FCC chair: Net neutrality advocates misrepresenting the truth

FCC chair: Net neutrality advocates misrepresenting the truth
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai says advocates of net neutrality are misrepresenting his plan to roll back the controversial Obama-era internet rules.

“For example, saying that you will lose your internet access. That’s simply absurd,” Pai told Recode’s Decode podcast on Wednesday.

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"Anyone who had internet access before these rules in 2015 knows that that’s not the case. We weren’t living in a dystopia before the FCC delivered these Depression-era rules to save us,” he added.

In the interview, Pai defended his plan to end net neutrality, arguing it would help foster competition in the telecommunications industry by making it easier for smaller broadband providers to grow and gain market share.

The net neutrality rules make internet service providers treat all web traffic equally. The rules also classified broadband companies as "common carriers," allowing them to be regulated by the FCC similar to public utilities.

His plan would scrap that "Title II" provision reclassifying the companies and hand over authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Companies would be asked to voluntarily enact net neutrality principles through terms of service with customers.

Pai said the Justice Department and FTC would be strong regulators, a claim critics dispute.

“Title II regulations actually squeeze the smaller networks,” he said.

“Just last week, we heard from 22 small ISPs [internet service providers], companies that nobody has ever heard of in towns very people will ever visit. What they told us is 'we are being inhibited.' "

Pai said the companies told him "Title II hangs like a black cloud," keeping small broadband providers from getting financing and enhancing their networks.

Critics of Pai's plan say that it would benefit large internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T at the expense of smaller startups, which might not be able to afford to cut deals with internet service providers in the way that internet behemoths like Google or Microsoft could.