FCC chairman to propose reversing 'net neutrality' rules

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai could formally launch an effort this week to revamp the net neutrality rules passed by his predecessor Tom Wheeler. Rather than protecting Americans and leveling the playing field, Pai argued Title II regulation has resulted in reduced industry investment and by extension cost the country as many as 100,000 jobs.

Evan Greer, campaign director at the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said in a statement, "Pai's speech was an insult to the intelligence of internet users".

Wednesday's announcement sets up a rematch of the high-stakes showdown that took place when the FCC initially took up the issue in 2014 and 2015, generating millions of online comments and huge push by open-internet advocates to ensure that all online content is treated equally.

Mr Pai was named as Federal Communications Commission chair by President Donald Trump.

The FCC now regulates Internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II regulations that essentially treat the internet as a public utility similar to the old phone monopoly. "The last thing that broadcasting needs is outdated rules standing in its way", said Pai.

Some analysts have said FCC action to roll back net neutrality rules could put pressure Congress to adopt legislation that clarifies the extent of FCC authority to regulate internet service.

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"Going forward, we can not stick with regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell", Mr. Pai said in prepared remarks. After months of questions about his plans for net neutrality, Pai on Wednesday laid out plans to repeal net neutrality's very underpinnings: Title II.

The battle over the internet has been brewing for years culminating with regulations in 2015 that amounted to a power grab by the Obama Administration's FCC. He said Pai's proposal "creates an environment where we can have a fresh constructive dialogue". Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a news conference in Washington before Pai's talk.

Craig Aaron, president of consumer-advocacy group Free Press, said the Trump's administration was trying to erase "one of the most important public interest victories ever".

Pai acknowledges that while some against the net neutrality regulations have "called on the FCC to reverse Title II immediately through a declaratory ruling", the "decision should be made through an open, transparent process through which every American can share his or her views". However, he believes the "heavy-handed" net neutrality rules were never needed, aren't helping people as intended, and are in fact doing the reverse.

"Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to internet access providers", the startups wrote.