FCC chair outlines plan to undo net neutrality: reports

FCC chair outlines plan to undo net neutrality: reports
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission is planning on dismantling the landmark 2015 net neutrality rules.

According to multiple reports, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his plans to undo the Obama-era regulations during a meeting this week with a group of industry lobbyists.

Pai's plan could be unveiled publicly as early as this month and receive a vote in May or June.

Net neutrality is the principle that all web traffic should be treated equally, and it bars internet providers from discriminating against certain sites. It was codified by the FCC in 2015 in a set of rules that also reclassified broadband providers as telecommunications services, opening them up to further regulations from the FCC.

Pai said in the meeting that he wants to undo the reclassification and have the industry promise to preserve the so-called open internet voluntarily, according to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.


That is unlikely to placate advocates who want the government to prevent broadband companies from exercising control over the internet.

“Ajit Pai is conspiring with cable and phone lobbyists to take away fundamental safeguards that keep the Internet open and free,” Free Press CEO Craig Aron said in a statement. "The idea of replacing landmark Net Neutrality rules with voluntary conditions is an outrage and an insult to the millions who fought for them. It’s clear Pai thinks his real constituents are Comcast and Verizon, not the American people.”

A spokesman for Pai did not respond when asked to comment.

Politico first reported details of the meeting.

Republicans and the broadband industry have been vocal opponents of net neutrality, specifically the reclassification of internet service providers, which they see as heavy-handed regulation.

But any move to undermine net neutrality is likely to be met with stiff resistance.

The FCC was flooded with a record of nearly 4 million comments from the public when it was first considered adopting the regulations in 2014, and some have predicted the public will be more mobilized this time around.

The meeting with industry lobbyists came the same week that President Trump signed a bill repealing internet privacy rules passed by the FCC last year that would have given consumers greater control over what internet service providers can do with their personal information.

The privacy rules were passed under the authority that the FCC gained from reclassifying the broadband industry.

Until recently, the Federal Trade Commission was the government agency responsible for policing internet service providers. But last year a federal court ruled that the FTC had no jurisdiction over telecommunications providers since they were considered common carriers — a tag placed on industries that allows them to be regulated like a public utility.

When the bill to repeal the privacy rules was signed on Monday, Pai said that he would work to put the FTC back in charge of internet service providers, something that would require at least a partial repeal of the net neutrality rules.

“American consumers’ privacy deserves to be protected regardless of who handles their personal information,” he said in a statement. “In order to deliver that consistent and comprehensive protection, the Federal Communications Commission will be working with the Federal Trade Commission to restore the FTC’s authority to police Internet service providers’ privacy practices.

“We need to put America’s most experienced and expert privacy cop back on the beat. And we need to end the uncertainty and confusion that was created in 2015 when the FCC intruded in this space.”

This story was updated at 1:21 p.m.