Tech lobby goes to bat on net neutrality

Tech lobby goes to bat on net neutrality
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In advance of the looming fight over the highly contentious net neutrality, a lobbying group representing some of tech’s biggest names met with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday to argue in support of net neutrality.

In a document released on Wednesday shedding light on the details of the meeting, the Internet Association (IA) said that it advocated for the Open Internet Order, which was passed under Obama-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015.

IA, whose members include Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, argue that consumers would benefit most from preserving the rules, which Republicans in Congress and at the FCC have indicated a strong interest in rolling back.

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“The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online,” IA wrote in their ex parte. “Consumers want and need their internet experience preserved and protected, regardless of the legal or regulatory mechanism.”

IA's best efforts might come up short, though.

An industry source told The Hill that they expect Pai to take action on net neutrality in May. The chairman will specifically target the reclassification of broadband providers as common carriers, which gives the FCC jurisdiction to regulate them.

Pai and Republicans have said that they would like to see regulation of broadband providers returned to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be able to police companies by making sure that they’re living up to their own user terms of service.

Pai has defended this position, arguing FCC oversight has been detrimental to broadband investment.

“After the FCC embraced utility-style regulation, the United States experienced the first-ever decline in broadband investment outside of a recession,” Pai said in February. “In fact, broadband investment remains lower today than it was when the FCC changed course in 2015.”

With Republicans having the majority in the House, Senate and at the FCC, there is little stopping them from advancing their agenda against net neutrality.

Democratic lawmakers such as Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNet neutrality supporters predict tough court battle over FCC's repeal plan Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump MORE (Mass.) have countered the Republican perspective in Congress, arguing that preserving net neutrality rules protects consumers from internet service providers who could favor their interests over their customers.

Schatz last week pushed back against the premise of FTC enforcement of rules that broadband companies set for themselves tweeting, “Telecom companies promising not to do bad things not gonna cut it.”

Markey offered a similar line of argument to The Hill on Friday.

“What is the cable company's privacy policy? There is no privacy policy, right? [Pai’s] policy is, you have no policy,” Markey said.

“By subcontracting it to the cable and telephone industry, they’re essentially saying they’re just going to allow for the monetization of the private information of all Americans for the profit of the broadband industry.”