US FCC chairman to propose reversing 'net neutrality' rules

Recommended Reading: April 27, 2017

27 April, 2017

One of President Trump's more ambitious appointees is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who on Wednesday unveiled an outline for rolling back Obama Administration rules that regulated the web like a 1890s railroad.

In a speech, Ajit Pai, a former FCC Commissioner under Chairman Tom Wheeler and, under President Trump, Chairman of a tonally different regulator, laid his plan to claw back the consumer protections enabled by Title II.

"Going forward, we can not stick with regulations from the Great Depression that were meant to micromanage Ma Bell", Pai said in a speech at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Second, we are proposing to eliminate the so-called Internet conduct standard.

Pai announced that instead of unilaterally stripping the FCC of its power to regulate the internet as a utility, he is opting for a transparent rule-making process so the people can "weigh in".

By Pai, a Republican nominated as chairman by Trump at the beginning of the year, had signaled his intention to roll back these rules nearly immediately after he took charge.

Companies say they don't want the stricter regulation that comes with the net neutrality rules.

The rules approved by the FCC in 2015 prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane", to certain internet services over others.

Net neutrality rules were passed in 2015, at a time when Democrats were a majority on the FCC.

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Despite being a wonkish policy, net neutrality is a popular internet topic, cited by supporters and opponents as respectively either vital to or somehow an enemy of internet freedom. That will give broadband providers and tech companies such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google an opening to join what promises to be a pitched policy battle around the rules.

"Earlier today, I shared with my fellow Commissioners a proposal to reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light-touch regulatory framework that served our nation so well during the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and the first six years of the Obama Administration", Pai said. "The most important proposal is the elimination of the Title II common carrier classification for Internet providers because this designation subjected them to public utility-like regulation". In normal human speak, their worry is that a company like Time-Warner/Spectrum would provide faster, better access to their own services and throttle competitors.

Blumenthal said jobs and economic progress - not just consumer convenience - is at stake if the FCC rules are changed.

Read: at Is Net Neutrality?

"Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers", the letter said.

In an interview with Bloomberg later on Wednesday, Pai said that he would welcome a Congressional attempt to replace such protections. His full proposal is expected to be published online Thursday and be voted on by the FCC on May 18.

Etsy brought sellers to meet with legislators or their staff members in Washington last month, although the company says the visit involved other issues in addition to net neutrality. The advocacy group Free Press, which compiled statistics from stock reports, recently said that total capital expenditure spending by 13 carriers (including Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon) increased in the two years following passage of the net neutrality rules.

"And it's particularly unfortunate to hear the Chairman of the FCC deploy fact-free rhetoric about supposed "government control over the internet" - a baseless distortion of the actual issues at stake in this debate".

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