Pai Said to Be Readying Plan to Gut Net Neutrality Rules

  • FCC Chief Pai said to leave enforcement to trade agency
  • Net neutrality rules from Obama era opposed by broadband firms

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai may present his proposal to gut Obama-era net neutrality rules as soon as this month, a person familiar with the regulator’s emerging plan said.

Pai this week discussed stripping his agency of strong authority over broadband providers and leaving responsibility for fair treatment of web traffic with the Federal Trade Commission, two people familiar with an April 4 meeting between the Republican regulator and broadband trade groups said on Friday. The people requested anonymity because the proposal has not yet been made public.

The Federal Trade Commission could enforce a voluntary pledge from companies to observe net neutrality principles such as not blocking or slowing web content. The plan may be put up for a vote at an FCC meeting set for May 18, said one person familiar with the discussion. The agenda for that meeting is to appear three weeks earlier, on April 27.

Pai, a Republican, has said he favors an open internet and opposes the agency’s claim for strong legal authority over broadband providers known as Title II -- the same grounding that enables close regulation of telephone providers. Ending Title II authority eliminates the chance the FCC could regulate broadband rates -- a power that Democrats who passed the rule in 2015 said they declined to exercise.

Broadband providers led by AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. challenged the FCC’s rule and lost in a federal appeals court.

Groups at the meeting included NCTA-the Internet & Television Association, representing cable providers; CTIA, representing wireless providers; and USTelecom, representing AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc., two people familiar with the meeting said. The meeting was first reported by Politico.

Mark Wigfield, an FCC spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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