January 23, 2018

F.C.C. Is Said to Plan Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules

F.C.C. Is Said to Plan Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules

In addition, Mr. Pai plans to reverse a decision from the Obama administration that declared broadband be treated like a utility, the people said. That classification had opened the door to many more regulations for broadband providers.

The F.C.C. did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the repeal plans.

Consumer groups and Democrats decried the proposed changes.

“It ain’t broke, so why fix it?” Julius Genachowski, a former Democratic chairman of the F.C.C., said in an interview. “The core rules of no blocking, no discrimination, and transparency have worked to create an ecosystem of innovation and investment that’s the envy of the rest of the world.”

Net neutrality has long been a thorny topic that has ignited lobbying battles and heated debate between internet and telecom companies. On one side, broadband companies have argued that the regulations encumbered their business plans. On the other side, tech giants like Google and Amazon said that without such rules, the broadband providers could become gatekeepers of what internet content reached consumers.

While some of the largest companies can afford to pay for faster delivery of their online content, start-ups like Etsy and Reddit, which have been fierce defenders of net neutrality, have said smaller companies would be squashed by what they view as tolls just to make sure their sites reach consumers.

During the Obama administration, the head of the F.C.C., Tom Wheeler, said net neutrality regulations were necessary to prevent a company like Verizon from slowing down the delivery of a service like Netflix or Sling TV, which competes with Verizon’s video service, Fios.

Mr. Pai’s proposal to scrap net neutrality rules is the latest in a deregulation blitz that includes the rollback of media ownership and broadband privacy rules. Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, opposed the rules when they were created in 2015, saying they would stifle investment by broadband providers.

More recently, Mr. Pai has clearly signaled his opposition to net neutrality. He has called the rules an example of government overreach in the fast-growing broadband industry. In April, a few months after he was named F.C.C. chairman, he announced his intention to overhaul the rules, saying the threat of harms to consumers were only theoretical.

“The truth of the matter is that we decided to abandon successful policies solely because of hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom,” Mr. Pai said in an April speech about the creation of the net neutrality rules.

The rollback comes as the Justice Department’s antitrust division under Makan Delrahim, another government official appointed by Mr. Trump, has taken the opposite approach with AT&T. On Monday, the Justice Department filed suit to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner.

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