Obama’s net neutrality rules likely target of new FCC boss

Obama’s net neutrality rules likely target of new FCC boss
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.

US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by Trump in January, will deliver a speech entitled ‘The Future of Internet Regulation’ on Wednesday and is expected to begin seeking public input on repealing the elements contained in the 2015 net neutrality rules.

"There's common ground here and there's room for an agreement here," Pai said, according to Reuters. "Going forward we want to make sure that we have a light touch regulatory framework.”

The 2015 rules prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from giving preference or selling premium access to high-speed broadband to specific internet services, a move aimed at maintaining competition in the market by essentially reclassifying ISPs as utilities.

Pai has gone on record as saying he supports a "free and open internet" but has not supported the current regulatory regime since its introduction in early 2015.

An initial vote could be held as early as May 18, at a scheduled meeting of the commission.

AT&T Inc, Verizon and Comcast, three of the biggest ISPs in the US argue that such regulations frustrate internet traffic management while also impeding any potential investment in infrastructure to provide additional capacity.

Craig Aaron, chief executive of the advocacy group Free Press, warned of the dangers of affording too much power to ISPs, alleging on Monday that Pai wanted to hand over control "no matter the cost to our economy and democracy," reports Reuters.

“We are not living in a digital dystopia... Last year the United States experienced the first decline in broadband investment outside of a recession,” Pai said in a speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, as cited by Tech Crunch.

FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly said last Thursday that, if necessary, Congress should step in to determine "whether there should be rules." He has gone on record in support of Trump’s decision to free up the internet market from heavy-handed regulation.

However, while ISPs may welcome less regulation, the Internet Association, a group comprised of tech giants Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon, among others, is strongly against it and is siding with consumers and the former Obama administration’s guidance on the issue.

"The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online," the group said in a letter to the FCC.