Pai Circulates Net Neutrality Draft to Roll Back 2015 ‘Mistake’

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UPDATE  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai intends to not just relax or roll back, but dismantle the agency’s Obama-era net neutrality regulations, calling them “a mistake” that “depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks.” Pai has long said he intended to vote on the issue by year-end and he circulated among his colleagues a draft order yesterday that he hopes to vote on at the December 14 meeting. Plans are for the text to be released today.

In 2015, under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC reclassified the internet from an information service to a utility in which ISPs must treat all internet traffic the same, with no fast or slow speed lanes. Senior FCC officials told reporters the agency still frowns on blocking or throttling; the draft says ISPs must disclose they’re doing this and other rules remain in effect to make sure they’re acting in a pro-consumer way as part of “reasonable” network management practices. 

This May, the FCC voted 3-2 to begin the process to rollback the change with heavy industry support. Pai said at the time, that 70 fixed wireless providers “said their hands are tied” by the regs and 22 of the smallest ISPs have “slowed if not halted new builds,” Inside Towers reported.  

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said yesterday. Instead, the FCC would require ISPs “to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.” Additionally, the Order would restore the Federal Trade Commission as the ISP “police.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, leading the agency’s efforts to streamline infrastructure siting to more quickly deploy mobile broadband, said the internet “flourished” under the previous framework and he supports the Chairman’s approach. Industry groups too, praised the draft. Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein noted that Pai is trying to create a regulatory environment that “encourages investment in the deployment of the crucial wireless infrastructure needed to meet consumers growing demand for data over wireless broadband. Ultimately, this issue should spur bipartisan action in Congress to address net neutrality, and that would lead to the long-term regulatory certainty the wireless industry needs.”

The removal of antiquated, restrictive regulations will pave the way for broadband network investment, expansion and upgrades,” noted USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter. “FCC Chairman Pai’s proposal to restore the smart, common-sense, bipartisan policies that allowed the internet to flourish is a critical step toward closing the digital divide and ensuring net neutrality protections for all.” Opposition to the news came swiftly.

November 22, 2017               

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