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FCC chair promises consumers will be protected after net neutrality repeal

FCC chair promises consumers will be protected after net neutrality repeal
© Greg Nash

Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is promising that consumers will be protected as his repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules goes into effect Monday.

In an op-ed for CNET on Monday, Pai wrote that the Obama-era rules requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally were too onerous. He insisted that the internet will remain an open platform now that the regulations are gone.

“Our framework will protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access and more competition,” Pai wrote.

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In December, the FCC decided in a 3-2 vote along party lines to roll back the regulations. That decision goes into effect Monday, shifting the authority for policing the broadband industry to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Pai argues that the FTC is better equipped to handle the job, but Democrats and net neutrality supporters say that the absence of the rules will give companies like Verizon and Comcast the ability to discriminate against certain websites or boost ones that they’re affiliated with.

“Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat on the commission who voted against the repeal, said in a statement.

“They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road,” Rosenworcel said. “Plain and simple, thanks to the FCC’s roll back of net neutrality, internet providers have the legal green light, the technical ability, and business incentive to discriminate and manipulate what we see, read, and learn online.”

The repeal decision is now facing a lawsuit from Democratic state attorneys general and consumer groups. It’s also being defied at the state level, where the rules are being replaced by executive orders and legislation.

Last month, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to reverse the FCC’s decision. Despite winning Republican votes in the Senate, the bill will have a difficult time making it to the House floor.

Pai says the criticism from net neutrality supporters is overheated, that there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect against broadband providers abusing their control over the internet.

“The bottom line is that our regulatory framework will both protect the free and open internet and deliver more digital opportunity to more Americans,” he wrote on Monday. “It's worked before and it will work again.”