FCC chair promises 'comprehensive review' of existing media regulations

Adjust Comment Print

Every indication is that Chairman Pai is on the verge of announcing the details of his plan to gut net neutrality, an assault which would be the capstone of an agenda riddled with industry giveaways at the expense of consumers, competition, and small business. Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers.

LAS VEGAS-Articulating his laissez faire regulatory philosophies in broad strokes to a cheering throngs of broadcast-industry denizens in an NAB keynote address Tuesday morning, new Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promised to "modernize" FCC rules, "cut red tape" and generally "give broadcasters the tools they need to better serve their audiences".

But even if the FTC regains oversight of the rules, broadband providers would still have to respect net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic.

Pai, named chairman by Republican President Donald Trump in January, said a year ago the FCC should have repealed the ban on ownership of a broadcast station and newspaper in the same market, citing the closing of 400 USA newspapers, or about a quarter of daily titles, since 1975 as advertising revenue has sharply declined. But policy analysts say that would be a high-risk, high-reward strategy that could quickly run into legal challenges from supporters of net neutrality desperate to preserve the existing rules. The regulations reclassified ISPs much like utilities.

The current Open Internet rules include a "general conduct standard" that allows the FCC to look, on a case-by-case basis, at practices that don't violate the brightline rules but could adversely impact the internet's openness and take action if they do.

But Pai's idea to rely on corporate promises is too weak to be effective by itself, according to Mignon Clyburn, the FCC's lone Democratic commissioner, and Terrell McSweeny, the top Democrat at the Federal Trade Commission.

Pai has called the net neutrality rules a mistake that "injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market".

Last week, he met with Silicon Valley companies such as Apple and Facebook, and he met with telecom providers earlier this month. Many Internet companies and online rights groups say the rules are critical for protecting innovation and free expression.

The FCC declined to comment for this story.