FCC chief lays out attack on 'net neutrality' rules

Pai Chairman of U.S Federal Communications Commission delivers his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

FCC chief lays out attack on 'net neutrality' rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, named by President Donald Trump in January, said at a speech in Washington he wants to reverse rules that boosted government regulatory powers over internet service providers.

The FCC will vote at a May 18 meeting whether to formally consider Pai's proposal.

"It's basic economics", Pai said, regarding his plan to terminate rules from the Obama administration that classified broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1996, thereby treating Internet service like a utility.

Pai was a commissioner when former Chairman Tom Wheeler forced through the change at the direction of the Obama White House and he said at the time that the change to the status of the internet service providers was a mistake. "It was illogical for the FCC in 2015 to abandon that light-touch approach and instead regulate the internet under an 80-year-old law created to set rates for the rotary-dial-telephone era". At that time, the agency reclassified internet service providers (ISPs) as a utility and opened the door for greater Washington control over the internet.

The FCC is now Republican-leaning where net neutrality opponents have a 2 to 1 majority - so although Pai's proposal may have a long way to go before it may become law, his plans are expected to pass. Under Pai, the process of rolling back the rules could start early as today, say reports.

According to commentators, the internet industry, which considered net neutrality essential for its business, would likely not give in without a fight. But loosening the rules now on the books could allow those companies to charge online content companies such as Google and Netflix Inc.to speed content to consumers.

Net neutrality is the concept that Internet service providers should enable consumer access to available content and applications without either blocking or giving preferred access to specific content providers.

It's a fight that's just beginning and one that Pai said, in a statement, "We intend to win".

The previous FCC effort to write net neutrality rules had drawn a record outpouring of more than 4 million public comments.

Democrats and advocates of the rules called for a massive public outcry to preserve them. Expect him to reiterate his argument that the 2015 rules have spooked internet providers, causing them to invest less in their infrastructure.

"The existing 2015 open Internet order protects consumers from ISPs looking to play gatekeeper or prioritize their own".

This dramatically expanded the FCC's authority over the Internet, which was praised by consumer advocacy groups.

Pai on Wednesday laid out his arguments for reversing net neutrality rules, making the case that less regulation will encourage companies to spend more building next-generation networks.

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