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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai earlier this year. Photo: Robin Groulx / Axios

The FCC's plan to roll back 2015 net neutrality rules will allow internet providers to block or throttle content or offer paid fast lanes as long as they tell their customers and allow regulator oversight, senior FCC officials told reporters today.

The FCC's argument is that net neutrality rules produced more costs than benefits. Officials say that broadband providers are spending less on their networks because of the rules, something that is disputed by supporters of the rules. FCC officials also say lifting the blanket ban on "fast lanes" will be good for consumers but also for web services that would have to pay for preferential access.

  • The proposal repeals the underlying legal foundation for the 2015 prohibitions on blocking and throttling. It also dismisses the idea that FCC could impose those rules using a different legal route floated in the past.
  • It eliminates the ban on paid "fast lanes" for certain content. The officials argued that could be a boon to industries like telemedicine or self-driving cars, which might require an especially fast connection. But the bigger battlefield here is streaming video, with the possibility that an ISP like Comcast could make Netflix or Hulu pay more to reach their customers.
  • Asked about the possibly of internet plans where consumers would pay different prices for different levels of access, anFCC official said the agency believes that ISPs may start offering new services as a result of lifting the ban on paid prioritization but didn't say what those would be.
  • Companies will have to say whether they are engaging in the activities previously banned under the 2015 rules or if they are prioritizing traffic to a company they're affiliated with. Those policies could still be deemed anticompetitive or in violation of consumer protection laws by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

The decision to lift the rules will open the door to internet providers charging customers more when they want to access a certain website (or set of websites) or giving them discounts to access content the provider produced.

What they're saying:

  • Conservative lawmakers hailed the decision but indicated they are still interested in reaching a legislative compromise on the issue, although the odds for such a bill still look fairly bleak. Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on a key tech subcommittee, said that "the Trump FCC is choosing to ignore the public and push forward with a harmful plan to kill net neutrality and destroy the internet as we know it."
  • The tech industry slammed the proposal. "This proposal undoes nearly two decades of bipartisan agreement on baseline net neutrality principles that protect Americans' ability to access the entire internet," said Michael Beckerman, the head of the Internet Association.
  • A group representing cable companies said it "fully" supports the plan.

What's next? A draft of the plan will be released tomorrow. The FCC is expected to vote on it in mid-December. It will likely be challenged in court if — as expected — it is approved.

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Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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