The FCC is about to unveil its net neutrality roll-back plan

Ross Houston
May 4, 2017

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Wednesday speech that he wants to ditch the legal basis for the net neutrality rules that regulated internet service as a utility, like phone service. He said the FCC will "expunge net neutrality regulations from the Internet". In a Wednesday speech, Pai will reportedly announce that he is scheduling a vote for the FCC's May 18 meeting to begin the process of repealing the rules.

If a majority of commissioners vote to pass the item, the FCC would then seek public comment on the proposal before it drafts a final rule.

Chairman Ajit Pai used his keynote address at the NAB Show in Las Vegas Tuesday to argue that numerous FCC's existing media regulations are unnecessary and outdated.

Pai has called the net neutrality rules a mistake that "injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market". Pai says the net neutrality rulemaking was political and, in fact, has harmed smaller broadband providers. After Pai's announcement, a group of more than 800 names in tech sent Pai a business-minded denouncement of his plans to strip away the rules that shape net neutrality. But one thing Trump likely won't get much resistance on is net neutrality. Critics say competition will discipline broadband providers, and the rules discourage investment while exposing companies to a threat of heavier regulation including pricing mandates. However, the best and most permanent solution to the so-called issue of net neutrality is for Congress to modernize telecommunications laws. He said Pai's proposal "creates an environment where we can have a fresh constructive dialogue".

Although the Trump administration's expected plan would not completely eliminate the current rules, he contended, it could allow internet service providers to slow down the online traffic to companies that do not pay for an "internet fast lane", putting them at a competitive disadvantage. "It's nearly as if the special interests pushing Title II weren't trying to solve a real problem but instead looking for an excuse to achieve their longstanding goal of forcing the Internet under the federal government's control". They were favored by websites who said they would guarantee equal access to the internet to all but opposed by internet service providers, who said they could eventually result in rate regulation, inhibit innovation and make it harder to manage traffic.

That approach is known as Title II reclassification.

There's little evidence that the rules have hurt investment, however.

While the commission didn't apply numerous traditional utility restrictions - like pricing regulations - the classification was meant to ensure that internet providers would be subject to careful oversight.

Left-leaning advocacy groups and Democrats fear that if ISPs are left unchecked, they will abuse their power as gatekeepers of the internet.

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