FCC chairman ramps up defense of net neutrality repeal
Ajit Pai Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (Screen Capture)

With a federal appeals court preparing to consider the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era U.S. net neutrality regulations, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is ramping up his defense of the decision.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has this month also criticized California’s legislature for approving a state measure to guarantee open internet access and said “bad behavior” on the part of internet service providers (ISPs) could be prevented by the FCC’s new transparency requirements.

The FCC voted 3-2 in December to reverse the Obama era rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization. FCC repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules was a win for ISPs Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, whose practices faced significant government oversight.

In August, 22 states and a coalition of trade groups representing companies including Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the rules.

The court has not yet scheduled oral arguments.

The U.S. Senate voted in May to reinstate the net neutrality rules, but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives and the White House also opposes it.

Under President Donald Trump, the FCC handed ISPs sweeping new powers to recast how Americans use the internet, as long as they disclose changes. The new rules took effect in June but providers have made no changes in access.

Pai said Thursday “if an ISP starts blocking lawful content, everyone will know. If an ISP starts throttling services based on the nature of the content, everyone will know. This is a powerful disincentive for bad behavior.”

Last December, the FCC’s net neutrality repeal sought to preempt state internet rules. Pai criticized California’s state legislature for approving net neutrality but Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has not yet disclosed a position on the measure and has until Sept. 30 to decide whether to sign it.

Pai called California’s legislation “a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.”

California State Senator Scott Wiener, one of the bill’s sponsors, responded that Pai “abdicated his responsibility to ensure an open internet ... Unlike Pai’s FCC, California isn’t run by the big telecom and cable companies.”

On Thursday, Pai criticized big tech companies including Twitter and Google, as “completely unregulated, which is fine, except that they’ve also been badgering the FCC and the federal government to heavily regulate their rivals.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dave Gregorio