President Donald Trump hopes appointing Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman will undo many of the stifling regulations the Federal Communications Commission enacted under the Obama administration, including the net neutrality rules.
According to The Hill:
Pai fought against the enactment of former Chairman Tom Wheeler’s signature Open Internet Order, which codified net neutrality, the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally.
Republicans like Pai denounced the FCC order for reclassifying internet service providers as utilities. The move subjected internet providers to heavier regulation, with the FCC effectively taking over regulatory jurisdiction on issues like privacy from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
After Pai announced on Monday that he had been tapped by Trump to lead the FCC, Democrats responded with concern, vowing to stand up for net neutrality should he try to undermine it. Pai said in a letter last month that he and Michael O’Rielly, the other Republican on the commission, intended to act on reclassification “as soon as possible.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has tried to undo net neutrality through legislation, however, Republicans are now strategizing to make sure that net neutrality does not resurface under a future Democratic administration. Senate and House Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) have offered to keep some of the underlying net neutrality principles without reclassifying the Internet as a public utility.
“I think getting some certainty on the net neutrality issue is something that industry would like for us to do,” Blackburn said in an interview with The Hill. Republicans are worried that eliminating net neutrality through an FCC order would allow it to survive through a court case. “The last thing they want to do is hit the ground running on reclassification only to have it reversed in court,” said one industry source.
While the survival of net neutrality is still uncertain, FCC Chairman Pai remains hopeful that they will be able to undo burdensome regulations at the FCC: “I’m optimistic that last month’s election will prove to be an inflection point — and that during the Trump administration, we will shift from playing defense at the FCC to going on offense.”