Internet firms winding up for a fight on 'net neutrality'

Posted April 26, 2017

Donald Trump's top telecommunications regulator, Ajit Pai, promised to bring a weed whacker to excessive government regulation.

Chairman Ajit Pai said on Tuesday the top USA telecommunications regulator would launch a "comprehensive review" of media regulations and overhaul rules that restrict consolidation among media companies, potentially opening the door to a wave of deals among broadcasters and newspapers.

The FCC's 2015 net neutrality, or open internet, rules reclassified broadband as a regulated, telecom-like service - as opposed to a lightly regulated communications service - as the foundation for regulations that prohibited broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing web traffic and services.

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Pai is expected to outline his proposal in an afternoon speech at the Newseum in Washington, and could formally deliver the plan to his fellow commissioners later this week. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, last Friday to discuss defending net neutrality. So on its third attempt, led by Obama-appointee Tom Wheeler, the FCC opted to designate Internet service providers in the same legal category as telephone service providers, common carriers. And he has floated the idea privately to various companies and groups that could be affected by that change in policy. We are concerned by reports that you would replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.

Pai, named chairman by President Donald Trump in January, said past year the FCC should have repealed the ban on ownership of a broadcast station and newspaper in the same market, citing the closing of 400 United States newspapers, or about a quarter of daily titles, since 1975 as advertising revenue has sharply declined.

Privacy advocates and tech industry giants alike are dreading an upcoming speech this week which is expected to announce a dramatic rollback of net neutrality rules imposed during the Obama administration.

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The FCC declined to comment for this story. John Oliver also dedicated a show segment to the topic, which raised awareness of an otherwise jargon-y, abstract issue.

Already, the various sides are lining up to commence the battle yet again.

When the FCC crafted the net neutrality rules in 2015, a record 4 million consumers wrote in to the agency, largely in support of the rules. Even before he was appointed by Trump, Pai was seen as a crusader against the net neutrality rules.

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