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FCC's Process to Abolish Net Neutrality Gets Rolling

We'll see what comes of Ajit Pai's plan, but we're at least headed in the right direction.

Business Review Board · Apr. 27, 2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has set into motion a plan to nullify Obama-era net neutrality — a cumbersome set of regulations that hamstring Internet providers. On Wednesday, Pai reminded us of his forewarning back in 2015: “Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake. It’s basic economics: The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.” Now that Pai is in charge, net neutrality could be headed for the ash heap of history.

Pai revealed how he intended to take on the issue of net neutrality. According to The Wall Street Journal, “The Pai plan would revert to the bipartisan consensus that the internet should be ‘unfettered by Federal or State regulation,’ as Congress put it in a 1996 update to the Communications Act. Thus the agency will vote in May on a proposal to designate the internet as an information service, the status quo of two years ago. The Supreme Court upheld this ‘light touch’ framework in 2005, and Mr. Pai explained in his speech that government nonintervention helped spur $1.5 trillion of private investment that built high-speed internet pipes.”

The Journal continues: “Mr. Pai said he’ll advance his proposal under a notice and comment procedure, instead of offloading the rules with a blunt agency tool known as a declaratory ruling. This is a welcome departure from his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, who ditched his own net-neutrality proposal after President Obama ordered the agency to invoke public-utility regulation. Mr. Wheeler’s final 300-page order was rushed out to avoid public scrutiny, but Mr. Pai has promised to release his proposal to the public this week.”

The effects of the Obama/Wheeler decision were extensive, as Investor’s Business Daily notes: “Under pressure from President Obama, the commission reclassified the internet as something akin to the old telephone monopoly, which, under a 1934 law, gave the FCC virtually unlimited powers to regulate internet rates, impose fees and require businesses to get approval for a wide range of business decisions.” We’ll see what comes of Pai’s plan, but we’re at least headed in the right direction.

As we’ve said before, net neutrality is a nuanced issue. Cable companies are dead last in customer satisfaction because of their monopolistic practices, and the biggest problem facing the Internet is the lack of competition among providers. But subjecting the Internet to Title II regulations isn’t likely to fix that. We’re glad to see that being rolled back.

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