FCC chairman expected to unveil strategy to reverse net neutrality

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Mag 8, 2017

Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is set to release a plan Wednesday to roll back the government's net neutrality rules, setting the stage for another major showdown between tech companies and Internet service providers over the future of the Web.

He said the rules have led to reduced investment, which he said has cost 75,000 to 100,000 jobs such as laying cable and digging trenches to help bring high-speed internet access to rural and low income areas.

Pai's objections have centered around the FCC's decision to classify broadband as a telecommunications service to be regulated under a section of law known as Title II. Title II refers for regulations such as "net neutrality".

"There's common ground here, and there's room for an agreement here", Pai said. It will also restore the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to protect online privacy for the entire internet ecosystem.

Pai's proposal will voted on at the FCC's May 18 open meeting.

His plan, though still vague in details, is a sharp change from the approach taken by the last F.C.C. administration, which approved rules governing a concept known as net neutrality in 2015. The rules were meant to ensure an open internet, meaning that no content could be blocked by broadband providers and that the internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey predicted Pai's plan to overturn the rules would face a "tsunami of resistance".

"The FCC, on a party-line vote, made a decision to impose a set of heavy-handed regulations upon the internet", Pai said. Among the nation's 12 largest Internet service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6% or $3.6 billion between 2014 and 2016 - the first two years of the Title II era, he said.

The rules prevent internet service providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from blocking or throttling data traffic flowing over their networks in most circumstances.

"I am confident that the millions of Americans who weighed in with the FCC in support of the open internet order will once again make their voices heard to demonstrate how wrongheaded this approach is", said Senate Democrat Leader Charles Schumer.

Pai's NPRM apparently proposes eliminating Net Neutrality guidelines put in place under the previous FCC administration.

One of the reported revelations to arise from Pai's meeting with the telecom lobby was a plan that would require ISPs to simply voluntarily agree to uphold net neutrality principles while removing numerous legal protections that were established to enforce those roles.

Reuters and other news outlets reported in early April that Pai was moving quickly to replace neutrality rules.

In the 2015 debate, many people - galvanised in part by firms such as Netflix - wrote in support of net neutrality provisions.

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