White House: FCC Approach to Net Neutrality Needs Review, but Rules Are Needed

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House supports FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s review of the current net neutrality rules, but the administration did not explicitly call for a rollback of the regulatory framework that gives the agency the authority to impose them.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders criticized the Obama-era FCC for passing a set of net neutrality rules by reclassifying the internet as a “Title II” telecommunications service. That regulatory maneuver allowed the FCC in 2015 to pass rules prohibiting internet service providers from blocking or throttling content, or from selling speedier access to consumers.

“The administration believes that rules of the road are important for everyone — website providers, internet service providers, and consumers alike,” Sanders said at the daily briefing on Tuesday.

She added, “With that said, the previous administration went about this the wrong way by imposing rules on ISPs through the FCC’s Title II rulemaking power. We support the FCC chair’s efforts to review and consider rolling back these rules, and believe that the best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who Trump appointed to the post, has been harshly critical of the FCC’s net neutrality regulatory framework. He has put a proposal up for review that asks whether the Title II reclassification should be rolled back, and what rules, if any, should be imposed on internet providers.

The White House’s comments are a contrast to one that Trump made about net neutrality almost three years ago.

In 2014, shortly after Obama announced that he supported a robust regulatory approach to net neutrality that reclassified the internet as a Title II service, Trump tweeted, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”

Some advocates of the FCC’s current approach took the White House’s softer position as evidence of the popularity of strong net neutrality protections.

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement, “The White House fell far short of supporting the FCC’s plan, and only noted that they are right to ‘review’ the current rules. This is a clear signal that they know how unpopular the repeal of net neutrality rules is with voters, including conservatives and libertarians.”

Greer cited a poll from the Internet and Competitive Networks Association, conducted by a GOP research firm, that showed that backers of Trump supported net neutrality by a 3 to 1 margin.

So far, about 9.4 million comments have been filed to the FCC on the latest proposal. The first comment deadline was on Monday.