By: Seth Fiegerman
The attempt to roll back net neutrality has officially begun.
Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, laid out plans Wednesday to limit the agency’s oversight of Internet service providers, potentially weakening enforcement of net neutrality.
The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, are intended to keep the Internet open and fair. The rules prevent Internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.
As part of the 2015 process, the FCC voted to assert more regulatory control over Internet providers by reclassifying them as common carriers, similar to telephone services.
Pai has now issued a proposal to repeal that reclassification, called Title II, raising alarms among net neutrality advocates and throughout the tech industry.
“Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake,” Pai said in a speech at the Newseum in Washington D.C. “The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.”
Pai and the telecom industry have framed the debate as less about the principle of net neutrality than the mechanism to enforce it.
“AT&T continues to support the fundamental tenets of net neutrality,” AT&T (T, Tech30) CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement Wednesday. “It was illogical for the FCC in 2015 to… regulate the Internet under an 80-year-old law designed to set rates for the rotary-dial-telephone era.”
AT&T has agreed to acquire Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. The deal is pending regulatory approval.
Net neutrality advocates, however, argue this approach effectively guts the rules safeguarding the Internet.