facing a lawsuit over it. Meanwhile, a study found that nearly 100% of non-automated comments opposed plans to overturn net neutrality, Ars Technica reported in August.
In July, a group representing major technology companies including Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet asked Pai to drop his plans.
“We’ll learn the gory details in the next few days, but we know that Pai intends to dismantle the basic protections that have fueled the internet’s growth,“ net neutrality advocate group Free Press said.