(WASHINGTON FREE BEACON) — The Federal Communications Commission’s Ajit Pai is returning federal regulation of the internet to a “much more rational” approach by repealing net neutrality, the chairman said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon.
Pai says he holds the “very radical” position once held by former Democratic president Bill Clinton: a hands-off approach to allow the internet to continue to flourish free from burdensome government rules.
Aside from more creative criticisms, the media are painting the repeal of the Obama administration’s unprecedented regulation two years ago as a Republican-led FCC siding with industry over consumers.
The New York Times claimed repealing the rules, which for the first time in history classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as public utilities, giving the government broad regulatory power, is “putting more power in the hands of those companies to dictate people’s online experiences.”
However, the rules had unintended consequences of curbing unlimited data streaming plans popular with consumers and restricting investment to expand broadband in rural and low-income areas, Pai said.
“We were not living in some digital dystopia prior to 2015,” Pai said. “Until the FCC decided to save us from ourselves by invoking Great Depression era regulations designed for Ma Bell.”
Taking direction from former president Barack Obama, the FCC approved the broad regulatory scheme over the internet in 2015. The vote was shrouded in secrecy, with former chairman Tom Wheeler not releasing the text of the nearly 400-page net neutrality rule until two weeks after the FCC voted to approve it.
Soon after, the FCC used the rules to investigate and propose fines for cell phone providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile for offering popular unlimited data plans that offer free streaming at a lower cost.
Pai says the Obama-era FCC had “finally met the enemy, and the enemy was giving something that consumers wanted for free.”
“It’s a very strange line of business for the federal agency to be involved in,” he said. “And that’s why going forward, at least, we want to make a much more market-based approach.”
Pai said his Restoring Internet Freedom Order would return the regulatory authority to the Federal Trade Commission, which can then investigate telecom companies for anticompetitive practices, such as blocking or throttling traffic.
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