April 26 (UPI) — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said Wednesday he wants the agency to begin rolling back the net neutrality rule of the government’s oversight of high-speed Internet providers.
Pai said he will ask the agency next month to consider removing legal authority that prevents broadband providers, including ATT and Comcast, from blocking or slowing Web traffic, or charging higher fees for quicker speed over their networks.
“When we are saddled with FCC rules that will deny many Americans high-speed Internet access and jobs, doing nothing is nothing doing,” Pai said in a speech at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. “Instead, we need rules that focus on growth and infrastructure investment, rules that expand high-speed Internet access everywhere. Rules that give Americans more online choice, faster speeds and more innovation.”
Pai wants the industry to police itself, rather than being treated as a public utility.
The Democratic-majority commission enacted the rules in 2015.
“Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake,” Pai said. “It’s basic economics. The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.”
The rules were intended to ensure an open Internet.
Pai has objected to the FCC’s decision to classify broadband as a telecommunications service to be regulated under Title II.
“Earlier today, I shared with my fellow commissioners a proposal to reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light-touch regulatory framework that served our nation so well during the Clinton administration, the Bush administration and the first six years of the Obama administration,” Pai said.
Democrats are opposed to the changes.
“It makes no sense,” Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a news conference in Washington before Pai’s talk. “We cannot keep the promise of net neutrality openness and freedom without the rules that ensure it.”
“Chairman Pai and the Trump administration should expect a tsunami of resistance from a grass-roots movement of Americans,” he added.
About 800 tech startups and investors protested the loosening of net neutrality in a letter sent to Pai on Wednesday.
“Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market,” they wrote. “They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new fees on us, inhibiting consumer choice.”
Last month, more than 170 organizations, including the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, MoveOn.org, Greenpeace USA, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the American Civil Liberties Union, signed a letter urging Pai to keep net neutrality.
The current net neutrality rules were affirmed by a federal appeals court.