By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the Federal Communications Commission is set to unveil plans next week for a final vote to reverse a landmark 2015 net neutrality order barring the blocking or slowing of web content, two people briefed on the plans said.
In May, the FCC voted 2-1 to advance Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to withdraw the former Obama administration’s order reclassifying internet service providers as if they were utilities. Pai now plans to hold a final vote on the proposal at the FCC’s Dec. 14 meeting, the people said, and roll out details of the plans next week.
Pai asked in May for public comment on whether the FCC has authority or should keep any regulations limiting internet providers’ ability to block, throttle or offer “fast lanes” to some websites, known as “paid prioritization.” Several industry officials told Reuters they expect Pai to drop those specific legal requirements but retain some transparency requirements under the order.
An FCC spokesman declined to comment.
Internet providers including AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc say ending the rules could spark billions in additional broadband investment and eliminate the possibility a future administration could regulate internet pricing.
Critics say the move could harm consumers, small businesses and access to the internet.
In July, a group representing major technology firms including Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc urged Pai to drop plans to rescind the rules.
Advocacy group Free Press said Wednesday “we’ll learn the gory details in the next few days, but we know that Pai intends to dismantle the basic protections that have fueled the internet’s growth.”
Pai, who argues the Obama order was unnecessary and harms jobs and investment, has not committed to retaining any rules, but said he favors an “open internet.” The proposal to reverse the Obama rules reclassifying internet service has drawn more than 22 million comments.
Pai is mounting an aggressive deregulatory agenda since being named by President Donald Trump to head the FCC.
On Thursday the FCC will vote on Pai’s proposal to eliminate the 42-year-old ban on cross-ownership of a newspaper and TV station in a major market. The proposal would make it easier for media companies to buy additional TV stations in the same market.
Pai is also expected to call for an initial vote in December to rescind rules that say one company may not own stations serving more than 39 percent of U.S. television households, two people briefed on the matter said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese)
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