×

FCC Chairman and His Predecessor Set the Stage for Another Battle Over Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is no fan of the agency’s current approach to net neutrality, and on Tuesday, he made it clear that loosening the current regulations is on his agenda.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Pai said that it has become “evident that the FCC made a mistake” in its passage of net neutrality rules in 2015, in which the agency reclassified internet service as a common carrier. Pai, along with other critics of the move, consider the approach “last-century, utility-style regulation to today’s broadband networks.”

“Our new approach injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market. And uncertainty is the enemy of growth,” Pai said at the event. “After the FCC embraced utility-style regulation, the United States experienced the first-ever decline in broadband investment outside of a recession.”

He said that the agency was now “on track” to return to what he called “light touch” regulation.

Pai has not said how he will pursue a revise or repeal of the rules. In his speech, he said that they “recognize that government does have a role to play when it comes to broadband.”

“So our approach will be not zero regulation, but light-touch regulation — rules backed by long-standing principles of competition law,” he said.

Pai, however, will likely face opposition to any effort to repeal or weaken the rules, as Democrats on Capitol Hill already have held a press conference to warn of such a move and public interest groups have been mobilizing for a new battle for the open internet. And Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler, already is showing a willingness to speak out against such an action.

After ending his tenure on Jan. 20 and taking a vacation in Cabo San Lucas with his wife, Wheeler has been vocal in criticizing the FCC’s new direction when it comes to the internet. He, too, was at the Barcelona conference, and told Bloomberg on Tuesday that “it is highly dangerous to let four companies, which is basically what we have in the United States, four internet service providers, to determine who will be able to get on their networks.”

“We can’t be in a situation where someone who owns the pipes determines what is going on, what’s going over those pipes,” he said.

The net neutrality debate has stretched on for more than a decade. The FCC is on its third approach to rules of the road for the internet. Now we may be in for another battle — and this may be the most contentious yet.

Update: Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, says that Pai is wrong in claiming that the 2015 rules have depressed broadband investment.

“Pai’s frequent charge that investment has declined is based on the claims made by one industry-paid analyst, who selectively edits the figures reported by some of these companies. But if you take account of the industry’s spending as a whole, you’ll see that broadband-industry investment was nearly 9 percent higher in the two years following the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order than it was in the two years prior.

“What’s more, these industry aggregate totals don’t tell the whole story. Individual companies large and small significantly increased their broadband-infrastructure investments following the rules’ adoption. Comcast, the nation’s largest ISP, has invested far more in the two years following the FCC’s order as the company has rolled out the next generation of cable-modem service. Smaller providers like Cincinnati Bell have increased their investments in fiber-to-the-home technology. And all wireless carriers have invested in completing their 4G deployments and preparing for 5G.”

The whole issue of broadband investment is something that has been a source of dispute among FCC commissioners. Then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and Pai, then a commissioner, fought over competing claims at a congressional hearing in March.

 

More Biz

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein Reneged on Payoff to HR Director, Suit Claims

    The former Human Resources director of the Weinstein Co. filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming he never received a $450,000 payout he was promised in the wake of the New York Times’ expose in October 2017. Frank Gil alleges that Weinstein promised him the money on Oct. 6, the day after the Times’ story ran. [...]

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Attorney for Universal Music Artists Impacted by 2008 Fire Requests Inventory

    Following on its statements last week that it will be filing a lawsuit on behalf of several Universal Music recording artists impacted by a 2008 fire that destroyed a huge number of master recordings, a Los Angeles law firm has requested a “complete inventory” from the company. Addressed to UMG CEO and chairman Lucian Grainge, [...]

  • Charles Caldas To Step Down as

    Charles Caldas To Step Down as Merlin CEO

    Charles Caldas, the only CEO that the independent-label collective Merlin has ever known, announced today that he will step down from his post at the end of 2019, after more than 12 years at the helm of the global rights organization. He will continue his current duties until then and work with the Merlin board to [...]

  • Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Merlin Reports Record Distributions for 2019

    Global indie-label collective Merlin reported record distributions in its 2019 membership report, paying $845 million to label and distributor members between April 2018 and March of this year. That figure, a 63% year-over-year increase, includes more than $130 million paid out this year from non-royalty income — and included in that figure is the estimated [...]

  • Dwyane Wade on Supporting His Son

    NBA Star Dwyane Wade on Supporting His Son's Attendance at Miami Pride

    NBA star Dwyane Wade spoke to Variety about why it was important for him to support his younger son attending a pride parade last spring. In April, Wade’s then 11-year-old son Zion posted pictures of himself at Miami Pride, with his siblings and stepmother Gabrielle Union. Wade, who was on the road with the Miami [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: How Eric Church Teamed With Ram Trucks — and Five Tons of Vinyl — for ‘Solid’ Campaign

    Country star Eric Church has long used his new music to reward his loyal fans, from surprise releasing 2015’s “Mr. Misunderstood” album as a direct fan-club exclusive to impromptu meet-and-greets before his hometown show in Greensboro, North Carolina. So when Church was prepping the April vinyl release of 2018’s critically acclaimed “Desperate Man,” the singer [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein legal team

    Harvey Weinstein Loses Another Defense Lawyer

    Harvey Weinstein has lost another defense lawyer, just three months before he is set to go on trial for rape and sexual assault. Attorney Jose Baez told the judge overseeing the case that Weinstein had taken actions that made it difficult to represent him, according to a letter obtained by the New York Post. Baez [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content