Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai revealed plans to put net neutrality on the chopping block, a controversial Obama-era rule that regulates the internet as a public monopoly.
During a speech at the Newseum on Wednesday, Pai said he plans to roll back the net-neutrality regulations and to restore the light-touch regulatory system established by President Clinton and Congressional Republicans by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Net neutrality passed under former Democrat Tom Wheeler’s FCC administration in 2010. The rule, known as the Open Internet Order, reclassified the internet as a public monopoly. Critics chided the rule, stating that it would diminish the freedom of the internet. Proponents argue that the regulations prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers.
Chairman Pai said that the internet prospered before net neutrality was enacted. Pai said, “The internet is the greatest free market success in American history.”
Ajit Pai said that repealing net neutrality will boost jobs and increase access to quality internet service to every American. He said, “Without heavy-handed regulations, networks will expand, especially for low-income Americans and in rural areas. More Americans will get to work laying out fiber, setting utility poles, and digging trenches. This all creates jobs.”
Pai explained that Robert McChesney, the founder of Free Press, openly bragged about taking over the internet. He said, “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
Robert McChesney even said that “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”
To put McChesney’s influence on net neutrality in context, he was cited 46 times in the Obama Net Neutrality order.
Pai suggested that increased regulation of the internet would allow for the government to stifle free speech and even silence conservative voices such as the Drudge Report.
Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), Senator John Thune (R-SD), Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) released a statement supporting Chairman Pai’s proposal to rescind Net Neutrality regulations. The statement read:
We have long said that imposing a Depression-era, utility-style regulatory structure onto the internet was the wrong approach, and we applaud Chairman Pai’s efforts to roll back these misguided regulations. Consumers want an open internet that doesn’t discriminate on content and protects free speech and consumer privacy. It’s now time for Republicans and Democrats, internet service providers, edge providers, and the Internet community as a whole to come together and work toward a legislative solution that benefits consumers and the future of the internet.
The FCC will release the full text of their proposal soon, which will be voted on during their May 18 meeting.
The FCC chief finished his speech, saying, “I hope that we looked at Net Neutrality as a temporary aberration. The May 18th meeting will make that prediction a reality and no mistake that this is a fight we will wage and we will win.”