Pai Proposes Net Neutrality Reversal as Advocates Plot Pushback

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08 May, 2017

The only remaining Democratic representative on the Federal Communications Commission has expressed skepticism of the current administration's plans to change the existing net neutrality rules, according to Axios. Rather than protecting Americans and leveling the playing field, Pai argued Title II regulation has resulted in reduced industry investment and by extension cost the country as many as 100,000 jobs.

In a speech Wednesday at the Newseum in Washington, Pai, a Republican who was recently named the commission's chaiman by President Donald Trump, framed the move as a stark choice between free-market principles and heavy-handed government overreach.

Pai's announcement drew immediate fire from consumer advocates and others who claimed it will allow big broadband firms such as AT&T and Verizon to choke off or slow access to competing "edge" services like video operators Netflix and Amazon.

In 2015, the FCC voted to regulate high-speed internet service as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

Websites worry that without the rules they might lose access to customers.

Sources tell Politico Pai wants to introduce his idea tomorrow, then use his 2-1 partisan advantage to vote the plan into effect at the agency's May 18 meeting - with the hopes of finalizing the proceeding by the fall.

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"There's common ground here, and there's room for an agreement here", Pai said.

Pai's proposal is opposed by a variety of consumer advocacy groups and internet firms. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), have questioned whether the rules slow investment, pointing to the latest US Census data showing that investments from telecom companies were up from 2014 to 2015. He did indicate, however, that he supports a "free and open internet" and that he is more open to having a set of rules that is "more voluntary in nature" as described by Recode.

In addition to reversing the Title II decision, Pai proposed eliminating the "so-called Internet conduct standard", which he claimed gave the FCC "a roving mandate to micromanage the Internet".

Pai said he will offer a reversal of the 2015 order, to be voted on by the FCC next month, to return to "a light-touch regulatory framework", which he argued has "enabled the internet to grow and evolve beyond nearly anyone's expectations". He said Pai's proposal "creates an environment where we can have a fresh constructive dialogue".

More than 800 startups, investors and startup-oriented organizations are speaking out on behalf of net neutrality rules from the Obama administration. The FCC has already started chipping away at net neutrality beginning with the repeal of other internet regulations.

Public Knowledge adds that the FCC only classified broadband as a Title II utility service after the federal court ruled that the agency couldn't enforce any neutrality principles until it did so.


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