Trump FCC Appointments Sound Death Knell For Net Neutrality


U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will succeed Barack Obama in January 2017, has appointed two staunch opponents of net neutrality. They will supervise the transition at the Federal Communications Commission.

Trump's transition team has named Mark Jamison, former lobbyist for Sprint Corp., and Jeff Eisenach, an economist, as the people responsible for managing the hiring at, and overseeing the policies of, the FCC.

The president-elect's choices are indicative of a government that will seemingly have a "lighter" focus on regulation, and lean more toward massive mergers in the telecom sector, analysts observe.

In February 2015, the FCC voted to reclassify the internet as a public utility, to prevent the throttling of data, as well as the creation of fast lanes — for which consumers have to pay extra — on the internet.

The current net neutrality rules require that broadband providers treat all types of content that pass via their network with fairness. They would be debarred from increasing the speed of the content or prioritizing it for a company that paid more, and are as well prohibited from blocking or slowing down the traffic from alternative sources. This was upheld by the court in June this year.

However, telecommunications and cable companies have made it clear that they would be appealing the judgment. With Trump now at the helm of the government, it seems that they will have an ally in his appointees.

Eisenach And Jamison On Net Neutrality

It is no secret that both Jamison and Eisenach are not in favor of net neutrality and have expressed support for major mergers in the not-so-distant past.

In 2014, Eisenach, who was a visiting lecturer at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in an article that "net neutrality is not about protecting consumers from rapacious Internet Service Providers (ISPs)." He also elaborated that such a move would not serve to lower prices and aid local broadband services, and it did not have anything to do with the promotion of free speech.

"The rules favored by net neutrality advocates would ban or restrict payments from one type of business — 'edge providers' — to another type of business — broadband ISPs — while placing no limits on what ISPs charge consumers," he noted at the time.

Jamison, on the other hand, has called for a ruling that is "beyond net neutrality to a framework that resolves disputes, enables leadership and innovation, and protects the poor." In an article for the AEI in June, Jamison said that net neutrality in the country was not benefiting the people it was designed to aid.

That Trump is likely to undo certain policies that are in the 2015 Open Internet Order is expected once he succeeds Obama on Jan. 20.

The FCC consists of five commissioners, inclusive of the chairman, who are appointed by the president and who receive a nod from the Senate. Three of the commissioners can be from one political party. Who Trump chooses as the chairman could tilt the scales in favor of the ruling party.

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