Dems promise to stand up to FCC chair on net neutrality

Dems promise to stand up to FCC chair on net neutrality
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Democratic lawmakers are promising to fight the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman if he tries to roll back net neutrality rules. 

Democrats seem to be most concerned that Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai will set his sights on undoing the landmark Open Internet Order that implemented rules promoting net neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic be treated the same. 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on technology, promised that Pai would run into a “wall of opposition” from those committed to protecting net neutrality. But he said he's cautiously optimistic that Pai — who announced Monday that President Trump had selected him to chair the commission — may seek to find a middle ground.

“The Commerce Committee and the FCC have been islands of nonpartisanship over the years and only recently have there been so many party-line votes,” Schatz told The Hill Tuesday. “So perhaps Chairman Pai can get back to a place where the FCC does the work of trying to arrive at compromises.


“If he doesn’t, then both sides will dig in and we’ll fight accordingly, but my guidance to him would be to look for common ground, because the Democratic commissioners are reasonable people and usually we’re arguing about the how and not the what.”

As a minority-party member of the commission during the Obama administration, Pai was an enthusiastic opponent of many of the issues taken up by then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, with net neutrality at the forefront. 

Now that he’s at the wheel of the FCC, he’s expected to take up an anti-regulatory agenda.

Because he was already a commissioner, Pai is not subject to Senate confirmation.

“As with many appointments by Mr. Trump, I am concerned that as Chairman, Commissioner Pai will work for policies that benefit special interests and Big Cable, which have sought for years to control access to content on the internet above the interests of the American people,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBiden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-Ore.) said in a statement.

“I will hold the FCC accountable to protect consumers and fight any attempt to roll back net neutrality," he added.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Overnight Health Care — White House boosts mask availability MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce Committee, also promised to “vigorously oppose” any efforts to undermine net neutrality or other consumer protections.

Pai has not yet revealed his agenda for the commission but promised in a letter last month to “revisit” the Open Internet Order “as soon as possible.”

Ali Breland contributed.