FCC chief lays out attack on 'net neutrality' rules

Wendy Jensen
May 8, 2017

In an interview with the publication, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she is "uncomfortable" with the proposed changes to net neutrality rules brought by Donald Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, including a plan to have internet service providers voluntarily agree to abide by open internet principles. Pai has always been opposed to treating Internet service as a utility, saying at Mobile World Congress that the FCC's utility-style regulations "created uncertainty in the market, and uncertainty is the enemy of growth".

Pai is expected to release the draft text of his initial proposal April 27 and schedule it for a vote at the FCC's May 18 meeting.

The Obama-era regulations led to major broadband privacy rules that make it more hard for users of the internet to have their browsing and other data collected. There were concerns about potential price regulation, even though the FCC had said it won't set prices for consumer internet service.

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"There's common ground here, and there's room for an agreement here", Pai said. He called net neutrality a "black cloud" for internet providers that has caused "less access, fewer American jobs" thanks to declines in infrastructure investments.

In keeping with that theme, Pai will look to loosen the government's oversight of Internet service providers and wireless carriers.

Pai told reporters Thursday he has been meeting with major internet companies and trade groups to discuss ways of protecting an open internet. "Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet". Ed Markey (D-Mass.), prior to Pai's speech. Our ability to have our voices heard in this democracy depends on an open Internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance, rather than financial backing.

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Doug Brake, of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank which often opposes strong regulation of tech firms, welcomed Pai's announcement.

The neutrality rules, Brake said, created "a messy regulatory framework that we should shed", which effectively made the internet "a heavily regulated public utility". "Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress in 1996 and repeatedly reaffirmed by Democratic and Republican FCCs alike?" he said.

"We fully support reversal", Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in statement Wednesday afternoon. This regulation gave the FCC the power to more strictly regulate internet providers like a utility or phone company, and was passed, in part, to prevent broadband companies from from blocking or slowing access speeds.

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Chairman Pai is expected to unveil his official plans for net neutrality this week. However, he believes the "heavy-handed" net neutrality rules were never needed, aren't helping people as intended, and are in fact doing the reverse.

Other reports by Info About Network

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