Net neutrality has just been put on notice. The Trump administration’s new Federal Communication Commission chairman is Ajit Pai‚ who openly opposed the Open Internet Order and isn’t a fan of broadband privacy regulations.
Mr. Pai has served on the Commission since 2012 and has been part of the Republican minority until now. With Democrat Tom Wheeler out, Mr. Pai is now one of two Republicans in the three-person group. Mr. Trump can nominate two more people for the Commission to round it out to its usual five. Historically that nomination includes a Democrat and Republican.
Net neutrality is the concept that data should be able to flow through internet service providers without restrictions. The current regulations in the Open Internet Order prohibit ISPs from from blocking or degrading data passing through their networks.
Imagine an ISP that’s also a TV content provider blocking Netflix streams, or charging an extra fee for Netflix video data on its network. Without net neutrality, ISPs could also control search results, limiting subscribers to seeing only what they approve.
Pai’s anti-net neutrality history
Opposing net neutrality isn’t anything new for Mr. Pai. He voted against reclassifying internet service providers as Title II carriers in 2015, and said the change showed the FCC was “turning its back on Internet freedom.”
Now he’s in a position to push back the net neutrality regulations put in place under Tom Wheeler, and it looks like that’s exactly what he plans to do. He made his intentions clear last month during a speech where he said,
We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation.
From his standpoint, FCC regulations ensuring an open internet are contrary to business growth. Mr. Pai’s position is in line with Mr. Trump who wants to remove as many business-related regulations as he can.
Former FCC Chairman Wheeler used his final public speech before the new Presidential administration took over to champion net neutrality one last time. “The overarching goal of the new policies was to promote a thriving broadband ecosystem,” he said. “And that’s exactly what has happened.”
He went on to say that killing off net neutrality isn’t as simple as issuing a counter-order shutting it down. There’s a process that includes public comment, and those opposing the Open Internet Order need to show how it has failed.
That won’t be an easy task considering internet activity seems to be healthy and related businesses have been growing over the past two years since the introduction of the Open Internet Order. Still, it’s a safe bet if Mr. Pai wants to kill net neutrality bad enough—and he has the backing of Republican lawmakers—its days are numbered.
[Thanks to the LA Times for the heads up]