Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai has not wavered on his stance that his Democratic predecessor erred when adopting net neutrality rules under the previous administration. He reiterated that it was a "serious mistake" to try and regulate the Internet to the degree which net neutrality rules do, and will push forward a proposal to roll back current regulations, The Washington Post reports (opens in new tab).
"Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake. It's basic economics. The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you're likely to get," Pai said during a speech at the Newseum in Washington on Wednesday.
The writing was on wall as soon as Pai was named Chairman of the FCC after being nominated by current President Donald Trump. Pai has long been opposed to treating Internet service as a utility, saying at Mobile World Congress that the FCC's utility-style regulations "created uncertainty in the market, and uncertainty is the enemy of growth."
In keeping with that theme, Pai will look to loosen the government's oversight of Internet service providers and wireless carriers. While short on details, high-speed Internet service would no longer be regulated like a utility as it is now. Instead, companies like Comcast and Verizon would go back to policing themselves.
Under the previous administration, President Barack Obama publicly pushed to reclassify broadband as a common carrier service, which would allow the FCC to implement net neutrality rules. The goal was to create a level playing field and to prevent ISPs from implementing policies that could hurt consumers, such as charging for access to so-called Internet fast lanes. Without the rules in place, ISPs could essentially force companies like Netflix to pay a toll to avoid throttling video feeds.
Pai's plan to rewrite those rules will take some time and will be subject to comments and revisions. But because this is a partisan issue with Republicans having a 2-to-1 majority on the commission, his plan is likely to pass.
Obviously not everyone agrees with Pai and his proposal.
"It would put consumers at the mercy of phone and cable companies," said Craig Aaron, president of the consumer advocacy group Free Press, according to The New York Times (opens in new tab). "In a fantasy world, all would be fine with a pinkie swear not to interrupt pathways and portals to the internet despite a history of doing that."
Pai's proposal is also unpopular with many technology companies in Silicon Valley. Some 800 tech startups and investors wrote a joint letter protesting Pai's plan.
"Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners and losers in the market," they wrote in the letter.
Pai's proposal will be voted on at the FCC's May 18 open meeting. If it passes, the FCC will seek public feedback.