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Bad news for people who like the Internet.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government regulatory body that’s spent much of 2014 deliberating whether to make the Internet a public utility, will abandon its earlier promise to make a decision on new net neutrality rules this year.
Instead, FCC Press Secretary Kim Hart told the Daily Dot in an email, “there will not be a vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalized in 2015.”
Obama campaigned on a promise of net neutrality, the general concept that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to dictate the rules of how fast customers can access certain sites. But Internet freedom advocates’ optimism that the president would deliver waned as years of his presidency passed without any progress. And they threw up their hands when he appointed Tom Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, to head the FCC.
Since then, the issue has become almost stereotypically political. Though Wheeler was Obama’s pick, the FCC is an independent body. After the Democrats were shellacked in the midterm elections last week, Obama on Tuesday launched a campaign to enshrine net neutrality into law, and openly called on Wheeler to make the Internet a utility. But Wheeler fired back with a press release that effectively called Obama just another of the almost four million Americans who had written to the FCC to express an opinion on the issue. (It’s worth noting that, except for those written by Internet providers, comments were almost unanimously in favor of net neutrality.)
News that the FCC will delay its decision is particularly devastating for net neutrality proponents, because the issue has suddenly become more partisan than before the most recent election, and is very unlikely to improve with a Republican-held Congress. In one heavily-mocked tweet, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called net neutrality “Obamacare for the Internet,” a statement so nonsensical that Cruz deleted it some hours later. Other powerful Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and likely 2015 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also expressed their opposition to Obama’s plan.
A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.