FCC chairman applauds Congress for not reinstating net neutrality

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai applauded Congress on Wednesday for not voting to overturn his repeal of the agency’s Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The Senate had passed a bill in May to reinstate the open internet rules in a bipartisan vote, only to see the resolution stall in the House, which had until the end of the session to vote on it.

“I’m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation,” Pai said in a statement. “They did the right thing—especially considering the positive results for American consumers since the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”

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The bill to reinstate the rules rode a popular backlash against Pai’s repeal, which passed the FCC in a party-line vote in December 2017, to a surprise win in the Senate, with three Republicans crossing the aisle to help it through.

The bill was just one part of net neutrality supporters’ efforts to replace the rules that prohibited internet service providers from blocking or throttling web content or from creating paid fast lanes.

The FCC is also facing a lawsuit from Democratic state attorneys general and consumer advocates over the repeal. A three-judge appeals court panel will hear oral arguments in the case next month.

And states have also pushed through their own replacement rules through legislation and executive orders out of concern for how broadband companies could shape the internet in the absence of consumer protections.

But Pai on Wednesday said that net neutrality supporters’ fears have proven to be misplaced and vowed to continue his deregulatory agenda in the new year.

“Over the past year, the Internet has remained free and open,” he said in the statement. “In short, the FCC’s light-touch approach is working. In 2019, we’ll continue to pursue our forward-looking agenda to bring digital opportunity to all Americans.”

Evan Greer, an activist with the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future, pushed back on Pai's claims, stating that the FCC will have a battle on its hands after Democrats retake the House on Thursday.

"Ajit Pai’s feeble attempt to celebrate the passing of the CRA deadline is laughable," Greer said in a statement. "His claim that broadband speeds are up is the tech policy equivalent of 'it’s snowing outside, therefore climate change is a hoax.'”

"The Internet freedom movement is stronger than it's ever been as we head into 2019," she added. "We'll keep fighting in the states, in the courts, and in Congress."

— Updated 4:21 p.m.