FCC details plan to roll back net neutrality rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, newly appointed by President Trump, announced his intention to rescind the net neutrality rules created by the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order. He called the 2015 Open Internet Order “an aberration” that “puts the federal government at the center of the internet.”

The chairman was introduced by speakers who talked of ending “nanny state regulation” that used a “1934 law meant for rotary telephone services,” and assuring the audience that “no one is against net neutrality.” One, noting that a dam had broken in California, warned against giving regulatory power to the same people who let that happen.

“Earlier today I¬†shared with my fellow commissioners a proposal to reverse Title II and return to light touch regulation,” Pai said. “We cannot stick with regulations from the depression meant to regulate Ma Bell.”

Title II is part of the Communications Act of 1934, which established the FCC, and was augmented in 1996 with the Telecommunications Act. His proposal would remove that authority, on which the FCC built its strong net neutrality rules in 2015; previous attempts using Title I and other laws were unsuccessful, and courts (including the Supreme Court) suggested Title II as an alternative.

In addition to removing Title II authority, Pai said his proposal would remove the general conduct rule, which he described as giving the Commission a “roving mandate to micromanage internet company policies.” It was under this part of the rule that the FCC was investigating the practice of zero-rating.

The notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, will be made available tomorrow. Pai noted that some had called for the FCC to rescind the 2015 Order immediately, which may have been possible, but Pai said, rightly, that “this decision should be made through an open and transparent process in which every American can share their view.”

The chairman was speaking at an event sponsored by the libertarian organization FreedomWorks and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

Pai’s announcement doesn’t come as a surprise by any means: He has publicly opposed the Open Internet Order since it was enacted, though until a Republican majority was established at the FCC, there was little he could do about it. Now that that is the case, however, he has wasted no time in tearing down rules set in place by his predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

Inquiries into the practice of zero rating were abandoned, and the Broadband Privacy Rule was rescinded before it could take effect. But these are easy things to accomplish; removing a popular and comparatively well-established policy like net neutrality will be a more difficult task.